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“The Management of Grief” by Bharati Mukherjee


In her short story The Management of Grief, Bharati Mukherjee describes the feelings of a person, who has lost her family. The author shows how the main character Shaila Bhave tries to overcome this tragedy. Apart from that, she compares her reaction to that of other people, who have suffered similar lot. The title of this novella contains the word “management”, which is certainly hardly applicable in this case, because grief cannot be managed or controlled in any way. In this regard, we may remember Judith Templeton with her “textbook on the grief management” (Bharati, 363). This person is willing to help but she clearly lacks the understanding. As for Shaila Bhave, we may say that she passes through several stages and eventually, the protagonist finds the strength to move ahead.

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At the very beginning, Shaila is surrounded by her neighbors, who try to help her around the house; she is so utterly shocked that she does not pay any attention to them. Everything reminds of her husband and sons. Subconsciously, she still believes that her most near and dear ones have not perished. The only consolation for her is to sit with Kusum: the woman who has also been bereft of her husband.

They practically do not speak with one another, because there is no need to exchange words as they understand each other perfectly well. Shaila is a paragon of calmness and reserve, and in part, this is the reason why Judith Templeton appeals for her help. However, Shaila acknowledges to herself “I wish I could scream, starve, walk into Ontario Lake, jump from a bridge” (Mukherjee, 357). By suppressing her most intimate emotions, the protagonist hopes to live through the feeling of loss. Furthermore, she does not want other people to see her sufferings because hysteria for her is a sign of impermissible weakness.

Overall, we can single out two ways in which she “manages” her grief: first, she immediately associates herself with her companions in misfortune such as for instance Kusum and Dr. Ranganathan, who are able to put themselves in her position. But the main reason is that they give her at least some illusion of hope. They believe that there is the slimmest chance of someone surviving in the air crash.

Nevertheless, later she realizes that this hope is a kind of self-deception, which cal leads only to a deadlock. Many of her acquaintances refuse to accept that their relatives have died, and they blame themselves for their deaths, as an old man whom Shaila encounters. The author describes it in the following way “I have protected this woman as best I could. She is the only person I got left. …. I will not sign for it I will not pretend that I accept” (Mukherjee, 366). Finally, the main character comes to the belief that the only way to survive is not to deny this fact but to accept it.


It should be pointed out that the author makes the ending of this novella very abrupt and readers can only make conjectures concerning Shailas future. The main character admits that she does not know “where the voyage she has begun will end” (Bharati, 367). Certainly, it is extremely difficult to start life anew but hopefully she can do it. It seems that Bharati Mukherjee deliberately makes readers form their own conclusions. I am not sure that I can identify myself with the narrator in any way, because fortunately, I have never had similar experience. Thus, it is impossible for me to say how exactly I would have reacted.

Perhaps, I would have also sought company of those who can feel empathy for me. Nonetheless, Shailas calmness is not typical of me. Besides, much depends upon a persons age, Shaila is in her middle thirties, and I cannot tell how I would have behaved at such age. Again, I would like to emphasize the idea we do not know anything about this womans future, probably, she will manage to find a way of living even despite such horrible scar.

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Janet E. Gardner, Jack Ridl, Beverly Lawn, Peter Schakel. “Literature: A Portable Anthology”. Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2003.

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"“The Management of Grief” by Bharati Mukherjee." StudyCorgi, 28 Oct. 2021,

1. StudyCorgi. "“The Management of Grief” by Bharati Mukherjee." October 28, 2021.


StudyCorgi. "“The Management of Grief” by Bharati Mukherjee." October 28, 2021.


StudyCorgi. 2021. "“The Management of Grief” by Bharati Mukherjee." October 28, 2021.


StudyCorgi. (2021) '“The Management of Grief” by Bharati Mukherjee'. 28 October.

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