The narratives of the short stories "The Lover" and "How I Met My Husband" depict a striking similarity in that they both involve romantic relationships that begin so strong but end up being futile. In "The Lover," a 27-year old wealthy Chinese man meets and falls in love with a 15-year old girl from a poor family.
The girl had experienced a rough upbringing because her mother was a bankrupt widow and could not afford much of the things they required to live a decent lifestyle. Compelled by these circumstances, the girl disregarded the age difference and began a sensual affair with the rich Chinese man who in return provided financial support to her family.
Apparently, the affair had the potential of turning into a huge scandal had it gone public since the girl was underage and the social gap between the two would not allow such a relationship to thrive in that society. Eventually, the two were forced to separate when the girl's family returned to France where the girl begins a new life, settles and starts a family.
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In a similar manner, "How I Met My Husband" illustrates a 15-year old girl named Edie that falls in love with a pilot called Chris after his plane crashes in their neighborhood. When Chris was leaving, he promised to write to Edie who would then begin going to the mailbox every day to check whether the letter had arrived.
When she finally gives up hope after many trips to the mailbox without receiving a letter, the mailman opens up to her and asks her out on a date. This would turn out to be a lasting relationship that led to marriage and children. In this paper, the progressive identities of the narrators in "The Lover" and "How I Met My Husband" will be analyzed comprehensively to draw a conclusion about each of the characters involved.
In both novels, the narrators exhibit humble beginnings and depict naivety due to the fact that they hail from lower-class families. In "How I Met My Husband," the narrator, Edie appears to be a good-natured village girl who came from a disadvantaged background. In the beginning of the story, we discover that she was a house girl working for Doctor Peebles and Mrs. Peebles who had acquired an old house outside of town. Further, we learn that Edie was a fifteen-year-old high school dropout at the time she began working for the Peebles. It was also her first time away from her home.
Almost everything Edie saw in the Peebles' house was unordinary to her. She had experienced a true change in lifestyle compared to the one back home where she was raised. In fact, she seemed to have been valuing working at the Peebles because the equipment that was available in their house eased her work and was also enjoyable to use.
From the bathroom, to the kitchen, to the bedroom, everything she described appeared to make her life and work exciting, unlike how it was back in their home. In fact, it is out of the curiosity she had that she finally decided to try out wearing Mrs. Peebles dress and cosmetics when they were not around. Edie's behavior clearly reveals that she was curious to see herself looking beautiful in clothes and make-up she could never have afforded back at home.
By the way she narrates, it appears that she had never tried beauty-enhancers and good-looking clothes before in her life. She writes, "The heat of the day and the weight of the satin and all the excitement made me thirsty…" (Munro 652). As such, it was an exciting experience to look beautiful in a nice dress and make-up, something she was not accustomed to. Further, we learn that Chris was attracted to her and even confused her with the owner of the house.
However, she had never been dressed this way before and had never been told by a man that she was beautiful. After this incident, her identity as a woman began forming.In a similar fashion, in "The Lover", the protagonist is a 15-year-old girl raised in a poor family in Southeast Asia. To begin with, her mother was a teacher who had not gone past high school. As such, she wanted her daughter to get more education than herself, specifically a mathematics degree at the University.
The way she dressed clearly indicated that she originated from a poverty-stricken family. On the initial day the narrator met with the Chinese man, the girl had worn a tattered dress and to add to that, she tied it with her brother's leather belt. Even though it seemed the young woman's style could not make any man admire the girl, the Chinese man was dazzled by her. In fact, the narrator reveals she was well-aware it was not her attire which attracted the man when she said, "I know it's not clothes that make women beautiful or otherwise, nor beauty care, nor expensive creams, nor the distinction or costliness of their finery" (Duras 18). This moment marks the first time the narrator explores love and her independence.
In both stories, the narrators are reflecting to reconnect the chain of events that led to whom they are now. They both were very beautiful when they were young, but then again, they were not well-versed in the concept of beauty and, therefore, they did not comprehend their true identities. In the beginning of "The Lover," the narrator says, "I often think of the image only I can see now, and of which I've never spoken.
It's always there, in the same silence, amazing. It's the only image of myself I like, the only one in which I recognize myself, in which I delight" (Duras 3-4). Clearly, the narrator admires her past as a young girl because it reveals a perfect image of herself, yet, she did not realize all this when she was at a young age. In other words, she was unsure of her identity in the past when she was young and beautiful.
