Themes and Meanings (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
The title of Bharati Mukherjee’s “The Management of Grief” suggests that grief is something that can, indeed, be managed. Judith Templeton represents the authority for such a claim. She carries a textbook on grief, she has taken a degree in managing grief, and her job, created by the provincial government, is to manage grief. The ways in which individual survivors cope with the disaster might also be interpreted as management of grief. The whole story also demonstrates the opposite of the title’s assumption: Mrs. Bhave cannot manage her grief; she can only experience it, move through it by some inexplicable process of mourning, and move on.
The assumptions that Templeton makes about the management of grief are not accurate when applied to the survivors. To a great extent, this misreading stems from cultural differences, which Templeton cannot see, even though her intentions are to do exactly that. Templeton becomes frustrated with survivors who refuse to accept the fate of their family members because they believe it is a parent’s duty to hope. When the men begin to remarry, she shows surprise at how little time has passed. Templeton’s judgment and ignorance is expressed in the labels she uses for surviving mothers, such as “hysterical” and “a real mess,” and in her references to the parents’ stubbornness and ignorance. Moreover, Templeton’s concern for her own discomfort over the discomfort of the survivors is too apparent. She makes jokes about how her bladder will fare because the job requires the frequent ritual of drinking tea with her clients, and she complains that although the people are lovely, they are driving her crazy.