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Ryan Wallace
C. Macmahon
Mythology/Cinema
January 10, 2005
                                                                                                                                            Distractions
    One can never come to imagine what  life would be like after a traumatic and sudden loss of someone held dear to their heart and most people will never have to, but what would happen if part of someone's world came crashing down?  If someone close is lost, how could one deal with themselves, no longer being capable to tap into something that was there for so long, something that dussenly left, how would they go on?  Authors write tragedies in all different senses to get some point accross that they want to convey about somone or somehint.  Authores can write about the environment and the things that the tragedy revoloves around.  In this sense, literature can help to atone an individual if an incident was eve to occur.  Nabokov and Mukherjee are two story writers who grapple with a happening that impacts one or more of the characters greatly, but they write about these accidents on different scales.  Both NAbokov's "Christmas"  Mukherjee's "The Management of Grief" portray individuals who are copoing with grief after a dramatic and unpredicted loss of family memebers.  While a natural transformatino in nautre heralds renewed faith for SLeptoc, Ms/ Bhave findes peace only after a myhsitcal visitation with her husband.
    In "Christmas", the protagonist Sleptov, had never been the same since the sudden loss of his son.  THis incident throws  his ordinary world into a state of paralysis with deep depression.  The paralyzing grief that he faces is "the kind of thing that happens after some great calamity" (Nabokov 599).  This line reveals that something awful has happened in Sleptov;s life that has himpacted it in such a big way as to paralyze Sleptoc.  AZs he goes back to his cabin he notices a corner of the cabin that he never used before which lured him to it.  It was in "such a corner in which Sleptov sat" (Nabokov 599).Taking comfort as well as sulking in this new place shows Sleptov's abysmal grief and hoe he does not attempt to move on or further himself in any way (Leonard 132).  Sleptov also makes no attemt to purse consolation about the incident, exiling himself even more from everyone else.
    Sleptov has an immense amount of depression due to the loss of his son, which is such a strong sense that it overpowers the bveautful landscapes of the Russian winter and casues Sleptov to exile himself from the rest of the world.  THe landcopaes and scenery are descirbed in a way very attentice to details and this produces a wonderful description thta would transpose into breathetaking and astonishing pictures.  "Reddish sand...resemble cinnamon, and thick icicles shot." (Nabokov 600) is just one of the scenes described in the realistic detail that Sleptoc sees them in.  This particular sight is the first thing he sees out of his cabin in the morning.  THe shooting icicles and sand have mnoticeablyu taking his undivided attention, but even a magnificent site like that can't come to make Sleptov forget or even look away from the fact that his son is gone and is not comming back.  Sleptov is so caught up with himself and the untimely accident that he loses trak of the days and months leaving him lost in the loathing world he created.  '"Can this be Christmas Eve?  How could I have forgotten?'" (Nabokov 602).  Sleptov has lost touch with the world he once knew b alienating himself, forgetting that what is almost one of the sentral and most significant holidays in the year.  The well described landscapes and nature, as well as occurrences in these settings as if it was really happening helps to add a greater sense of trugh and reality to what Sleptov is going thorugh and the pain he is feeling (Page 26).
    In "The Management of Grief". Mukherjee writes abouit the impact of a tragedy on the ordinary worlds of individuals and on a community as a whole, as opposed to a single man's downward spiral.  The different views that are held by diffeerent characters reflect with the way that they view the accident.  Ms. Shaila Bhave is a single character who feels compelled to help the impacted community. besides dealing with the accident on her own self.  This outreach to the commuity leads to numerous strangers and intrusion inside her hous.  "There are...women I don't know...whispering and moving tactfully" (Mukherjee 524).  In this paragraph Shaila also compares the way these people act to her sons, which foreshadows something about the.  All the strangers are together, while at the same time on different planes, all thinking for themselves. On the other hand, there are some converstions about how the accident happened.  They "have been muttering, Sihk bomb...the men... bow their heads..." (Mukherjee 524).  No one really knows for sure haw the accident happened, but some of the people have aggreeable ideas, while other have their own opinions about what happened.  The families are listeng to radios on different stations giving two different sides of the story, which adds duality to the families and the way they view the crash (HEmmingfield 190).  One of these radios came from Shaila'a boy's room, although she doesnt know who took it downstairs, she does know that this has happened secretly and silently wither her knowledge.  This duality helps to give a misplaced sense to the community and people inside Shaila's home.
