Feb 1st, 2011
Mavis Gallant: “The Moslem Wife”
1932-Netta marries 1st cousin, Jack, overcoming opposition.
Netta portrayed as being devoted and subservient, Jack as the “golden boy,” through the
eyes of guests.
Her new years during the war teach her about mediocrity, trauma.
1945-Return of Jack, considers freedom of whether or not to take Jack back.
A) Netta’s development – Does she grow?
i) Initially lifeless and blank
Asha-ash after fire burns, what is left after passion burns out.
Only her eyes had a pilot light, something perhaps Jack can ignite. Very worn out,
either underdeveloped, or past her prime. Her life and emotions are neatly
compartmentalized (p42). Discrepancy between her looks and inner world.
Public vs. Private, inside vs. outside, head vs. passion of her heart.
Color imagery used to depict and contrast these categories. Complexion = ashen-
white, but assigns herself black (p44). White complexion shrouds inner world. Also
something v. static about Netta, and takes for granted Jack had the same views as
her (p39). She doesn’t read initially, indifferent reader of books and character (p46).
P40-Attire – she’s perfectly dressed, but Jack doesn’t care. He is confrontational and
ii) Marriage to Jack
Netta becomes only marginally more outward looking. Only opens her perspective
enough to include Jack in it.
P43 Multiple mirrors in their bedroom suggest things are bigger than they are, an
illusion of something deeper. She sees him as a kind of soulmate, but that may just
be an illusion too. Her commitment to Jack doesn’t increase her experiences, but
forces her to be contingent to Jack, earning the nickname “moslem wife,” also
because of the women Jack attracts.
P48 Netta is still the same, physically. Arrival of Jack’s mother provides her w/
excuse to let Jack socialize, and her to organize.
iii) Pre-war: Strict categories begin to collapse
Death begins to challenge tidy boundaries.
P48 “hotel was a place where people had once come…” She has made the hotel
completely devoid of death- Netta’s way of compartmentalizing her life.
Hotel=place of love and pleasure only now.
P38-9 Light vs. darkness, not so strictly organized anymore.
P56 Aunt feigns fall, crushes plants. Netta thought she was inhaling smells of
Images overlap – flowers and life, now associated w/ death. Destabilizes.