Susanna’s Seven Husbands by Ruskin Bond
In Susanna’s Seven Husbands by Ruskin Bond we have the theme of happiness, tradition, love, loneliness, insecurity and jealousy. Taken from his Collected Short Stories collection the story is narrated in the first person by an unnamed narrator and after reading the story the reader realises that Bond may be exploring the theme of happiness. Susanna despite being married seven times does not appear to have found happiness with any of her husbands. Whether they died by misfortune or whether Susanna is responsible for their deaths one thing that is certain is the fact that Susanna tried on several occasions to find happiness through way of marriage. This may be important as Susanna due to the restrictions imposed on her (and other women) at the time the story is set may not have been allowed to have male friends or companions and as such married seven men. If anything it may have went against societal norms for a woman to have had a male friend or companion and Susanna may have married because this may have been not only expected by society but it was also the tradition. It is also possible that Susanna was lonely and as such felt the need to marry so often. It is also interesting that none of the men who Susanna married were men of financial substance. Something which may leave some readers to suggest that each husband married Susanna for her wealth and not out of love.
The fact that Susanna married so many times may also suggest that rather than loving her seven husbands. Susanna may have been insecure. Feeling as though it was necessary for her to have continued male companionship in her life. It is also interesting that Susanna is devoted to charity. Helping others who may not be as fortunate as her. As Bond may be attempting to indirectly sway the reader’s opinion of Susanna. It is difficult for a reader to believe that somebody as generous and as giving as Susanna could in fact also be responsible for the deaths of her seven husbands as the narrator suggests she is. Similarly Naushad appears to have an opinion on Susanna that is more based on gossip and hearsay than on the truth. The reader suspecting that the information that Naushad gives to the reader is from information he himself got form his father. It is highly unlikely that Susanna killed her seven husbands and got away with it. Even if she was a wealthy woman. Susanna’s story as told by Naushad is meant to scare people as a ghost story might scare an individual.
In her lifetime Susanna has managed to not only outlive seven husbands but she also appears to have entered the folklore of the town. It also cannot be said that anybody really knew her. As those who might have known her are dead and cannot defend Susanna. Just as Naushad believes that Susanna killed her seven husbands it is also possible that each died without Susanna’s assistance. Which may leave some readers to wonder as to why Susanna would be viewed so negatively. Susanna is a wealthy woman possibly wealthier than most men in the town and as such there may be some ill-will directed at Susanna by those who were less financially well off. If anything people may have been jealous of Susanna’s wealth. Though it attracts men to Susanna it also has the ability to alienate Susanna from others. Susanna may also have been a class above others and as such was a target for those who were jealous of her. It is easy for an individual to say something negative about someone they might dislike or who they may be jealous of.
That is not to say that Naushad is jealous of Susanna. He after all learnt about Susanna through his father who in all likelihood learnt about Susanna’s life through others. The difficult thing about the story is that there is not a first-hand account. All the information about Susanna has been passed down through a generation. If anything people are likely to embellish a story with their own facts rather than sticking to what is known or factual. Susanna because of her wealth was a talking point for others. That along with the fact that she had seven husbands. An unusually high amount for any woman to have. Which may raise suspicions for some but that is all that they are, suspicions. Nobody really knew Susanna. Which may be the point that Bond is attempting to make. He may be suggesting that gossip by others due to jealousy can overshadow a person’s life. With the words spoken by others (incorrectly) defining who a person may be. In reality Susanna may have been a woman before her time who felt pressurised to marry due to the values held by society at the time. True she married seven times and each husband died but there is not enough evidence to suggest that Susanna is responsible for any of her husbands’ deaths.