EnglishShort Story

“The Property of Woman” Critical Analysis

The arrival and activities of Pathar Nadi in Lahore are quite mysterious like his own self. He appears as a type of myth that can be interpreted in many ways. He comes to Lahore after every seventeen years. He comes from Afghanistan, and his journey through the Khyber Pass, Peshawar, Wah, Potohar region, Jehlum, and into Lahore is quite nomadic. He looks like a seasoned traveler, covers his journey like a gypsy, and walks in Anarkali like a dethroned king who takes interest in nothing. He only relishes ‘temperate berries’ and makes his way into the heart of Halima. He can also be termed as a ‘wish’ for a woman. As it happens in some cases that the thoughts of some other man than the husband, remain seated in the heart and soul of a woman and she starts seeing this other man in her life partner. It seems that the same had happened with Halima who has received Pather Nadi’s lines on her son’s face. What she feels when tired after a day’s work is: “When I work hard and my bones ache at night, I like to think that his eyes are the sun.”

The cicadas apparently have some role to play though it seems a forced reference. They, for the last seventeen years, have been coming to Lahore only to perform three functions: ‘arrive, mate and die.’ Just after it they are remembered no more. Their dry wings are washed away by the rain. “The cicadas with their chorus of desire had come and gone while our distraction was elsewhere…”  

Halima, the servant, sounds like a character with potential but she is woefully submerged by the dullness of the first-person narrative and spends too much time in trifle talks perhaps a reflection of the Gulberg 5 elite. Halima’s tale indicates some infidelity perhaps. Her son, Allah Rakha’s origins are questioned and unknown. Halima tries to make us believe, “Pather Nadi has sunlight in his bones, but he is not that infant’s father.” She seems right in claiming this because according to her even her obsession with Pather Nadi’s thoughts is a “nature of adultery. She tells the stories of Pather Nadi limb by limb. She is an illiterate woman who cleans Sara’s house in Gulberg. Though uneducated yet she sometimes gets philosophical while talking about Pather Nadi. She uses metaphorical language to describe the sensuous aspect of Pather Nadi’s character. She says he has sunlight in his bones. Though he is not Allah Rakha’s father, strange enough, he has the power to write lines on her son’s face with his body. “Those written by the body of the man whose name I must not say.”

Halima and the Narrator present the women belong to two different classes in Lahore. Sara represents the elite and educated class and Halima is the symbol of down to earth class, a class whose members dig earth to build bungalows for the people like Sara. The localities are associated with these two female characters of the story. These localities are Gulberg V and the adjacent Kuchi Abadi. The houses in Gulberg V are cleaned daily while the homes in Kuchi Abadi are washed away by the rain annually. Another difference is that the women like Halima make and tell stories while the ones like the narrator write and sell stories.

Lahore is quite a living character in the story. It allures cicada every year to provide them room for mating and dying. Lahore is a city that let Pather Nadi come into its premises after every seventeen years. It gives room to Himalayan gypsies to sell their paper-made horses on its roads. Lahore is present in the story with its past and present, with its wars- “….. headlines that blazed forth in London during the war of 1965- LAHORE HAS FALLEN- when its residents were forced to wonder, had we? And if so, into what?” and many monuments like the tomb of Data Gunj Bukhash, the mausoleum of Iqbal, Jahangir’s tomb and Badshahi Mosque, etc., etc. Lahore’s weather, its seasons, fruits, Jamun, and False have been presented very realistically.

Paper-made horses were sold on the footpaths of Gulberg. The narrator said them about the Grecian relics. Here Sara also made an allusion to Alexander’s crossing through the sub-continental mountains. One day the narrator happened to see one of her friends buying them from a vendor.  Her friend, Ifat Sulehri wanted to buy the horses to light up the sick-bed eyes of her son, Taimoor. The narrator too stopped there and saw the horses. She helped Ifat buy a horse for Taimoor saying, “What better gift for Tamburlaine than a horse from Alexander?”  This sentence shows how wonderfully the writer has brought together the past and present.  Reference of the two great warriors of the world, Alexander and Tamburlaine, has made the paper horses alive, running and neighing on the battlefield.

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