A Home Near the Sea by Kamala Das
In A Home near the Sea by Kamala Das we have the theme of poverty, dreams, jealousy, generosity, loyalty and control. Narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator it becomes clear to the reader after reading the story that Das may be exploring the theme of poverty. Arumugham and his wife are homeless and live on the streets. If it had not been for Arumugham getting drunk in work they would not be in the position they find themselves in. So stretched is Arumugham’s wife that she hits him when she feels bad-tempered. The reader aware that the bad temper comes from the position that Arumugham’s wife finds herself in. She is not looking to be swayed by gifts or luxuries. She simply wishes to be able to have a roof over her head and some food. Despite this Arumugham does not try and seek work. Though this would be the cure to his ills. If anything Arumugham’s wife’s aspirations or dreams are simple and achievable if it were not for the fact that Arumugham is somewhat lazy.
The young man that shelters with Arumugham also proves to bring out a nasty streak of jealousy within Arumugham. With Arumugham banishing him from his shelter because he made his wife cry. However the real reason that Arumugham’s wife cried is because she felt for the things she once had but has since lost. She was once happy and not poverty-stricken and without a home. It may have only been a hut but it was a home to Arumugham’s wife. How generous and kind Arumugham’s wife may be is noticeable by the fact that she gives the young man her best blanket. It is as though she is thankful for the brief moment that the young man made her happy. This gift is not lost on Arumugham and he scorns his wife for her generosity. It is also a fact that on two separate occasions in the story Arumugham threatens to hit his wife. Even though it is he who has brought difficulty on the family. If anything Arumugham is trying to control his wife though he is not really in a position to do so. He is more reliant on her than she is of him.
Which may be the point that Das is attempting to make. She may be suggesting that Arumugham’s wife is independent of her husband. Though not out of choice but rather because she has to be. It might also be worth noting that despite the position she finds herself in, Arumugham’s wife remains loyal and faithful to him. Even though she considers him to be useless. This may be significant as it suggests that Arumugham’s wife is honouring her marriage vows despite all the hardship she has to endure. Some critics might suggest that Arumugham’s wife would be better off leaving him. Her life could only get better and she may no longer feel bad-tempered because of the position she finds herself in. As a man Arumugham is not an attractive option and without his wife he would be in an even worse position.
The end of the story is interesting as despite Arumugham banishing the young man from their shelter. Arumugham’s wife still thinks of him fondly and his kind words to her remind her that she once had and still has dreams. They may never be reached as long as she stays with Arumugham but she has them nonetheless. Something that might help her in the many low points she will experience while homelessness and living in poverty. Even though Arumugham’s wife beats him it is not difficult to feel sympathy for her. Arumugham’s actions have been selfish and self-serving. He thought of no one but himself when he got drunk and shows no remorse for his actions. If anything it is possible that Arumugham does not take responsibility for losing his job and making his wife suffer. He is at heart a person who considers a woman’s role to be beneath their husband and as such both him and his wife may never find a home again and all Arumugham’s wife has is her dreams and aspirations. As she has been reminded by the young man.