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Introduction This is the analysis of a short story that I have chosen from an author name Peggy Tan Pek

Tao entitled “The Gardener”. “The Gardener” was taken from a compilation of short stories by this author, where the book title is “Gifts of the Heart”. In this analysis, there are several aspects that I am focusing on such as the themes, issues, characters, theories that are related and the language aspect in the short story. For language aspect, the symbolism and allegory are two main components found in this short story. This analysis would be a stepping stone in understanding short stories and analyzing the gist that were portray throughout these literature works. 1.0 Author’s biography. Peggy Tan Pek Tao is a lecturer in Universiti Sains Malaysia, where she lectures in School of Languages, Literacy’s and Translation. She owns a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in English literature. She loves to teach and written a number of books on literature and grammar. She published a book entitled “Life: The Malaysian Style” and manage to won first prize in the non-fiction category of the Popular-The Star Readers’ Choice Award 2010. The book entitled “Gifts of The Heart” is the latest book she published this year. She writes a compilation of short stories about Malaysian cultures and the lifestyles of the various races in Malaysia. As a lecturer, she mixed around with all walks of life and the different races in Malaysia. She is 54 years old and currently teaching in USM. 2.0 Synopsis This short story is about an Indian family and a gardener that works in their house. The gardener acts as the story-teller to the audience about what happen in the household. The gardener, who his name is anonymous, is a good worker of a rich man’s family, Datuk Rajan Ratnalingam and his wife Datin Ratnalingam. Their social status and wealth is distinctively different from one another. The gardener tells us, the reader, about the praises he often get from his boss’s wife because he always done a great job in keeping the garden neat and tidy. He also acts as the “ears” and “eyes” for the conflicts happen in that house. The story progressed with the information on the caste system in Indian’s community, as related to his boss’s son being force to marry a girl he does not love. Datuk Ratnalingam is very furious when his son refuses to marry the rich lady of the same caste like him, and instead he wants to marry a poor daughter of hawkers named Vijaya.

After being force and scolded by his parent, Kanan agrees to marry the rich lady named Kanchana for the sake of being an obedient and filial son towards his parents. As compared to the gardener’s family, they are from a simple family that lives in modest but they are very happy with the life they live in. He has a good wife who cooks and takes care of his children well. His children are studying in school and never causes trouble. He attended the garden diligently before the wedding and makes his boss satisfied with the garden’s decorations and arrangement he made. The wedding was a success and people enjoy themselves merrily throughout the event. However, after the ceremony is over in the evening, the bride is crying and arguing with the groom. It turned out that the bride suffers from a deathly cancer known as Diablo’s Disease in the terminal stage. She was forced to marry Kanan by her parents as well because they wanted her to enjoy life before she dies. They are so frustrated with the situation and dumbstruck by it. The gardener promised to himself that he will never force his children to marry whoever he wishes. 3.0 Analysis of the Short Story. The main theme in this short story is the social status versus everlasting happiness. This short story emphasizes on the social and economy background of the Indians in Malaysia and how they are differentiated within their own race. The Indians has their own social hierarchy that determines which caste they belong to by their physical features and their occupations during those early days at Indus valley. This system is inherited and practice by the Indians till now although we are living in the free-rights world. The higher caste such as Brahmins will only blend in with people of the same caste and the marriage with other lower caste than them is forbidden. In this short story, this dilemma is well portrayed through the characters of Datuk Rajan Ratnalingam and his wife, and also his son, Kanan. Kanan was forced to marry a rich girl of the same high caste by his parents. He loves a girl from lower caste, Vijaya, and wants to marry her but his parents is against his decision and will. Finally, after being scolded and force, Kanan gives up his battle and agreed to marry Kanchana, the rich girl whom his parents already arranged their marriage. However, his marriage turned out to be wreckage when they found out that Kanchana has only a year to live in this world as she suffers from lymphatic cancer. This situation attested that though you are from the higher caste and have all the luxury in this world, your happiness and pure love are not things that you will possessed inevitably.

