How would you explain the symbolism shown in the short story "A Tempory Matter"?

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accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The symbolism in this short story concerns the grief and growing alienation of Shukumar and Shoba following the stillbirth of their first child. Symbolism can refer to specific objects as well as actions, and it is clear that the actions of these two characters following the death of their child are very symbolic of their grief and their inability to cope with the loss of their child. Note how their actions are very different:

He ran his tongue over the tops of his teeth; he'd forgotten to brush them that morning. It wasn't the first time. He hadn't left the house at all that day, or the day before. The more Shoba stayed out, the more she began putting in extra hours at work and taking on additional projects, the more he wanted to stay in, not even leaving to get the mail, or to buy fruit or wine at the stores by the trolley stop.

Shukumar spends more and more time at home and forgets to do even the most basic tasks, such as brushing his teeth. Shoba, by contrast, seems to spend as much time as she possibly can outside of the home, presumably because being there reminds her of her child and her hopes for a family. What is key to note is that Shukumar wants to spend more time at home the more Shoba is away. This is clearly symbolic of the growing alienation that exists between this couple as they both in their own way respond to the stillbirth of their child. Note too the way that the game Shoba suggests they play during the electricity cut where each one of them reveals a lie or a secret that the other is unaware of is symbolic of the gap and the distance that lies between them, foreshadowing the ending.