Classroom Issues and Strategies
It is important to read and discuss Mukherjee's "A Wife's Story" as an integral part of twentieth-century American literature and not as an "exotic" short story by a foreign writer. As the essay accompanying "A Wife's Story" points out, Mukherjee identifies herself very strongly as an American writer writing about twentieth-century Americans. Although most of her stories are about South Asian-Americans (South Asia in the contemporary geopolitical arena usually consists of Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and the Maldive Islands), she sees herself as being primarily influenced by, as well as being part of, the tradition of Euro-American writers. In a brief interview published in the November, 1993 issue of San Francisco Focus in which she discusses her novel, The Holder of the World (published in 1993 after the publication of the second edition of The Heath Anthology), she says, "I think of myself as an American writer . . . I want to focus on the making of the American mind." But instead of an exploration of the making of the American mind, The Holder of the World is a reflection and an echoing of the existing, dominant American attitudes and concepts about the American colonial period and the "exotic" India of the past with self-indulgent emperors and rajas, wealthy merchants and self-sacrificing women. In order to avoid the trap of reading "A Wife's Story" as being from a "marginal" group, I have found it best to first discuss the crafting of the story as a literary work in the tradition of English/American literature, and then move on to the aspects of the story that deal with specific concepts and cultures. Keeping in mind Mukherjee's own comments on racism, multiculturalism, and literary influences, it is interesting to discuss how she uses, or does not use, her ideas on these subjects in "A Wife's...