A Pair of Jeans by Qaisra Sharaz Brief summary When Miriam, a young Muslim woman of Pakistani background,comes back
from a hiking tour with her university friends,she arrives home at the same moment as her future inlaws,who are paying a visit. They look in horror at her Western-style clothes, and instead of discussing the details of the wedding with Miriam`s parents, leave as soon as possible. On arriving home, the in-laws discuss whetrher Miriam would be an appropriate wife for their son. They decide against Miriam and cancel the engagement the next day. Miriam is furious and retires to her room, where: (first ending) she pulls jeans from her wardrobe and kicks them as if they were to blame for her desperate situation. (second ending)she dresses in the same clothes that scandalized her future in-laws and defiantly (D.: trotzig) sets out to inform her fiancé about his parents`decision. Structure of the plot After a very short introduction of the main character and the main theme of the impact/influence of clothing, the plot heads straight for its first climax,namely the accidental(D:zufällig) encounter at the gate. This creates sufficient confusion and anxiety among all the participants to keep tension high for the rest of the story. There are two different narrative centres, Miriam and that of Ayub and Begum, the narrative sections are fairly equally divided. A second climax is placed towards the ending when Begum is breaking the news of the broken engagement to Fatima which causes Miriam`s and Fatima`s emotional collapse and leads to the two endings. The two versions of the ending involve the reader actively in the reading process: the reader is invited to make a choice between two solutions and thus participate in the creative process of imagining a probable or possible outcome. As both endings are rather open, the reader may be invited to come up with a third or fourth ending. Point of view The perspective on the events and minds of the protagonists is not a consistent (D.: durchgängig) one: in the first part up to p.172/10 the reader mainly gets Miriam`s limited point of view of the course of events,including her thoughts and emotions (but not those of Begum or Fatima) This perspective is taken up again in the second ending. The second part of the story is told from an omniscient spectator and the reader is shown the perspective of the in-laws and learns about their differing opinions and Begum´s secret wishes and fears.This complexity (D.:Vielschichtigkeit) of perspectives suggests confusion and emotional turbulences on the one hand, but it also emphasizes the importance of looking at one event from different angles and of judging the same action by different standards and norms. The reader can listen to Miriam talking to herself in interior monologue: “Damn itI Her mind shouted –rebelling. They are only clothes. I am still the same young woman they visited regularly.” (p.169/16). The reader is also informed about her psychic condition through psycho-narration: “Her cheeks burned in embarrassment,her poise now very much lost.” p.167/20 Sharaz also uses free indirect style which M. uses to address the reader:”Or was she the same.
.but they also represent Western decadence in the eyes of the Muslim in-laws. This is also reflected in the use of vocabulary “angry.especially those of begum or at the disastrous moment of encounter at the gate in the front of the house.confident.: etw.vicious.dreadful premonition. One angle is Miriam`s perception and observation of herself.reluctant.embarrassment and shame.discontent.” Miriam seems to be totally accepted and in no way discriminated against by her university friends . She had agreed to the marriage arrangement between the two families and had lived up (D. Moreover the story has dramatic qualities and it gains with its extensive use of dialogue and reported speech a high degree of immediacy and physical presence of the characters.. The conflict also triggers off a gradual process of becoming more self-confident.but forms an inherent part of herself.Bradford or Oldham. This happens mostly when actions are described.she hated herself.inner turmoil. “She pulled off from the hanger the repugnent-looking article and threw it on the floor. Except for the beginning the action takes place inside the homes of the two Pakistani families.repugnant.not something she wants to throw away like her clothes. a selfdetermined lifestyle . Setting The story has an urban setting. gerecht werden) to the image of the perfect daughter that Begum had liked to see in her. Miriam reacts to the conflict between these two worlds through selfconsciousness. as they evoke freedom.loss of control and poise.appealing.of growing independence from her mother and finally in the second ending she transgresses the borders of prescribed role behaviour for Muslim daughters and informs her fiancé about the cancelled wedding. Miriam`s Muslim identity is genuine.A Pair of Jeans by Qaisra Sharaz Style As there are three females in the centre of the story topics such as clothes and marriage are discussed controversially and the story has a very feminine touch.
Characters Miriam The reader is invited to look at her from various angles: 1. This literary technique is called indirect characterization. individuality .. 3. Here Miriam is presented by way of direct characterization in which qualities are directly attributed through commentary or description. a more neutral presentation is given through comments from the omniscient narrator. The role which she plays in the “ shalwar kameze world” is not forced upon her from the outside. It could be any larger town in the north of England such as Birmingham. All of them have a large percentage of citizens with a Pakistani background. She explores at length her emotional turbulence.a bus and a semi-detached house.rebellion. as suggested by the mentioning of a university. 2. Symbolism Miriam`s jeans are of symbolic character.” The emphasis is put very much on introspective and self-exploring passages . We perceive Miriam through the eyes of others.
as students or teachers.
. Begum does not show any signs of dissatisfaction with her husband`authority. Michael Obi in “Dead Men`s Path” or John in “A Meeting in the Dark”. It also underlines the pattern of the story “A Meeting in the Dark”.as citizens – each person belongs to different social groups that shape our values and norms.as Miriam knows that she can count on her mother. Women: Problems arising from a specifically female understanding of the world compare Doris in “The Force of Circumstance”. Mrs Carruthers in “A Second Hut” .A Pair of Jeans Qaisra Sharaz Characters Begum In the family of Begum and Ayub the Muslim system of male dominance is upheld and remains unchallenged. Yet she does not lament about the loss of tradition. Who we are is determined by the way others see us and by the way we see ourselves in the eyes of the others. She gives lectures in both countries. Miss Rehana in “Good Advice Is Rarer than Rubies”. Although she does not approve of her daughter`s readiness to take the initiative by calling Farook.who always accepted her parents`authority.as members of churches and clubs. Lou in “The Black Mdonna”. This can also be seen with Parvez in “My Son the Fanatic” . In all these stories children feel estrangement from their parents. Both Begum and Ayub cling to very conservative female role expectations where a loose dress code correlates with loose manners and morals like having several boyfriends. Fatima Unlike Begum. she encourages her. As children or parents. Fatima discusses things openly with her daughter.
Links to other stories Hybridity: Miriam tries to adjust to one culture without giving up the other.Fatima accepts her daughter`s occasional adoption of a Western lifestyle More readily and trusts her without setting up severe rules and control. She pursued a university career focusing on European and Islamic civilisation and literature. Tasks are clearly divided and respected. both partners seem to respect each other.coming home late and taking drugs.It also distances Parvez from his son Ali and leads to their final rupture. Themes Muslim women (see script) Identity A person`s identity is continually shaped by a constant and never completed process of interaction of various influences. The author Sharaz came with her parents to England in 1967 when she was 9. In the Muslim tradition the wife belongs to the family and household of the husband and so the in-laws fear the corruption of their family life by the introduction of a liberal lifestyle. The generation gap: Fatima exeriences this very deeply and painfully. In the end she is very much aware of the distance time and place between her daughter and herself as a young girl in Pakistan.