The lifestyles and customs of Tamils in Malaysia is the other theme that can be found in this short story. The vivid images of how a celebration like wedding ceremony is held make the reader well-informed and feel like they are engaged with the real situation. The food served, the decoration and the merry atmosphere of people’s dancing and enjoy themselves are the aspects in such ceremony held by the Tamils or Indians. The Indians also believe that certain plants are significant in their life. The plants such as banana adorn the doors during wedding and coconuts are used in religious function. Neem plant symbolizes purification of spiritual and physical aspects. These evidences can be found in page 195 until 196. These unique cultural aspects in this short story show how beautiful and remarkable tradition and identity of a race is. Another theme that is proposed in this short story is being filial obedience towards your parents. Kanan is an engineer that was educated at one of the prestigious university in England. In the western country, he is considered as an adult who has rights to make decisions and responsible for his own actions. However, in Indian community, no matter how superior you are in terms of education and social background, you are still bounded by your parents’ supervision and decision. This matter also occurs to most of the Malaysians of other races as well. Thus, by being a good son, Kanan agreed to marry Kanchana although he loves Vijaya. He has to push aside his true feeling and bow to his parents’ wishes as he realize his stubbornness would not get him anywhere either. He has to face a dreadful life of losing his wife because she will die soon as she is diagnosed with cancer. This scene shows that sometimes parents’ wish and plan may not be a good thing for their children if what they aim for is wealth only. In the end, their child is the one who suffers for their greediness. 4.0 Issues Another interesting aspect and strength of this short story is the issues highlighted throughout the storyline. First of all, the author stressed on the issue of arranged marriage. Though we are living in the so-called 21st century, where we are modern and lead a different perspective of life than the previous generation, there are certain customs that are still being practiced although they are not suitable with the society nowadays. Arranged marriage not only happens in the Indian community in Malaysia as the other races also experience the same thing. Parents think that they knew best for their children and plan their future for them. They are afraid if their children make mistakes and live a dreadful life without them one day. It is a noble cause, but the way it was practice make their children feels suffocated and force into the marriage that sometimes does not make sense at all. For example, a young girl is force to marry

an old man of the higher status and wealthier so she can has a better life. In Kanan’s dilemma, he was force to marry a girl whom he never met and even worst, he already made a decision to marry other girl that he loves. What is more ironic is in the end, Kanan’s parents fail to make their only on lives a happy life after all as his beloved wife is sick and dying. The pursuit of happiness cannot be force and tied with certain conditions. The issue of bias caste system is also portrayed in this short story. This caste system in Indian community started since the early days in India by Aryans, hundreds of time ago. The caste system is constructed to avoid assimilation with the indigenous dark-skinned people of the Indus valley, as stated in the hymns of the Rg Veda: “When they divided the Man, into how many parts did they apportion him? What do they call his mouth, his two arms and thighs and feet? His mouth became the Brahmin; his arms were made into the warrior. His thighs became the People, and from his feet the Servant were born.” (Extracted from the short story, “The Gardener”, 2011) This caste system brings trouble in this modern society as we are living in a society of free-rights and equality. It will only widen the gap of unity of that race and creates prejudice towards each other. Personally, I am against the practice of caste system as logically it did not benefit anything at all in this present world. Not only had it limited your social life, it also makes you a close-minded person and lack of independent skill in living this life. In the short story, this caste system makes Datuk Ratnalingam and his family torn apart. The decision of marrying his son off to a Brahmin girl did not guaranteed him living the ideal life that people expected them to be. The bride is suffering with a deathly cancer, known as Diablo’s Disease and she had entered the terminal stage of that cancer where she has a year to live. This incident proves that the happiness of someone’s life does not depend on the social status or economic background that he or she hold. 5.0 Theories related to the short story. One of the theories that can be found in this short story is Marxism. Marxism is emphasizing on the struggle between socioeconomic classes. This theory addresses the social problems from the economic aspect. The gardener and Vijaya are known as the antithesis or

