What is the author's message on marriage and relationships in “A Temporary Matter”?

In “A Temporary Matter,” Jhumpa Lahiri reflects on the fragility of marriage and relationships, especially when they are faced with tragedy. Instead of turning toward one another for comfort and strength after their baby dies, Shoba and Shukumar drift apart until the bond between them breaks.

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In the short story “A Temporary Matter,” Jhumpa Lahiri reflects on the fragility of marriage and relationships especially in the face of tragedy . Main characters Shoba and Shukumar seem to have had a stable, happy, loving marriage, at least as Shukumar reflects back on it. The two...

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In the short story “A Temporary Matter,” Jhumpa Lahiri reflects on the fragility of marriage and relationships especially in the face of tragedy. Main characters Shoba and Shukumar seem to have had a stable, happy, loving marriage, at least as Shukumar reflects back on it. The two enjoyed life together, making their home, going to parties, and preparing for the coming of their child. Shukumar appreciated how different Shoba was from his own mother, how organized she always was, and how she shopped for groceries, fixed their food ahead of time, and cooked their meals. Shoba always seemed content with her life, and Shukumar believes that he was as well.

Then tragedy strikes. Their baby is born dead. Shukumar was away at a conference at the time with his wife's blessing, but he seems to feel quite guilty about his absence. Indeed, the couple's relationship is never the same after Shoba comes home from the hospital. Even before she arrives, Shukumar dismantles the baby's room and eventually moves a desk into it and turns it into a study. The couple spends more and more time apart. Shoba works long hours. Shukumar, who is supposed to be working on his doctorate, hardly leaves the house except when necessary and then with great reluctance. They stop talking to each other. They stop making love. Something has broken between them.

Readers are left to wonder how deep the bond between Shoba and Shukumar was from the beginning. They seem to have loved each other, but their love is apparently not strong enough to survive the death of their child. They fail to cling to each other and support each other in the time of their grief. They do not even talk much about what happened. They simple go off in two different directions. Instead of turning toward one other for strength and comfort, they drift apart.

Apparently Shoba and Shukumar drift too far, for at the end of the story Shoba tells her husband that she is moving out to have some time alone. Even after they have somewhat reconnected during the power outages, their bond has broken. Their relationship proved to be too fragile to survive the tragedy, and readers are left to reflect on what the couple might have done earlier in their marriage or even after the baby's death that would have made things different, that would have brought the couple through together, that could have turned fragility into stability.

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