Lit React ~ Analysis & reactions on works of fiction.

01 Jun 2012

(Short Story) Her by: Titis Basino

(Reaction) The Good Wife by: Antonio Conejos

Basino's short story revolves around a central irony: the narrator becomes what her husband wanted from her only after the husband takes on a second wife. Moreover, this irony gains greater poignancy when the meeting of the two Mrs. Hamids is due in large part to how the first Mrs. Hamid has changed her life after Mr. Hamid marries again.

The husband of the story takes a second wife, ostensibly, because the first Mrs. Hamid has no life outside of the family. I'm tired of waiting for you to take an interest in something, like a club or anything outside of this family. Surely you must be aware that I've been encouraging you to do this for some time.

In a way the first Mrs. Hamid was too successful at being a doting wife. Her life revolved around the needs of the family, to the exclusion of her own personal growth and interests: I've already given you children, an organized household, home-cooked meals, immaculate clothes, a warm and ready welcome for you and all your friends. All you've ever wanted I've given you before you've had to ask twice.

On one hand the husband praises her for being the the proverbial good woman and yet in the same breath leaves her for the very same reason, You seem to forget that when I fell in love with you, you were an involved and interesting woman. This is indeed a bitter contradiction and a cruel irony.

Further irony is found in the fact that the first Mrs. Hamid actually begins to take an interest outside of the family upon her husband's departure. Thus, the activity she was unwilling to do while her husband was living with her (and which would have ensured his remaining with her); she now does voluntarily when her husband leaves.

As her husband has already taken on a second wife, there is no impetus to become active in organizations; yet the first Mrs. Hamid does so anyway. I had a lot of time after my husband took his second wife, so I joined a woman's club in our city. I was soon appointed to the office of vice-chairperson.

In the last of the cruel ironies it is the activity (being active outside the home) her husband wanted her to do in the first place which leads her to meet the second Mrs. Hamid. When the meeting was called to order and Mrs. Hamid was elected chairperson, I assumed it was I being named. It had completely slipped my mind that she, too, was Mrs. Hamid.

Even in his absence the husband manages to inflict pain on the first Mrs. Hamid. Yet the first Mrs. Hamid at this point is resigned to her fate and even manages to find some camaraderie with the second Mrs. Hamid, I was now much more content when he went to her, because I was convinced that she was no less dedicated to making him happy than I was.

Review:

I read Her because I wanted to broaden my horizon and try reading some Indonesian literature. It's unclear to me if Her is representative of this type of literature. Will have to explore more stories from this country to get a better grasp of its literature.

On a personal level the story didn't do much for me. The main character, the narrator, carries on in a diffident tone and seems unhealthily subordinate to her husband. Indeed, the story ends with the first Mrs. Hamid reconciling herself (convincing herself to be happy) to the second Mrs. Hamid. A more active character would have defined the story as Him, ie. it is the husband who is the cause of all the misery of the two women.

A copy of Her can be found here.

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