Tuesday, 30 May 2017

"Wife of a Hero" - An Understanding

Wife of a Hero is a short story written by A. J. Cronin. It is taken from his last book titled Adventures of a Black Bag which is a collection of short stories. Cronin was a novelist and a short story writer. His short stories revolve around every day common themes yet bringing out the effectiveness in what we mostly consider trivial or unimportant. The present story too deals with one such theme where he draws a contrast between a selfish and callous popular hero and his unselfish and uncomplaining wife who dies by the end of the story.

This is a story which talks about how a footballer, Ned Sutherland, makes his mark in the field of sports. He has traveled across the globe, and has played in different countries, and now he is in Levenford to match up against the Rovers. Ned was addicted to drinking and because of which he had a decline in his career. Yet he was a much celebrated player, and people always held him in high status. Quite contrarily, the same people considered that Ned's wife and his five children were a complete burden to him and that it was because of them that he hadn't been able to play well off late.

Mrs. Sutherland or Jenny Sutherland, Ned's wife, was a humble and self-giving woman. It was out of sheer necessity that she would wait for her husband outside the stadium whenever he was playing. She would take the money from him and leave which gave a different picture for others - where they assumed that she had married him only for his money and fame. But only she and a few close to her knew the truth behind this action. She had to fend for her family, or else Ned would waste away all the money on drinking.

Throughout the story, Cronin describes a football match and how Ned saves the match, and a parallel narrative runs through which gives equal weight-age to the wife as well. We learn that Jenny is suffering from a major illness. She has melanotic sarcoma and her body grows very weak eventually. She deliberately hides this news from Ned because she does not want him to get distracted and lose the match. She waits until the match is over but her body is rapidly giving up. Ned had promised his sponsor-er that if at all the Rovers win the match then it would be over his dead body. The irony of this statement is brought to the readers at the end of the story - when he wins the match and wants to tell his wife about how he played and emerged victoriously before the people, he tries to repeat the same lines but unfortunately he jumbles the words and says that he won the match "over your (wife's) dead body".

Cronin plays with words to bring out the hidden pain and sufferings of the true hero, the wife, who silently works for the family's well-being. She remains uncomplaining throughout and stands as an invisible support to her husband. Her sacrifices remain unacknowledged, or rather unnoticed, yet it is through Jenny that Cronin tries to define a true "hero". 

2 comments:

Arun said...

A wonderful story with the equally wonderful portrayal of the characters. Thanks for sharing.

Suhasini Srihari said...

You're welcome!

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