Similarly, in "How I Met My Husband," Edie finds herself unable to comprehend the concept of beauty despite wearing Mrs. Peebles dress that makes her look beautiful. Coincidentally, the first instance Chris saw Edie, she had just put on the dress, applied rogue and lipstick and made her eyebrows, all using Mrs. Peebles cosmetics. In fact, after dressing up and applying the make-up, the last thing Chris would have thought after seeing her for the first time was that Edie was a house girl at the Peebles place.
After the two set eyes on each other, Chris complimented Edie by telling her she looked so nice and beautiful. Surprisingly, Edie was not even aware of it as she puts it in the narration by saying, "I wasn't even old enough to realize how out of the common it is, for a man to say something like that to a woman, or somebody he is treating like a woman. For a man to say a word like beautiful.
I wasn't old enough to realize or to say anything back, or in fact to do anything but wish he would go away" (Munro 652). Both narrators were unaware of their identities at this point, but from the events, they slowly began understanding their beauty and how it was an aspect of attraction to men.
Inspired by their poor families, both narrators begin to understand the beauty in them as a powerful tool that may make men, including the rich, to admire them. Through this understanding, they begin to establish their identities. They realize that dressing provocatively or nicely attracts men.
They begin to understand that they too can look attractive especially with make-up on. The narrator in "The Lover" reveals how she had noticed men's attraction towards her by saying, "For the past three years white men, too, have been looking at me in the streets, and my mother's men friends have been kindly asking me to have tea with them while their wives are out playing tennis at the Sporting Club" (Duras 17). Further, the narrators establish the power of beauty in them by the reaction of other people towards their relationship with rich men. They understand that their beauty is a threat to others from how they react after learning about their relationship with rich people.
In "The Lover," rumors about the relationship between the Chinese man and the girl spreads very fast in town. The people condemn the relationship and talk ill of the girl's family. The narrator writes, "The mother has no idea, and none about how to bring up a daughter. Poor child. Don't tell me that hat's innocent, or the lipstick, it all means something, it's not innocent, it means something, it's to attract attention, money" (Duras 88). They are surprised, and they envy how a poor girl caught the attention of such a rich man. As such, they react by condemning the mother for raising her child inappropriately branding the girl as a prostitute.
A similar instance appears in "How I Met My Husband" but this time it involved Edie, Loretta and Alice. After learning that Edie and Chris were close, Loretta condemned her and said young girls like her are husband snatchers. Alice was also furious when Edie had mistaken and accepted that the time they shared with Chris was intimate.
She called her a "loose little bitch" and further remarked, "Girls like you are just nothing, they're just public conveniences, just filthy little rags!" (Munro 659). In the end, both writers have established their identities and they now understand that the relationships they had were necessary in shaping their lives. Even though both narrators were no longer with their initial lovers, they both appreciated the fact that it was from those relationships that they are where they ended up.
Based on this analysis, it can be concluded that the character Edie in "How I Met My Husband" learnt to move on with life instead of getting stuck at one place waiting for what she was not certain about. After waiting for the letter at the mailbox for many days without a sign, she thought to herself, "I imagined me making this journey day after day and year after year, and my hair starting to go gray, and I thought, I was never made to go on like that" (Munro 661).
Edie's newfound identity shines through profoundly in her realization that, "if there were women all through life waiting, and women busy and not waiting, I knew which I had to be" (Munro 661). On the same note, it can be concluded that the narrator in "The Lover" has a fragmented history whereby she has moments in her life that she cannot quite remember which makes it generally hard to put together in an autobiography.
This statement is proven when the narrator writes, "The story of my life doesn't exist. Does not exist. There's never any center to it. No path, no line. There are great spaces where you pretend there used to be someone, but it's not true, there was no one" (Duras 8). Here, the narrator feels as though her autobiography is fragmented and she cannot remember many of the events that happened in her life from the past.
- Duras, Marguerite. The Lover. First Pantheon Paperback ed., Pantheon, 1998.
Munro, Alice. "How I Met My Husband." The Art of the Short Story.
- By Dana Gioia and R.S. Gwynn. New York: Pearson Longman, 2006. 649-661. Print.
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Romance and Narrator Identity in The Lover and How I Met My Husband. (2018, Aug 27). Retrieved from https://phdessay.com/romance-and-narrator-identity-in-the-lover-and-how-i-met-my-husband/
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