Disappearing by Monica Wood
In Disappearing by Monica Wood we have the theme of confidence, insecurity, obsession, acceptance, pride, change and control. Narrated in the first person by an unnamed woman the reader realizes after reading the story that Wood may be exploring the theme of confidence. The narrator is overweight and very conscious of it. In fact she is belittled by her husband who appears to only want to have sex with her and when it suits him. If anything the narrator’s confidence has taken a knock and she feels insecure about herself and her body. However it is noticeable that the narrator reclaims her confidence when she starts to learn how to swim. It is as though she is a new woman and as she begins to lose weight she sometimes refuses her husband sex. This may be significant as the narrator appears to be taking control of her life and not letting others put her down. Other men even start to become attractive to the narrator who is obviously tired and fed up with her husband’s ridiculing of her.
In reality the narrator is beginning to accept herself for who she is, a large woman and takes pride in the fact that she receives a certificate for her efforts. It is through this feeling of pride that the narrator feels as though she is bettering herself. Even Lettie begins to think that the narrator has changed. The fact that the narrator refuses her husband sex is symbolically significant as it suggests not only does the narrator have confidence and is not allowing her husband to belittle her but she also is standing up for herself by refusing her husband the one and only thing he wants from her.
There may be other symbolism in the story which might be important. The water itself could be seen to symbolize peace of mind. When the narrator is swimming she has peace of mind and is worry free. She is at one and comfortable in the water. No longer does she feels as she felt when the blondes were smirking at her. The googles, cap and ear plugs could represent freedom from obstacles. Just as the narrator is freeing herself from her husband’s negative grip on her. She likewise frees herself of the obstacle of the googles, cap and earplugs. She wants to feel the water all over her body. There is a sense that the narrator is at one with herself in the water. The TV is also symbolic of society’s perception of what a person should look like. Women are skinny while men are always good-looking. For the first time in her life the narrator is being to like real men who may be different to those perceived by others on TV.
The end of the story is interesting as the narrator feels confident enough to start to learn how to dive. She is developing at a fast rate such is the positivity she feels from swimming. It is as though the narrator is beginning to like herself and her body again. She has become confident again and is not as insecure as she had previously been. If anything the narrator has completely changed and turned her life around through her obsession for swimming. It has been a healthy pursuit for the narrator as well. She continues to feel at one with herself as long as she is swimming or diving and may very well eventually leave her husband should he not change his attitude towards her. The narrator at the end of the story is in complete control of her life.