Arranged Marriage Comparative Essay
“The Bats” + “Silver Pavements, Golden Roofs”
In both “The Bats” and “Silver Pavements, Golden Roofs”, Divakaruni constructs layered and vulnerable female characters that are inevitably confronted by family conflict that forces them to grow up. With differing styles of narrative perspective, Divakaruni takes the narrative approach in The Bats, and the readers are taken through the story with the explicit category of motifs that is bats, whereas the technique used in SP, GR is more descriptive with an arbitrary approach as the motifs are scattered around, challenging the reader to piece them together. However, the juxtaposition of motifs in both stories leads up to one defining topic: maturity, thereby enabling the reader to understand the common internal family conflict that ironically moulds the characters into emotional maturity.
With the first narrative perspective, Divakaruni uses the different techniques of motif placement that eventually demonstrate the similar emotional transitions undergone by the narrators of the two stories. In both “The Bats“ and “SP, GR”, the stories take off with a random start and there is a lack of structured motifs. The title of the first short story, “The Bats” has the reader wondering where the motif bats will come in and Divakaruni commences “SP, GR” too with an apparent lack of an arrangement of motifs, but with a twist of keeping the scatter of motifs throughout the story. The first person narrative perspective is extremely descriptive and the reader is left speculating on the various motifs.
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There is however, an unmistakable gradual change in the narrative approach in “The Bats” when Divakaruni shifts from a completely unstructured frame to a linear configuration of the motif bats. When the narrator sees her grandpa-uncle’s orchard there is the first connection with bats, as illustrated here, “I had been helping Grandpa-uncle with the bats” (7) and Divakaruni uses the ingenious twist of the narrator’s grandpa-uncle’s dilemma with bats in his orchard to plot the motif rather inconspicuously and forge the continuous link. When her grandpa-uncle resorts to poison to kill the bats, the author ironically has the innocent narrator ponder upon the baffling foolishness that is the bats. The irony is exemplified by her grandpa-uncle’s statement, “I guess they just don’t realize what’s happening” (8) because the motif applies to the narrator and foreshadows the epiphany that she might undergo later in the story. The motif, bats is further exemplified when the narrator says that maybe the bats did catch on, because they “found ten bodies, and only three the next day” (8), foreboding the realization and transformation she will undergo.
In “SP, GR”, Divakaruni does not change her descriptive approach and maintains the unmethodical cluster of motifs throughout the story. The first motif seen is food, and the “little tray, so pretty, so sanitary” (36) is a metaphor for Jayanti’s view of America. Her description of the “knife and fork sealed in their own plastic packet, the monogrammed paper napkin” (36) conveys her nervous excitement as she observes every single possible detail. Similar to “The Bats”, the title of “SP, GR” itself is a motif of fantasy, as seen when Jayanti fantasizes about her love affair with her professor. Her childish illusions of “marrying a prince from a far-off magic land, where the pavements are silver and the roofs all gold” (46) are repeated thrice throughout the story and each time her hope is diminished more than ever, the uncertainty accumulating. The first time the quote appears, Jayanti is “full of hope” (46) but after her uncle slaps her aunt “and his knuckles had made that thwacking bone sound” (53), Jayanti asks herself the same question, this time her tone unconvinced. At the end of the story, the question is posed the final time, leaving Jayanti devoid of hope. The third motif is the snow that falls on Jayanti at the closing of the story. The whiteness of the snow represents how America really is like: foreign and bitter. Snow looks lovely on the surface but it will eventually turn to slush, and this illustrates how hope in America will ultimately turn to realism as the place is not as magical as one would like to think it is. Last but not least, the motif of hands plays a significant role in SP, GR because when Jayanti is numb from the pain that is America, she is thinking of hands: The hand of the air hostess and the boy’s grimy one, that she knows “will keep coming back in her dreams” (56).
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These American hands are a depiction of the nightmare that has been her experience so far in America and they harshly remind her of the turmoil and uncertainty in her life.
Even though Divakaruni employs different strategies to the short stories, the seemingly contrasting motifs are amalgamated into the convincing topic of maturity. The motif bats brought about the revelation of the narrator’s maturity from being an innocent child. During the train-ride home, the narrator looked up to the sky, which was “full of crinkly monsoon clouds, black and crinkly like bats’ wings” (14) and finally understood her mother had been deceived and her father would never change. While she attempted to stomach the distressing discovery, she felt as though everything she stared at appeared to be upside down and asks herself a very pragmatic question, “Would they ever right themselves again?” The scattered motifs in “SP, GR”, although the significance once unknown to the reader, converge to form a painful life lesson Jayanti will never forget. At the denouement of the story, a hollow and numb narrator is left standing with her hands held out as the snow falls, and notices that her own hands are “no longer brown but white, white, white” (56) and “it makes sense that the beauty and pain should be part of each other” (56).
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This calm and stoic exterior Jayanti exudes demonstrates the change in her; she has snapped out of her reverie and finally fathoms the improbability of transforming her fantasies into reality.
In both stories, “The Bats” and “Silver Pavements, Golden Roofs”, Divakaruni endeavors to exhibit the way internal family conflict has shaped the characters into emotional maturity. Through believable and contrasting motifs that converge to the topic of maturity, the reader is able to empathize with these characters. With such innovative style and technique, we are more aptly capable of drawing parallels from the two short stories, to come to an understanding of the common family conflict that is experienced by many.