The Morning After the Night Before by Khushwant Singh
In The Morning After the Night Before by Khushwant Singh we have the theme of struggle, control, embarrassment and fear. Taken from his Collected Stories collection the story is narrated in the first person by an unnamed narrator and from the beginning of the story it becomes clear to the reader that Singh may be exploring the theme of struggle. The narrator lies in bed, drunk and struggling to get up. He also appears to have forgotten parts of the night before and tries to retrace his steps in an effort to sooth his mind and remove any embarrassment he might feel for his actions. Something he is not really successful with, particularly when he finds the bra in his pocket and thinks it belongs to a woman he danced with. This incident brings enormous embarrassment and fear to the narrator who cannot imagine what might have happened. He knows he danced with the woman but has no recollection of removing her bra.
This may be significant as by removing the bra the narrator may be trying to control his environment. To have a keepsake of the night before. Regardless of how intrusive this might be to a woman. In fact the narrator views women as objects for his satisfaction. Which may be the point that Singh is attempting to make. He may be suggesting that society is male dominated and that the patriarchy control their wives and environment on an unequal basis. Throughout the story there is a sense of machoism. Who can drink the most for example seems to be predominate in the men’s mind during the dance and there is no doubting that the narrator has won that particular competition. However he is paying a price for it now. He in reality has blacked-out and has no real recollection of the events that occurred the night before.
There may also be some symbolism in the story that might be important. The bra for example is a symbol of control. The narrator wanting control over a woman. The dance itself may also be symbolic as the narrator uses the dance to make himself available to other women, behind his wife’s back. The men and their drinking competition symbolizes machoism and the belief that a real man can drink more than others. As though this is the definition of what a man might be. At no stage in the story do any of the men view their friend’s wives as anything but objects for their own attraction. Which may lead to issues of mistrust between the men but nothing is said on this matter. If anything the narrator and his friends might be viewed by some as being vulgar. As mentioned women are not treated as equals to the men in the story.
The end of the story is interesting as the narrator, to his relief, discovers that the bra in his pocket is in fact his wife’s. Though no explanation is given as to how the narrator might have obtained the bra. It could be a case that the narrator took his wife’s bra from her when they arrived home after the party or that he was feeling passionate with his wife and kept the bra as a trophy. Regardless of how the narrator obtained the bra he is relieved that it is his wife’s bra. So relieved in fact that he is able to fall asleep without worrying about what might have happened the night before. Though the reader is left in little doubt that anything will change for the narrator. He will continue to go to dances and drink too much. He will continue to ask his wife what happened the night before when he wakes up. Absolutely nothing has changed for the narrator.