Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Thematically, “Condolence Visit” questions the relevance of traditional customs in modern society. By juxtaposing the intense human feelings of a Parsi widow against the prescribed conventions of her community, Mistry develops an ironic perspective on blind adherence to tradition. Because the story focuses primarily on the thoughts and perceptions of the female protagonist, it reveals her attitude of quiet rebellion against social customs and beliefs as she attempts to reaffirm the claims of life over death.

As the story demonstrates, Daulat Mirza publicly observes all the funeral ceremonies and death rituals sanctioned by the Parsi community. For example, following the instructions of dustoorji, the Parsi priest, she keeps a four-day vigil at the Towers of Silence where supposedly the vultures come and consume the body. She also keeps a small oil lamp burning day and night at the head of Minocher’s bed at home to welcome his soul. To observe dusmoo, the tenth day ceremony after the funeral, she offers prescribed prayers at the fire temple. Finally, she prepares herself mentally for the impending condolence visits, though she is fully aware of their perfunctory nature.

Despite her public observance of these social conventions, she does not allow them to strangle her heart’s needs and human values. She therefore keeps the oil lamp burning beyond the prescribed period without caring about the belief that Minocher’s...

(The entire section is 402 words.)