The Main Themes of A Temporary Matter by Jhumpa Lahiri

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The Main Themes of a Temporary Matter by Jhumpa Lahiri

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Table of Contents

  • The Summary of the Story, A Temporary Matter
  • Communication Problems in A Temporary Matter
  • A Temporary Matter: The Importance of Memory
  • Conclusion

The Summary of the Story, A Temporary Matter

The short story that I have studied is A Temporary Matter by Jhumpa Lahiri. In this short story, communication and the secrets people keep from one another appear as one of the major themes. Following the loss of the couple's stillborn baby, Shoba and Shukumar rarely talk to each other. Shukumar thought of how he and his wife had become an expert at avoiding each other. However, when they were told that their electricity would be cut off for one hour, beginning at eight p.m., they somehow find an excuse to talk to each other again. Shoba was the one who initiates that both of them to talk and share their deepest secrets in the dark while having dinner with only candles to light the room. Shoba just lost her child, a dark room somehow bring comfort to her. The darkness offers honesty between both of them and they can talk openly to one another. Shoba can talk without having to face Shukumar and he would not even notice that. Shukumar can spit out anything that he hides from her without feeling guilty

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On the fifth night, Shukumar found a notice from the electric company stated that the line had been repaired and the electricity would not be cut off anymore. Shukumar was disappointed knowing that he would not have any reasons to talk to her wife again. But the truth is still untold. Shoba decided to voice out her plan to move out of their house. When she told him that she found an apartment, the reality hit him hard. He just realized that she was preparing for this moment a long time before. If it was not because of the lights go out during the night, she would be telling him regarding this matter sooner.

When it was his turn, he prepared himself to let her know something that he has sworn before that he would never dare to talk about and or even let it slip out of his mouth — their child's gender. Shoba was surprised, her heartaches. She never knew what her child's gender is, as she was the one who wanted it to be surprised. Shukumar did not tell her, that when she was lying on a hospital's bed, he was there, accompanying her during her hard time. He was there during the crucial time and he held their child, he remembers every single detail about the child, how much his son weighed almost five pounds, had reddish skin rather than brown and had black hair.

Communication Problems in A Temporary Matter

How this theme reflects some of the issues faced by the modern society is when nowadays, people tend to use social media as a tool of communication instead of having a personal person-to-person interaction and this eventually leads to arguments and unwanted problems. All these things happened because it is hard to express ones' feelings with just text messages. Some will find it hard to convey their feelings in real life. It is another story with a long-distance relationship couple. They would face common challenges such as miscommunication and trust issues because they lack face-to-face contact. Our society's stigma thinks that too much of expressing yourself to your partner will make your relationship boring. This somehow makes someone develops anxiety to talk to his or her partner about small or even big matter. It bothers a person in a relationship whether it is a good idea to say romantic words or even to complain about every single thing to their partner.

Lack of communication and being tight-lipped about a problem will only destroy one another. Instead of showing how happy you are, some just ignore the feelings of enjoyment because of ego and some would not be able to express that they are heartbroken because they know they will be judged. Some individuals that are concerned if they say this or that, it will hurt the other party's feelings. The fear of being hurt again by their actions or someone else's doing is what stops our society from giving a chance for anyone to communicate and explaining the details. Communication is the key ta good and healthy relationship, but our society tends to sugar coat words and to wear a mask when they are in front of their partners. Being honest with the partner about your weakness would not make someone fragile, it is a sign of telling them that you are who you are and this will slowly build trust. Communication in the relationship acts as the judge, jury, and executioner of your relationship whether it lives or dies.

A Temporary Matter: The Importance of Memory

Besides, another most important theme in A Temporary Matter is the importance of memory. Shukumar knew that incident that took place six months earlier, shattered his wife's feelings and turns her life upside down. Instead of pushing her wife to face reality and ignore all of the things that occur in their marriage, he decided to remain silent and looking back to all the memories they have shared. He knew that it is not an easy task to make her wife go back to her usual, old self when her wife suffered the most when they lost their child. Although he knew that sooner or later, they both will go separate ways, he kept silent.

Everything reminds him of Shoba. Their house is overwhelmingly defined by Shoba's actions; the way she takes off her satchel and shoes, the way she pays bills, the way she cooks. He remembers every single detail about her — how she curled her fingers tightly when she slept, that her body twitched during bad dreams. He recalled the moment he combed through her cookbooks' every afternoon and followed her penciled instructions. If it was not because of how detailed person Shoba is, Shukumar would not be able to have a memory of all those meals Shoba cooked. It was one thing that made Shukumar thank her for listed down each of the recipes with details and dated them, to tell the first time they had eaten the dish together.

He looked back to the time when both of them stand right next to each other, seeing their reflections fitting together in the frame of the mirror somehow makes him sad. For only this one time he could not even recall when was the last time they have been photographed. He still kept Shoba's picture in the yard when she was pregnant and he knew that he will never be able to show her that picture because that picture will crush her. He was ready for the next storm to hit, a moment when Shoba decided to walk out of his life. If he can not stop her from moving on without him, he will hang onto the memories.

He would not stop her from going because he wanted so badly for her to mend every broken piece of her soul, to find the peace that she should have been breathing in the first place and to let her pay back the kindness she owes to her own body. Through all the hardships they both have been through, when the sun was shining brightly and during those rainy days, Shukumar will always find himself trapped in the chains of memories and that will make him learn on how to love his missing puzzle just like the way the Earth loves the moon, fondly but from a distance.

People come and go, just like seasons, and when they go, they leave traces of their memories behind. Some people tend to get over it and act like it never existed. Instead of confronting reality, there are still lots of people who shut the memories by erasing all of them. In today's generation, humans still find it hard to embrace the memories. If it is a happy memory, they will cherish it. However, if it is not, they are afraid that the memories will haunt them. Some might feel it is better to bring up about the memories because it hurts them. It may be a feeling of betrayal or something that triggers someone's inner feelings that stops them from realizing the importance of memory. Memories act as a missing puzzle in every jigsaw. Sometimes the only reason why some people bury the memories and never dare to bring it up again is that they are stuck on the idea of what "could have been" if they do the opposite action during that time. Some just too scared to create memories because they do not want to face reality.


The memories that we paint today, will be a lesson to learn in the future and it will turn out as a beautiful chapter in life. We could see how today's society avoid remembering the past because they could not digest the fact that things do not turn out the way they want it to be. Memories give us a nostalgic feeling and remind us of the good times or even the bad one spent with our dear and near one. Memories teach people how to let go of all those bad ones and cherish all the wonderful things happened in life besides make someone more human. As humans, we cannot run from reality and we may have experienced one form of trauma that leads us to wipe off the memories. Unfavorable memories such as heartbreak, losing someone so dearly in your life or even embarrassing things will make society learn on how to tear themselves apart and sit with the pieces that make them laugh, cry, happy and strong. Society is too scared that holding onto memories will make them let their guards down and easy to crush, but the truth is, memories make them accept the truth, bring a stronger you who hides behind the fear of memories.

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