The mother of the child in question
The short story “The Mother of the Child in Question” by Doris Lessing shows how difficult it can be for a mother to accept a son or daughters flaws. The story also focuses on the differences between the eastern and the western culture when it comes to accepting mental retarded people.
The Khan family is from Pakistan and they live in what appears to be aghetto neighborhood in England, because of the poor block buildings with many apartments. It is clearly a very lowly ranked social area and as an example the hallways in the building are described as very grey and with urine smell. The apartment where the family lives is not luxurious and the rooms are very small, even though you can still see that the family tries to make it look clean andpresentable.
The story is told in first person perspective and the main character is the narrator Stephen Bentley. Through the whole story we follow his thoughts and observations. He has been assigned the case of the Khan family and his mission is to convince Mrs. Khan that her daughter Shireen needs to go to a special school for handicapped children. Mrs. Khan does not want this and Mr. Khan decidesnot to show up because he is tired of taking the discussion with his wife about it. Instead it is Hassan Khan, the 12 years old brother, who is present as an interpreter and representing his father. Shireen is 10 years old and she is “the child in question”. Because she is handicapped she does not really have much contact with the outside world, not even with her family.
“Five,” Said Mrs. Khanin English. “She can count. Say five, Shireen.” It was poor English, and she repeated the commando in Urdu. The little girl smiled delightfully and began breaking up the biscuits and eating them.”(page 1, line 37-39)
This clearly shows that Shireen does not understand anything and she does not even notice that her mother is talking to her. She lives in her own little world and that is painful forher mother. She is not only trying to convince everybody else about Shireen is normal; she is also trying to convince herself. She tries to make her count to six, but that mission failed. Still she is so proud and stubborn that she keeps fighting for her daughter. She thinks she knows what is best for Shireen and she is not going to give up.
That says a lot about the differences between thewestern and eastern culture which is an important theme in this story. In England and in most of the other western civilizations, handicaps are seen as normal and it is nothing to be ashamed of. Whereas in the eastern society illnesses, mental or physical, are signs of weakness, and rather than swallowing their pride and accepting that something is wrong, they deny and try to hide it, so they won’tbe excluded from the society.
Another theme in the story that shows the differences between the two cultures is the suppressing of the women and superiority of men. As mentioned before, Hassan Khan has to be present, not only to translate, but also because he is more valuable and powerful than his sisters, according to their culture. Even though Hassan knows his importance he is not comfortablewith the situation and he seems to be very nervous. As it says in the quote: “Again the mother gave Hassan an order with her eyes, and he said, smiling with all his white teeth, no he is not here” Mrs. Khan needs to send Hassan some signs to make him say something and to hide his nervousness he smiles all the time.
The construction of the text is very simple because it is a short story and themeaning is that you should concentrate on the content of the story. The story is written in past tense because it is the narrator who tells a story from the past. Because of that the language that he uses is colloquial language and it is not full of foreign words. He is telling us, the readers, about his experiences. He uses the quotations to make the story more interesting and to give more...
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