proletariats because of their lower status in the caste. The family of Datuk Ratnalingam and Kanchana are known as the bourgeoisie in the society. This short story resembles one of the similar issues in Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, where the lovers of different status in society are forbidden to get married. The superstructure such as the caste system forbids them to involve with each other and place people in certain status in the society. However, the gardener is treated nicely by his boss’s family although he is the labour for that family, where this incidence shows that the humanity wins over prejudice in society. The other theory that is related with this short story is reader response. This story reminded me of a story which I have learnt and analyze when I was in Semester 2 that was written by Siew Yue Killingley. The story entitled “Everything’s Arranged” that revolves around the Indian community in Malaysia. In that story, the girl is force to marry a man that was chosen by her family although she already has a lover. She is an educated girl with promising future, just like Kanan in this story. The conflict rises when everybody wants to commit suicide when the girl stubbornly refuses and wants to escape from the wedding. However, in the end, she succeeds in not marrying that man, but the man turn out to be her lover and by doing this, she disgraced her name and family’s dignity. The irony happens in these two stories where both of the characters fail to achieve happiness at the end. 6.0 Characters The characters in this short story are the gardener, whom is anonymous, Datuk Ratnalingam, Datin Ratnalingam, Kanan and Kanchana. These characters carry the allegory of the society in Indian community. The gardener’s character is an allegory of the lower caste or working class community in Indian race and also in this country. He represents this class as he is the labour in rich man’s house and his life, as describe in the short story, is modest and simple. This people is the nonsignificant others although they are the one who made things for the higher class manageable. He lives with his obedient and responsible wife and two children that never cause him trouble. Though he does not lead a luxurious life, he is happy with his family and contented with what he has. He is a hardworking worker, and he cares for the family he works for though he is only a mere gardener. He is praised by his boss for the neat work he did with their garden. He is also a responsible husband and father as he provides them comfortable life and sufficient needs that they need. He is an open-minded and practical man as he stated that he will never force his children to marry anyone he wishes in future.

The characters of Datuk Ratnalingam’s family members and Kanchana represent the higher class in the Indian community. They are raised with silver spoon in their mouth and face no problems in terms of financial and society recognition. However, their luxury does not determine them to be a happy and sensible people. Datuk Rajan Ratnalingam is a president of a banking institution and respected by others. His attitude does not reflect the majestic position that he hold, where he is a hot-tempered man and likes to force others to do things as he wish. He uses crude language when he is angry. This is shown in the scene where he scolded Kanan for refusing his order to marry Kanchana. Kanan, his son, is an educated man and works as an engineer. His future and marriage is planned by his parents though he is an adult who is responsible for his own life. He is a filial obedience son and a victim of the caste system, where he has to sacrifices his love to marry someone from the higher class to please his parents. He has a sad life because he could not marry his lover, Vijaya and trapped in worst situation after he married Kanchana as his bride will die soon. Datin Ratnalingam is a housewife that was pampered with luxury and lives an exclusive life. She is a good boss and cares about the gardener and he is considered as a family. Kanchana, Kanan’s bride is the most pitiful character in this story. Just like Kanan, she is forced in the marriage she did not agree upon. She is diagnosed with Diablo’s Disease, a lymphatic cancer in the terminal stage. She only has a year to live and that is why her parents rushed her in the arranged marriage with Kanan. Her character is an irony, whereby she manages to have prestigious status in society and a lot of possessions but she could not live her life to the fullest with the limited time she has. 7.0 Language Aspects. The language used in this short story consists of allegory, symbolism, irony and satire. The other aspect that falls under this part is the use of Malaysian English and Indian languages throughout the story. First of all, the allegory in this short story is implied in the characters and some of the words used. As mentioned in the previous part of analysis, the characters involved in this story are the allegory of the society class in the caste system in Indian community. Another allegory is the cancer that Kanchana suffered from, which is the Diablo’s Disease. “Diablo” is another word to describe satan or evil, which represents bad and awful thing. This refers to the life she has to face, where despite her position and wealth; she has limited time to live. Another message

implies in this word is the bad and awful thing that ruined people’s life, not only to the one who has the disease, but the others around her.