Sunday, June 15, 2008

"Indissoluble Matrimony"

The title of this short story speaks for itself. Matrimony, in its establishment, was meant to be indissoluble, that is, unbreakable. In her short story, Rebecca West portrays a couple with obviously stark differences in their nature who break out in a fight, either literally or metaphorically. After breaking multiple bones and escaping the grips of death several times, the husband, George Silverton, still comes home, gets undressed, gets in bed and is "caressed" by Evadne's (his wife's) warm arms.

The beauty of the two characters in this relationship is this: the husband tends to be relatively weak and cowardly while the wife tends to be prudent and commanding. Yet the husband continues to try to exert his control over the relationship. It is this inconsistent clashing of natures that causes them to fight. If the husband were completely dominant, the wife would have submissively obeyed him and would have never stepped out of the house. This is not how a healthy relationship should be. There is nothing wrong with a little (or big) fight every once in awhile. After all, we are all beasts. A husband and wife should be able to fight with each other and still be able to sleep in the same bed together at the end of the day. I'm not entirely sure if this is the theme Rebecca West is trying to convey, but that is certainly what the story conveyed to me.

I do believe that West unequivocally portrays George Silverton as the enemy here, but the reader needs to look beyond that. Although the story is written entirely in the third-person, its entire focus lies on George's emotions. We are never really thrown into Evadne's thoughts. We as readers must judge for ourselves whether Evadne is truly perfect and her husband is slightly psychotic, or whether both George and Evadne have their own faults. Or, one may ask, do either of them really have any faults at all? Is fighting just a way for each of them to vent their frustrations with life?

Again, I'm not sure if my interpretation is anywhere close to what West was implying, but I believe the take home message of this tremendous short story is this: Fighting is a healthy, natural part of a successful marriage, and it is ideal for a man to be slightly submissive and a woman to be slightly dominant in order to counter the societal effects of patriarchy.


koroma said...

This story to me was wierd, because the wife is more dominant and the husband might be a little nuts. Why would they have afight that bad and her comes home and she just accepts him? it did not make sense to me, but i do agree with you that that, one thing that was clear was the obvious differences in the character of the man and his wife.

jesusdude said...

I think that west was saying that the day to day, no matter how insignificant, can wear on a relationship... and in an age when men were supposed to be dominant (not my beliefs but were at the time) he felt impotent... as well as the reference to her racial difference, which was frowned upon at the time... people were still believing that white and light was pure... from god, ordained as the rulers of the earth, and that dark and dirt were associated with sin and degradation. this further infuriated the already clearly delusional man. Its amazing what people do in the name of a religion they don't even understand...