How is symbolism, characterization, or setting used to develop a theme in "Montreal 1962?"

Symbolism is used to develop the theme of religious and cultural heritage in “Montreal 1962.” The symbol of the turban is developed to show how the female narrator values her Sikh and Indian heritage while living in Canada.

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In “Montreal 1962,” an unnamed female narrator imagines telling a story to her husband in response to his informing her of a potential employer’s proposed religious discrimination. The couple are Sikhs from India who have immigrated to Canada. The turban is an important item of men’s clothing that constitutes one of the key symbols of their Sikh faith. The wife’s loving attention to the turban represents her devotion to the Sikh faith that she and her husband share, as well as her love for him and commitment to perpetuating their heritage for their future children.

One day, the man comes home and tells his wife that a prospective employer told him that he would only be hired if he gave up his turban and cut his hair. No words are needed for him to indicate that he will not do so. While she is alone in their apartment, the wife washes one of her saris, and then washes, dries, and winds her husband’s turbans.

As she does so, in her imagination she tells her husband what she is doing and why. Choosing a turban that is red like blood, she winds it onto her own head. Her reflection while wearing it reminds her of her father and other male relatives back home. Her imagined narrative concludes with her decision to go out to work herself because she knows that her husband will not get hired, as well as the story they will tell their children one day about his continued use of the turban and long hair.

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