They wash clothes on the riverbank clean and pare

This preview shows page 4 - 5 out of 6 pages.

possible outside the house. They wash clothes on the riverbank, clean and pare vegetables at a communal pump, mend undera tree that is a known meetingplace, and stop to rest ona benchorgroupofstones with other women. There is a continual moving back and forth between kitchens, and conversations are carried on from open doorways through the long, hot afternoons ofsummer. Theshy young girl whoenters the villageas a bride is examined as frankly and suspiciously by the women as an animal that is up for sale. Ifshe is deferential to her elders, does not criticize or compare her new world unfavorably with the one she has left, the older residents will gradually accepther presenceon theedge of their conversations and stop changing the topic to general subjects when she brings the family laundry to scrub on the rocks near them. As the young bride meets othergirlsin herposition,shemakesallies for thefuture, but she must also develop relationships with the older women. She learns to use considerable discretion in making and receiving confidences, for a girl who gossips freely about the affairs of her husband's household may find herself labeled a troublemaker. On the other hand, a girl who is too reticent may find herself always on the outside of the group/ or worse yet, accused of snobbery. I described in The House of Lim the plight of Lim Chui-ieng, who had little village backing in her troubles with herhusband and his family as the resultof her arrogance toward the women's community. In Peihotien the young wife of the storekeeper's son sufferedasimilarlackofsupport. Wamed byherhusband's parents not to be too "easy" with theother villagers lest they try to buy things on credit, she obeyed to the point of being considered unfriendly by the women of the village. When she began to have serious troubles with herhusband and eventually hisfamily, there was noone in the village she could turn to for solace, advice, and, most important, peacemaking. Once a young bride has established herself as a memberof the women's community, she has also established for herself a certain amount of protection. If the membersofherhusband's family stepbeyondthelimits ofpropriety in theirtreatment ofher-such as refusing to allow her to return to her natal home for her brother's wedding or beating her without serious justificationshe can complain to a woman friend, preferably older, while they are washing vegetables at the communal pump. Thestory willquicklyspread totheotherwomen, and one of them will take it on herself to check the facts with another member of the girl's household. For a few days the matter will be thoroughly discussed whenever a few women gather. In a young wife's first few years in the community, she can expect to have her mother-inlaw's side ofany disagreement given fuller weight than her own-hermother-in-law has, afterall,been a partof the community a lot longer. However, the discussion itself will serve to curb many offenses. Even if the older woman knows that public opinion is falling to her side, shewill stillbesomewhatmorejudiciousabout refusing her daughter-in-law's next request. Still, the daughterin-

  • Left Quote Icon

    Student Picture

  • Left Quote Icon

    Student Picture

  • Left Quote Icon

    Student Picture