In this short story by Attia Hosain, tradition clashes with western progress and culture. The story starts with a Muslim couple going out for a dinner party at a friend’s home. Straight away the wife, who is more cultural than her husband, seems to stand out, act different. We must take in consideration that this could be her first social party with others and is very self-conscious about how she looks and acts. ‘She sat on the edge of the big chair, her shoulders drooping, nervously pulling her sari over hear head… ‘ This sentence show us her body language and how she very anxious and shy.
The chair is described as ‘big’ because Hosain wanted to make a comparison in size and make the Muslim wife seem smaller and irrelevant to some extent. The words: drooping and nervously show again how ‘on the edge’ she is. The first image of an accident we come to is her view of the other lady(ies) and how they have ‘dressed’ themselves up. ‘The women held a wineglass in one hand and a cigarette in the other. She wondered how it felt…… The women had long nails, pointed and scarlet. She looked at her own – unpainted and carefully short- wondering how anyone could eat, work, wash with those claws dipped in blood.
‘ This is her description and comparison of the other women around her. This also shows how she feels of the other women her husband is socializing with. There is another clash in the culture when she again compares herself with the jewelry on some of the other women. To her this is a gathering and people are to be dressed with jewelry to show and to be admired, but instead she notices ‘… the other’s bare wrists, like a widow’s. ‘ Comments were passed around about the women and she pleaded to be unnoticed and unobserved.
When new guests arrived she was unsure if she was stand up of stay sitting during the introductions, but then her husband came to answer the problem with a hand on the shoulder, which was a sign to stay seated. Later on she realizes that how her clothes were not as simple as the others and were from a custom, but even if they were no one took notice. ‘… no one seemed to care for customs, or even know them… ‘ Dress can separate people easily, but this is not the case, it is already been decided that she was different and her culture was unknown and unheard of.
Her husband on the other side had turned into ‘one of them’ after all the drinking, smoking and ‘sins’ he had committed. The young lady was known as ‘His wife’ and not by name, but to the reader we are just as not knowing as the people at the party. When it came to eating she decided to stay sitting, but was worried that the other guest would notice and find it rude or offensive. Later on a little girl came up to her and offered her some food and commented on the olives on the dish. The Muslim woman was unsure of what olives were but tried them. To her disgust she found them horrible.
Food and cultures go together and are all different. The olives, from the western culture were rarely seen let alone tasted in her Muslim culture. There is a recurring image of the clothes and how skin should be covered and not to be seen in her view and culture. This deeply angers her once again. ‘A few couples began to dance…… She felt a sick horror at the way the men held the women, at the closeness of their bodies… ‘ I feel most action relating with lust or sexual actions are in discretion in her culture and now she feels that her husband has betrayed her and her culture.