    Mukherjee uses dysfuncional households with her characters to show how the tragedy affects the range of the characters.  These dysunctional households include those of Shaila Bhave and Kusum, her close friend.  It is revealed that Shaila is different with her culture and customs than that of modern western women.  "I never once told him." (Mukherjee 525), Shaila tells Kusum.  She never once said, "I love you.". to her husband and goes on to say that she doesnt feel comfortable calling her husband by his first name.  Kusum has children that dont get along too well.  "She's the daughter who is always in trouble" (Mukherjee 525).  Unfortunaely Kusum's good daughter dies in the crash and she is left only with the memories of both of her children together.  Most of those close to the victims decided to head back to the homelands for some reason whether it is to remarry or just to get away from what has happened.  SOme of the peiple, like the character Pam. survived from their lack of desire to visit her homeland (Bowen()).  This unassertive behavior shows the varying ways peiple act and the results of these actions or feelings.
    Sleptov struggles with himself and his feelings when he revalls the times he had with his son before he got deathly ill.  "The moths, the first Aspen Hawk of five summers ago!" (Nabokov 602).  This moth is from one of his son's adventures of capturing and pinning bugs for display and is a recollection of happeri times for Sleptov.  THe fact that this memory is from five years ago, shows just how happy he was at this moment , from how vividly and easily he can remember it.  He also recalls another incident involving the moth, which "His son...regretting that he had left it behind" (Nabokov 601).  The boy had to leave this world and all that he had in it despite if he was ready to go, ready to die, and ready to leave it all.  His father Sleptov was not ready for this, not ready for his son to get sick and eventually leave him for good.  Sorrowful, solitary, and disheartened, Sleptov recollects on their past together and can'd understand why (Crit Survey 1701).  How could such a thing hapen to him and to his son?
    Sleptov spends all of his time sulking after his son's death, which alienates him as well as diminishes his cares in the world.  His only care in the warld was repined from him and Sleptov was all by himself.  "I'm going to die...It's so simple" (Naboikov 603).   By seeing this feeling of angst one can figure out that he hasnt consoled anyone about what happened and doesnt plan or want to.  If there is any chance to talk about what happened and maybe even transcend oneself, Sleptov is reluctant to do so.  Sleptov, at one point, was "overcome by...intense sadness, he had the main house unlocked" (Nabokov 603).  The tragedy has affected him so geavily that he does not feel the need to take the necessary steps to take care of himslef and his life.  In this case he doesnt take the proper steps to protect himself by leaving th house unlocked.  This lack of caring alienates Sleptov even further as he gets down on himself to the point where he doesnt want to live anymore.()
    Mukherjee, also describes grieving by juxtaposing characters to show the differences in how they do so.  Judith Templeton is working to try and help the victims of the crash, while at the same time she is indifferent to others.  "I have no experience with a tragedy of this scale" (Mukherjee 526).  Judith is not completely ready to take on this incident soleyly on her own, therefore she ask for Shaila's help.  Judith is unwary to the victims and to what has happened.  She herself is not affected by what has happened, but by working with grief management, must help the way others are feeling.  If Judith does not have this feeling herself she can only be nlind to how others are feeling at the time and ultimately this ignorance provokes some.  "Ms. Bhave is a pillar" (Mukherjee 526), Judith says.  This statement confirms her blindness towards othes as it is a dismissal of Shaila and how she feels about the crash.  By calling Shaila a pillar Judith is tryaing to say that she is like stone, calm about what has happened.  But appearances can be deceiving as Judith assumes that Shaila has handled it well, but in realitiy SHaila thinks and wishes that she could scream as loud as she can.  Templeton lacks the understanding of culture, like the old Sikh couple, who Shaila would translate for, but not completely telling, telling Judith only some of the things they were saying (Bowen 196).  This distances them further away from each other. 
