A Temporary Matter by Jhumpa Lahiri

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Examine the significance of the title, "A Temporary Matter."

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The title holds significance on a couple of fronts.  The first would be the "temporary matter" of the power cuts in the evening.  This establishes the basis for the plot of the story.  This is temporary as, by the end, electrical power is restored, while the power of love becomes absent.  Another understanding of the "temporary matter" could be the seeming emotional and physical intimacy of Shoba and Shukumar during the power outages.  It seems as if there is a greater closeness developing between both.  Yet, this is also temporary.  Shoba's rehearsed delivery of breaking up with Shukumar and his disclosure to her as a response clearly demonstrates that the emotional connection that might have been forged or the intimacy that appeared to be formulated was, in fact, temporary.  Finally, I think that  the nature of emotional commitment in the world of Shoba and Shukumar is revealed to be one in which everything is a "temporary matter."  It does not seem as if their relationship was really ever one in which there was a permanent and lasting connection.  The death of their child did not really forge a connection between them, moving them even closer to a "temporary" state.  The fact that Shukumar operates in a state of introverted being while Shoba is more active with her work and being out of the house feeds the idea that their entire relationship was a "temporary matter."  The ending in which both are poised in the dark, weeping with what it is they now know helps to bring to light that the only non- temporal condition in their relationship is the hurt and sadness that will accompany them like a shadow in their own darkness.

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karaejacobi eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Jhumpa Lahiri's story "A Temporary Matter," from the collection Interpreter of Maladies, tells the story of the tense marriage between Shoba and Shukumar. The premise of the story is referred to in its title: for a short period, the electrical company will turn off the power for an hour each night, until they have made repairs to a line destroyed in a snowstorm. When the couple receive the notice, we learn that both partners feel internally disappointed with their lives: Shoba has apparently ceased to care about her appearance as much as she once did, and Shukumar is still finishing a dissertation even though he's in his mid-thirties. However, when the power outages begin, the couple find that they can reconnect.

The other "temporary matter" referred to in the title, beyond the power outages, is the bond that the couple forges during these dark hours. They begin to make confessions to each other during that time, and their relationship recovers an intimacy it has not had in a long time. The narrator explains, "Something happened when the house was dark. They were able to talk to each other again." The partners find themselves eager to talk to each other during the dark hour each night, with Shukumar even spending time during the day thinking about what to confess to his wife that evening. Eventually, though, the power is restored. At this point, Shoba tells her husband she is moving out; she has found an apartment. He tells her details he previously swore he would not reveal about their stillborn son. Their "temporary" intimacy and understanding have come to an end, as has their relationship.

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