Discuss the character of the husband in Kamala Das's "Neipayasam."

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carol-davis | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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"Neipayasam" by Kamala Das has only three characters that speak: the father and two of his sons.  The story revolves around the mother of the family who dies early in the story.  The father then becomes the primary character or the protagonist.  This is a sad tale of a person leaving her family too soon with her husband totally unprepared for the loss.

When writing a character analysis, there are three areas to evaluate. First, the type of character becomes important.  In this story, the husband/father is the main character, so the narrator will reveal the story through the his eyes. His grief and shock from his wife's death reveal a man who realizes he has a heavy weight to carry.  Interestingly to give the story a universal quality, only the boys' names are used.  The father could be any man who is left alone by the death of his spouse to raise the children by himself.

The second aspect of the characterization describes the person.  No mention is made of the physical attributes of the protagonist.  The reader learns about the man through his thoughts and the small dialogue with his boys.

His personality becomes clear.  He is a loving man who works hard to take care of his family. Despite the problems typical of most families, the couple loved each other and their children.  To his dismay, he realizes that no longer thought of his wife when he was at work because she had become a part of him.  His shock over the sudden death of this wife has left him vulnerable to his emotions. However, he is a good man who will do the right thing for his children. His strength of character bolsters his courage.

Finally, an analysis must examine the conflict(s) facing the character. In the beginning of the story, the father is returning home after the cremation of his wife.  He struggles with her loss and how it will impact the family.  His conflict is internal and situational: his wife is gone and so now he will have to carry the load of both parents for his three sons.

As the father thinks back to his wife, he realizes that he is angry with her for leaving him. This is the beginning of his grieving although he does not recognize this step.  His shock at the loss of his beloved wife has left him with such responsibilities. 

Now who would bathe the children? Who would cook for them? Who would look after them whey they fell ill?  "My wife died," he whispered to himself...

When the father arrives home, he decides to wait until the next day to tell the boys  about their mother.  His first thought is to not give the boys the food the mother had prepared earlier in the day. Then, when the oldest son is delighted by the neipayasam, the father relents thinking that this will be the last thing they eat that their mother prepared. 

Finally, the father can no longer hold in his emotions and runs to the bathroom to shed his tears.  What a realistic yet sensitive story of a man grieving for his beloved!

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