    Shaila Bhave struggles with herself while at the same time trying to help and prepare otheres that have experienced the same incident she has.  "Its a parents duty to hope" (Mukherjee 528).  Shaila has yet to see her sons' bodies and therefore assumes that they swam somewhere due to her fefusal to accept what has happened. She can not accept the fact that they are gone and can only hope that somewhere, its not true.  Some people can not live with the reality and the hand that was dealt to them.  "...I'd hang myself"  (Mukherjee 526).  Some think the only way out is to end their lives and to leave the world they once knew.  Acceptance and reconstruction is what each character must do to manage their grief.  Each victim has their own way of doing this and go through different things on their way through the process (Bowen 197).
    Sleptov faces a heavy ordeal when he find his dead son's journal, which he proeeds to read and he finds out things he did not know before, which intendifies his personal struggles with losing his son too soon.  In this journal his son writes about loving somne or something and upon discovering this love, "Sleptov raised his head, swallowed something hot and huge" (Nabokov 602).  This fact that his son had feelings for someone hits him hard.  "I'll never know" (Nabokov 603).  Sleptov says this about his son;s love.  It is a realization of the distance that was between them and Sleptov can not face the facts.  Sleptov and his son were not on the level of communication that Sleptov would have liked and the fact that Sleptov can neever establish this connection kills him.  Sleptov realizes how he has missed the chance to do and talk about somethings before his sons life was fulled short.  He aslo must come to realize how he will never be able to do or say some of the things (Muchnic 134).
    Sleptov is thrown even further in his self made hole of depression and thinks about leaving it and this world.  "'I - can't - bear - it - any - longer'" (Nabokov 603).  Sleptov is saying how he feeols, he can not go on having to face the realization that he has lost his son.  He can not take the loss or cope tih it any longer and comptemplates suicide.  Feelings of despair only grow inside Sleptov, "earthly life lay before him...humiliatingly pointless...devoid of miracles..." (Nabokov 603).  The loss of his son makes him feel as though life is pointless and devoid of meaning.  Sleptov faces dramatic depression with the loss which ends up killing his heart and his insides as he does not want to go on any longer in this seemingly meaningless world (Muchnic 135).
    Shaila Bhave faces her ordeal by going back to her home in India, which brings her to realize more about whats going on in her life and the crash.  Shaila has difficulties with her family's past, Judith, and herself during their visit to the next old couple whos sons had died in the crash, as Shaila starts to see what she has to do which causes her to end their day together.  As Judith tries to talk to her, Shaila thinks "I could answer...but i choose not to" (Mukherjee 535).  Judith stops and Shaila gets out the car, slamming the door behind her, abrudtly ending Judiths business she had with her.  Shaila comes to recognize her faimly history and realizes there is nothing left, "A wife and mother begins her new life..."(Mukherjee 535).  Shaila must start a new after having everything taken away, even if it wasn't the best thing, it was something.  She is looking to overcome the way she is supposed to act due to her cultural background and how Judith sees her (Bowen 197).  This ultimately happens once she returns back her home in India.
    As Shaila and her mother are in relegious setting ready to pray, Shaila goes to pray for her husband and leads her to have a revelation.  "...My husband descends to me...I hugged him" (Mukherjee 532), a cathartic episode where Shaila is confronted with the ghost of her dead husband and they physically touch each other.  After, she returns to her mother and affirms her mother's views on ghosts and other things, but Shaila is thinking of the complete opposite, "...she's lost me" (Mukherjee 532).  Shaila's mother could tell she had lost her and that she will be away from her again.  After seeing her husband, she heades his advice to finish what they started she realizes that she must go back to Canada to do so and therefore she does, even though she does not know where the journey will take her (Bowen 187).
