Mr Sumarsono by Roxana Robinson
In Mr Sumarsono by Roxana Robinson we have the theme of dislocation, absenteeism, happiness, escape, tradition and change. Taken from her Asking for Love collection the story is narrated in the first person by a young girl called Susan. Susan without her knowing it is the main character in the story. It is through her that we not only learn about those around her but also about herself too. Such an insight is a dream for a reader and Susan through her insights allows for the reader to see that Robinson may be exploring the theme of dislocation. A dislocation that has been caused by the absence of a father figure in Susan’s life. We first see the dislocation when Susan is on the broken escalator. This is significant because it suggests that Susan is aware that she is out of place or not connected and just doesn’t feel comfortable in her surroundings. Similarly when Susan looks at the photograph of herself she is left questioning her own beliefs. Which most likely include trying to understand why her father had left her, Kate and her mother. A subject which is not tackled in the story.
It may also be a case that Robinson is exploring the theme of escape. Susan and Kate spend the afternoon looking at the mallards. They are not in the family home and they appear to be content with using the binoculars to see the ducks. What is interesting about this scene is the fact that Susan mentions her father has the second pair of binoculars. Even though absent he is still on Susan’s mind. It is also noticeable that Susan escapes (to New York) when she imagines what other bedrooms might look like. Again there is a sense that Susan is unhappy in her environment. She longs to be somewhere else and not in the family home. Which may remind her of her father. It is also interesting that the story takes place over a day and Susan mentions her father twice. This suggests that he is a constant on Susan’s mind. Regardless of what she does to try and escape.
The theme of tradition is self-evident in the story. There are photographs of Susan’s grandparents in the house. They may provide stability to Susan’s mother but for Susan they are photographs of people she does not know never mind met. The sense of tradition is further noticeable by the fact that Susan’s mother has exact times of dining. Everything must be in place. This could suggest that Susan’s mother rather than having to deal with her husband’s absence is focused on doing things that make her comfortable. It might also be important that Susan thinks her mother looks beautiful in the photograph that Mr Sumarsono has taken. She has never imagined her mother as beautiful and for the first time in the story Susan is not putting up a fight against her mother. If anything Susan begins to understand how others might consider her mother to be beautiful.
Mr Sumarsono plays an important part in the story. He is the catalyst which brings about change in Susan. As mentioned Susan prior to seeing the photograph of her mother was fighting her mother. Trying to impose her own will on her mother. Which subconsciously may be Susan’s way of dealing with her father’s absence. She may blame her mother. Susan in reality finds Mr Sumarsono interesting. He is from a different culture has only a little English but he still manages to change Susan’s outlook on life. As for Kate, Susan gives the reader some insight into her mind. Kate most likely won’t remember Mr Sumarsono just as she doesn’t remember other milestones in her and Susan’s life. She is also only six. Susan’s mother on the other hand won’t forget Mr Sumarsono. They had very little in common because of the language barrier but Susan’s mother understood the language of photography. Through his lens Mr Sumarsono had captured a woman who was ‘glowing, self-assured, generous.’ An image that Susan would not have thought possible of her mother considering the circumstances she finds herself in.