How is the theme of family presented in "Singh Song" and "Before You Were Mine"?

In "Singh Song," the theme of family is presented humorously, and the poem gently pokes fun at the stereotype of an Indian family in Great Britain. In "Before You Were Mine," the theme of family is presented in a more negative tone, and there is resentment between the daughter and her mother.

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The stereotype of an Indian family in Britain is of a close-knit, business-oriented family who run a local shop. The poem "Singh Song" pokes fun at this stereotype through the speaker's shop being described repeatedly as "di worst Indian shop / on di whole Indian road." The speaker doesn't take especially good care of the shop because he is besotted with his new wife who lives upstairs. The speaker locks up the shop when there are no customers and goes upstairs to make "luv" with his wife. He does this so often that the fruit turns bad and the floor gets dirty. In this way, the poem parodies the aforementioned stereotype of the business-oriented Indian family and instead provides in its place a warmer and gentler image.

The second part of the British stereotype of an Indian family is that the family are close-knit. According to this stereotype the speaker's priority should be to take care of his father's shop. Indeed the speaker says that his father "vunt(s) (him) not to have a break." However, the speaker in this poem gives his new wife priority over his father. This is another way in which the poem pokes gentle fun at the stereotype of an Indian family in Britain.

In "Before You Were Mine," the theme of family is represented through the relationship between the daughter and her mother. One might ordinarily expect this to be a loving relationship. Stereotypically one might also expect that the mother would be the maternal and responsible one in the relationship, and the daughter the immature and irresponsible one. The poem in fact subverts those expectations so that the mother is irresponsible and immature, and the daughter is maternal and responsible. The mother resents the daughter for being born and for putting an end to her life of freedom and fun. Indeed the mother tells the daughter that the decade before the daughter's birth was "the best" time of her life. The implication here is that the birth of the daughter prematurely ended that "best" time. The mother thus resents the daughter which leads to a fractious, difficult relationship between the two.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on February 23, 2021
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