    Resolution comes to Sleptov when he is at rock bottom and a natural transformation takes place and he is reborn in the moment.  Sleptov is witness to a metamorphis in a caccuun, "It had emergerd..." (Nabokov 603).  Due to the warmth of Sleptov's body as he cradled and wept over this tin gave a long waited transfromation a chance to take place.  Sleptov is able to witness a "bueatiful...developed...by God" (Nabokov 603) renewal of faith.  When the moth emerges it is a wonderful and glorius description with the fargileness of a birth of life and then he wings spread to their limit set by God.  Nabokov is able to precisely describe with beautiful detail the moth emrging from its chrysalid which gives Sleptov a chance to witness the world or perhaps God's answer to him with a miraculous manifestation (Leonard 132).    
    This renewal of faith and spirituality for Sleptov is from being witness to the transformation.and helps him to cope with his loss.  As "Sleptov opened his eyes." (Nabokov 603), he too is being reborn to witness the birht of a new creature; it cleanses his soul.  Sleptov also sees this chrysalid as a reference to his osn as it "took a full breath under...human happiness" (Nabokov()).This human happiness he shares with the moth was at one time the miraculous breathe of life he once shared with his son.   Instead of a transendance of pain, Sleptov witnesses something which makes the world stop and makes him feel complete.
    The characters in "The Management of Grief" have dfferent amounts of cultural backgrounds with which refelct their diffeent coping styles.  Kusum, like SHaila also see things, as she writes about a girl looking and singing the same song of her daughter.  This girl even went as far as to say "Ma!" to her.  "...Her life is now serene." (Mukherjee 535), Shaila remarks about Kusum;s withdrawel from the world.  On the other hand, Dr. Ranganathan's enshrines the past before me moves on.  He throws in "Squashed roses, in darkening shades of pink." (Mukherjee 529) for his loved ones.  Dr. Ranganathan takes these roses from some randam persons yard and throws the pedals of the roses to float for his loved ones lost in the accident.  Each character has their own mourning style in which corresponds with the cahracters "Indianess" (Chang 189). 
After this incident he moves and takes on new jobs, but Shaila hears later that his life sadly starts to fall apart.
    Some of the characters in the story are misunderstanding and blind to some aspects of grieving and for some greiving is uncontrolled and mismanaged.  Judith Templeton for one, doesnt understand how the victims feel.  She visits a Sikh family "twice with offers...but they refuse to sign" (Mukherjee 533).  Judith is blind to see how these people do not want to sign something confirming their sons has been taken away from them.  She even goes as far to label the victims, seeing how she specializes in grief consuling, as Shaila relects for the community as a whole,  "'Depressed ccecptance" is the pleteau we've reached" (Mukherjee 533).  Early on in the story the radio stations that the families were listening to were each in tune, but when put together makes an out of synch, meaningless noise.  This shows the different levels and how one can get lost trying to make sens of the raquet like Shaila tries to (Hemmingfield 191).
    Both "Christmas" and "The Management of Grief" both share some of the same concepts.  Each protagonist has an eperience in which they are cleansed and glorified.  For Sleptov it is a witness of nature and Shaila has a super natural experience with her husband nad family.  Every character from the stories had to deal a tragedy, a sudden loss of family members which leads them all into states of depression.  Sulking and regret is an underlying feeling the characters face.  Some cant go on with reality anymore and dont see any point in living and comptenplate their own deaths.  While at the same time the stories show different shades on some matters.
    Each protagonist managaes their grief differently  which distinguishes themselves apart from each other.  Shaila doesn t alienate herself as SLeptov does.  She is there for the community opening her home to them as well as trying to help Judith Templeton with some of her clients.  The biggest difference is the scale of the tragedy.  In "The Management of Grief", a whole plane crashes devastating many in the end.  Sleptov is the only one in focus and affected by the loss of his son in the story "Christmas".