The Englishwoman Summary
by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala

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The Englishwoman Summary

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Although fifty-two-year-old Sadie has been married to an Indian and has lived in India for thirty years, she has always remained an Englishwoman at heart. She feels young and free as she packs her bags and prepares to leave her husband, children, and grandchildren in order to return to England, where she intends to spend the rest of her days.

Over the years her relationship with her husband has so withered away that their marriage now exists in name only, but they remain friends. The person who is apparently most upset at Sadie’s impending departure is Annapurna, a distant relative of her husband who now lives with them as his mistress—an open arrangement that suits everybody, including Sadie. There appear to be no hard feelings on any side. Annapurna is genuinely grieved that Sadie is about to leave the household because both she and Sadie’s husband love her in their own way and enjoy taking care of her. Sadie, however, is so thrilled to be leaving that she can hardly contain her joy, but she tries to suppress her smiles because she feels ashamed of her happiness in the face of their grief at her leaving.

Sadie has carefully planned her departure. A week earlier, she went to Bombay to say good-bye to Dev and Monica, her grown children who have families of their own. When Monica asked her why she was leaving, Sadie explained that as people age they grow homesick for the places where they grew up until their need to return becomes unbearable. Monica understands and sympathizes, and both her children promise to visit her regularly in England. The only person who remains inconsolable is Annapurna, who cries and repeatedly asks whether Sadie will miss them, their love for her, and her life of the past thirty years. Sadie, however, is merely appalled to think that it has been such a long time since she left her real home.

Sadie does not like to remember the time when she arrived in India as a young English bride of a slim Indian boy with bright eyes, whom she had met when he was a student at Oxford. She was happy then, even when her husband was busy with his activities outside the home, because the family had lavished so much attention and love on her. However, the heady excitement of her strange new life in India paled over the years until she lost interest in it and her marriage. Her husband began straying to other women. Annapurna then entered the house after fleeing from an abusive husband, and she slowly took over Sadie’s duties of a wife. Sadie was grateful and there was never any bitterness or jealousy between them. Annapurna looked after her husband, fed him delicacies that made him fat,...

(The entire section is 714 words.)