Wednesday, September 01, 2010

An Arranged Marriage by Nell Freudenberger

“An Arranged Marriage” singles out that brief moment in life when children abandon safe hand-holding parental guidance to reach for their freedom to create their own world.

Amina who considers her mother a partner is wrong in this assessment, the mother holds a more powerful influence then a simple partner which implies that decision are shared, which is not the case here where her mother makes the most personal decision for her. Like a child she allows her mother to select her husband by following her strict list of requirements even though she doubts she can find one that will fulfill them all thus risking never marrying and most likely never going to America. Amina then also dutifully submits to her mother a perspective mates shortcomings based on her mothers requirements risking his disqualification. He enjoys Heinkens but "together" mother and daughter decide that he is "still a good man". However if the requirements and the value system being used is that of the mothers, then the judgment that he is “still a good man” is that of her mothers. Her mother is selecting her daughter’s husband.

This control over her daughter is again witnessed by Amin’s desire to put her picture online but patiently succumbing to her mothers refusal even though she knows it is likely to leave her with a smaller pool of perspective husbands to the very few unlikely men who do not care about looks.

Then even as her daughter is in America, her mother attempts to control the wedding while in India via telephone, insisting that she wear a sari though he daughter who has Western taste and who is being married in American to an American would obviously prefer a western styled dress.

Now she is in American and if the marriage was somewhat arranged by her mother’s stipulations of who Amina’s husband she be, Amina now has the freedom to decide what kind of relationship they will have. On just her third night in American deciding to use her newly found freedom she disregards her mothers orders not to have premarital sex and is completely unrepentant the next day when she explains her surprise at waking up next to George and not regretting it.

The phrase in the last paragraph stresses the theme of gaining independence well when Amina says “In Desh, you can make your plans, but they usually do not succeed.” What Amina is describing is in her own country, under her mothers dominance, plans can be precarious because her mother has power to cancel them and Amina must acquiesce. This is also explains why once married she is “dumbfounded” to the point she forgets to kiss her husband during the ceremony by her sudden realization that she does not need her mother and is entirely free to make her own decisions from then on.

http://www.newyorker.com/fiction/features/2010/09/06/100906fi_fiction_freudenberger

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