Examine with reference to language how Attia Hosain presents the feelings of the young wife in her first encounter with western culture? “The First Party” is a fusion short story bringing together the western and the Asian cultures. It is about a conventional bride who has her first encounter with her husband’s ’emancipated’ friends. Attia Hosain one of the earliest women writers of the Indian diaspora, through “The First Party,” portrays the mannerisms and beliefs of the typical Indian bride through this newly wedded bride.
To each turn of the story, Attia Hosain brings a superb imaginative understanding and a sense of the “poignancy of the smallest of human dramas. ” The short story reveals the hidden depths of Hosain’s work and brings out not only the partition theme but also the dilemma of the Indian bride and her relationship with her husband. Ones first party is supposed to be a really exciting, unforgettable and enjoyable experience. However here the title suggests the irony of the situation.
As east meets west, the experience turns out to be a very traumatic one.
The Indian bride could be equivalent to the olden day western woman – delicate, meek and humble, expected to cater to the world of man and inexperienced to the nuciences of the world. The bride’s entry into the house of the party is just as her entry into her in – laws home for the first time. When the bride arrives at her new home, she takes care to enter, auspicious right foot first, gently kicking over a strategically placed measure of paddy as an augury of plenty for her new family.
Here, however she stumbles against an “unseen doorstep” which is symbolic of a dividing line, the meeting point of east and west.
It is the dominant “brightness” of the western culture that bewilders the shy new Indian bride. The brightness is personified and probably shows that rigid customs are not accepted by an emancipated society. The “firm grasp” into “her own limply” is yet another encounter between the diaspora of the Indo-western woman and the bride fresh from India. Alliteration such as “forsaken friend” and “bewildering brightness” intensify an already intensified situation as “her nervousness edged towards panic. ” Both the brightness and the darkness are personified.
She seeks comfort in the “darkness” of her withdrawn life from which she was protected form the absurdities of her new life. She probably prefers to remain in darkness as in the light; she is under scrutiny . We find the thinking of the bride rather unusual as she finds the brightness bewildering and the darkness friendly. In normal circumstances, one would feel vice versa. Usually brightness clarifies but here it confuses because it is the brightness of the western culture. We see how male dominated her life is as her husband does not even give her a chance to think or even speak.
His dress and attitude with his smoking and drinking and vulgar dancing is just like the Americans of whose culture he had adopted. However he betrays his Indian roots when he says “My wife” with no name attached, depicting that he is a typical Indian husband who believes that the wife’s identity is linked to his from marriage and hence feels that stating her name is not necessary or significant. “When the lady refers to the bride as “a shy little thing,” her husband says “She’ll get over it soon.
Give me time,’ not “give her time. ” He believes that she alone cannot make her self fit for western society, he will have to train and fashion her in order to make her suitable. Again we see his Indian mentality, of the wife being helpless and him having to save or rescue her. It is said that only brazen women can look into the eyes of a stranger. We notice that this bride is not brazen in fact she lacks confidence with her “shy glance” and the “low voice of an uncertain child repeating a lesson.
” Her husband has instructed her a little before the party in how to act and what to say in order to mix with your own people of a different culture and to fit in. She does not want people to know that she is scared of the vibrant and unregimented surroundings and also how ashamed she is of her own kind. Even the kind words of the hostess do not seem of any comfort to her. The beauty of the story is in the symbols used. At first it was the doorstep, the meeting point of the two cultures. Now as the bride sits at “the edge of the big chair,” symbolising that she is new into the society and yet unwelcome.
She is only at the edge of it and making a difference or trying to root her own people back to their original culture, customs or mannerisms would be a long way off. Her discomfort is conveyed through her body language. “Drooping shoulders” symbolise a lack of confidence. The sari too symbolises the conflict in her mind. She is trying to overcome her fears but is weighed down by her sensitivity and her culture back home. In a way her sari acts not only as a means to cover bare flesh but also as a protection from blaspheming ways. She felt over dressed with her red sari and gold embroidery and her rings and bracelets.
In the Indian culture, it was custom for the newly wedded Indian bride to be heavily dressed as she was. The rings and bangles are a symbol of marriage for eternity for the bride and she is in awe to find “the others bare wrists, like a widow’s” for only when the wife finds out that her husband is dead does she break the bangles and remove the ‘sindoor’. She feels even more out of place when she sees the simplicity of their clothes as compared to her bright red sari with work on it. More like an “object on display” for the edification of others.
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