The passage “A Gift” by Rahila Gupta depicts a memory of a man reflecting about a relationship. It is a bitter and sad memory, as it starts off by describing the woman as an ‘ultimate egoist’ who does not have the right to give him ‘the gift’. The whole passage only uses pronouns when referring to the woman, giving a sense of detachment, further reinforcing his anger towards her. The passage portrays how everything, especially relationships, cannot be forced or rushed.
This idea is conveyed through characterization, action and style.
The characterization of both the woman and man shows how they cannot form a couple. The first time the two meet, the woman already conveys a striking personality. She “diminished everyone by [her] appearance, [her] personality clearing a path for [her].” Out of all those people in the room, the man focuses on her only, spotting details like “her fiery commitment to her politics” and how “she spoke not fluently but in a rush.
” The surprising thing is that although she is committed to politics, her speeches are not fluent. Perhaps she is a new recruit whom is nervous at facing crowds of people. The passage then reveals that she is a silent yet intelligent kind of person.
Her “loyalty to silence proved to be her preservation.” Since she does not like to talk, she tries to say everything quickly so that she can go elsewhere but this contradicts with her passion with politics. Politicians are people that love and are willing to talk for long periods of time so her commitment might be because she wants to train herself.
Also, she is very independent and optimistic. She describes herself as a “one-woman woman” and tells the man during their break-up that ‘never’ is “a dangerous word.” This gives a sense that she does not rely on the help of others and lives a happy life. She does not feel depressed and actually comforts the man, giving him a quote to cherish. Throughout the whole passage, the woman’s appearance was not described. This could be because the man admired her inner personality rather than her appearance, giving the audience good impression of the woman.
In contrast to the woman, the man has a totally different personality. He portrays the typical “manly” traits, even from the start of the passage. He believes his “experience is of [his] own making and anyone can impinge on it only if [he] wills it.” This immediately gives an impression of a man that is “strong” and controls everything within his grasp. His control of his mind suggests that he is the kind that does not care about others. The first time he met the woman, she “entered [his] consciousness like air in his lungs.” The use of air makes the subject important and useful but the description of consciousness gives a different view. Everyone has an “inner voice” which can be ignored. The man’s strong control over his mind further reinforces that he can simply ignore the woman. The man is also a politician and shows how he can effectively avoid the subject.
When the woman questions him about her nose, he chooses to ask her back about the shape of his shoulders. The art of avoiding things may be useful in his career but in a relationship, that is a very dangerous thing. Women typically like emotional feedback from men but the man’s love of impersonal makes the relationship seem out of place. Furthermore, he is extremely talkative and anxious. Even when they are simply playing a game of scrabble, the “words shrank on the Scrabble board as they grew and rioted inside [his] mouth.” He is so attached to his political world that he simply cannot resist the urge to talk about anything, from his ‘mother’ to ‘past loves’. Also, after he had made a “declaration of love”, his “head began to ache with an infinite series of interpretations.” He is like the kind that cannot wait for an answer and simply comes up with one. The two people obviously have very different personalities, reinforcing the point that they cannot form a couple.
The mismatch of the relationship is further reinforced by the action in the passage. They seem to start a relationship by ‘love at first sight’. They soon “found themselves together on the same Saturday morning” on many occasions. The repeated “s” sounds throughout the passage makes the passage flow smoothly, as if the relationship is going well. However, the complications soon arrive. A simple dialogue turns into a game, where the man feels happy that he “won that round.” It makes the relationship a distant one, one that lacks the passion of true love. They would talk about something but suddenly be “interrupted by the silence that fell around [them].” It is as if they are blaming the silence for stopping their dialogue, when in fact they do not know how to communicate with one another. Not long after the relationship turned cold, the man suddenly proposes. The woman rejects him, saying that she does not believe in possession. Perhaps the woman despises the wealth of the man, where “the emptiness of their stomachs drove [them] to the fish and chips shop or a sit down Chinese meal, depending on the fullness of their pockets.” Women tend to enjoy the luxury of wealth and so the man may not have provided the woman with what she truly wanted.
The style of the passage also reinforces how the personalities clash. The whole passage is written in first person so there should be a lot of emotional feelings described. Nevertheless, only pronouns are used to portray the characters, leaving a sense of detachment. Also, the description of the woman’ eyes has a symbolic meaning. Many say that the eyes are windows to our souls. However, “each time [his] eyes travel to make a judgement, they are drawn upwards by the power of her eyes and consumed, slithering sideways and away to the confused middle distance.” It seems as though the narrator cannot focus his concentration on her eyes, hence he never truly understood her feelings. Moreover, the use of Scrabble is symbolic of the nature of their relationships. It is a game of chance, where nobody can predict the next move. Anything can change, or in other words, life ‘scrabbles’ you.
In conclusion, this passage has effectively shown how life is full of unexpected things. It warns people to not hastily start a relationship until you have grasped the personality of your mate. The couple worked hard and tried to form a long-term relationship but in the end they were simply not suitable for one another. Despite that, the passage also serves as a reminder of the significance in not giving up. The woman comforts the narrator, telling him that he has to learn from the experience. Those that have never failed have never tried anything new and so the last sentence “make good use of it” has a very deep meaning. It could suggest that the narrator should remember the pain and never start another relationship but I believe that it refers to the point that you never know what is going to happen tomorrow. The narrator has obviously not yet grasped the true meaning behind the woman’s parting words but they are in essence very valuable, a gift.
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