What Is “The Disappearance” by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni About?
“The Disappearance” by Chitra Banerjee is a short story about an Indian man whose wife has disappeared. As the story progresses, the reader realizes that the narrator is responsible for the disappearance of his wife due to his abusive behavior towards her.
“The Disappearance” is told in the third person past tense from the point of view of a husband whose wife disappeared. As the story begins, the husband is recalling the immediate aftermath of his wife’s disappearance. Everyone in the community assumed a crime was involved. The police asked the husband if he and his wife had a quarrel, to which he answered “no.” He recalls trying to explain her disappearance to their young son. The narrator recalls how he met his wife—how he’d selected her from a group of young women for an arranged marriage. He recalls her intelligence and her passive, shy nature. He posted a $100,000 reward for her, and he seems to honestly believe he’d been a good husband to her.
As the story progresses, however, it becomes clear he wasn’t always kind to his wife. He’d often forced sex upon her, even when she wasn’t interested. When the husband’s mother came from India to take care of the household chores and the child, the husband recalls it in such a way that the reader realizes he was never satisfied with the way his wife did these things. The husband admits he gradually began to forget about the disappearance of his wife, indicating he’d never really loved her. He recalls how he took down her pictures and stopped mentioning her to their son.
Finally, toward the end of the story, the husband recalls discovering his wife had taken all of her jewelry out of the jar where it was hidden. This prompted him to go to the bank, where he discovered she’d taken all her jewelry out of their safety deposit box as well. At this point in the narrative, it becomes clear she’d left him and wasn’t, as he had earlier assumed, kidnapped. As the story closes, the husband recounts shredding all the pictures of his wife and contacting an attorney to find out the proper procedure for remarriage. At the very end of the story, Banerjee flashes forward to the husband as an old man telling the story, and makes it clear that, although he remarried, he never got over the fact his first wife left him.