A Bag of Sweets by Agnes Sam
In A Bag of Sweets by Agnes Sam we have the theme of change, animosity, bitterness, letting go and connection. Narrated in the first person by a young woman called Kaltoum who is incurring difficulties with the arrival of her sister back in the village. Khadija married a Christian man much to the annoyance of each member of her family and rather than embracing Khadija’s choice the family alienated Khadija. Something that is clearer to the reader by way of the fact that Kaltoum says very little if anything to Khadija when she visits the shop. It is as though Kaltoum is unable to let go of what has may have happened in the past between Kaltoum and her family. It is also possible that the feelings that Kaltoum and her family have are driven by what their neighbours might say. With the reader left to suspect that the Muslim faith is the traditional faith in the village. It is as though Khadija has brought shame on her family. The only crime that Khadija has fallen foul of is the fact that she married a Christian man that she loved.
It is also noticeable that by frequently visiting the shop that Khadija is attempting to change her relationship with Kaltoum and the family. She wishes to let bygones be bygones and for the family to have a closer relationship. However though Kaltoum might be prepared to follow such a path her brother is clearly not interested. So strong are his feeling of dislike for his sister and her husband that he wants nothing to do with them. This could be important as Kaltoum and Khadija’a brother cannot see it in his heart to let the past to be the past. Such is the dislike for what Khadija has done he is not prepared to forgive her. The fact that Kaltoum has given a small bag of sweets to Khadija is also interesting as Kaltoum’s brother hopes it was a cheap bag of sweets which may symbolism that Khadija never comes back into the shop. However the bag of sweets does not stop Khadija from coming into the stop. In reality it may be case that Khadija longs to reunite with her family. As to why this might be is difficult to say. She may miss being close to them despite all that has happened and she may hope that now they can accept her husband.
It is also interesting that Kaltoum’s brother considers her the weaker of the two when it come to Khadija and he may feel as though Khadija is manipulating his sister. In reality trying to sneak back into the family through Kaltoum’s and preying on her weaknesses. Though Kaltoum herself is strong enough that she does not have a conversation with Khadija when she is in the shop. They say that love conquers all but this may not be the case for Kaltoum and Khadija and their brother. In a surprising twist Khadija stops coming to the shop. Which may leave some readers to suggest that that Khadija was clever enough to pick upon the message that came with the bag of sweets. She is not seen again and things return to normal for all concerned. Much to the relief of Kaltoum’s brother. Kaltoum on the under hand may feel conflicted. Though she never answered any of Khadija’s questions she may still nonetheless have wished to get to know her sister better but her pride and religious beliefs may have got in the way.
Which may be the point that Sam is attempting to make. She may be suggesting that when it comes to family it is difficult to read between the lines. Whereas some families might have allowed Khadija back in the family with open arms this is not the case in the story. She is met with silence. A silence that the reader suspects is driven by the pain that Kaltoum and her brother may feel with their being shame being brought onto the family by Khadija marrying a Christian man. Rather than being happy for Khadija neither Kaltoum nor her brother are able to show any joy when it comes to Khadija’s marriage. They appear to be only able to think as rigid as their religion will allow them to believe or at least that they suspect that their religion will allow them to live. Both Kaltoum and her brother have discarded family (Khadija) in preference of their religious beliefs. Al three have the opportunity for a reconciliation and put the past behind them but this will not be the case. Khadija can only try so much before she has to face that fact that her family have not forgiven her for marrying a Christian Man. It is as though a man’s religion is more important to Kaltoum and her brother that what the man’s character might be.