Sarla's Aspirations

[Added by George P. Landow, Professor of English and Art History, Brown University]

Like her husband, Sarla has aspirations, though they have little to do with Urdu poetry and seem more modern than his. This "plain, penny-pinching and congenitally pessimistic" young woman chosen for him by "crafty and cautious" female relatives "had aspirations" stimulated by all the forces of modern urban existence -- "such promises of Eden as could be held out by advertisements, cinema shows and the gossip of girl friends. So she had even dared to aspire towards a telephone, a refrigerator, even a car. Did not the smiling lady on the signboard lean seductively upon her crowded refrigerator, promising 'Yours, in easy installments'? And the saucy girl in the magazine step into a car as though there were no such things in her life as bills, instalments or debts? Her girl friends had a joke about it -- 'Fan, 'phone, frigidaire!' they would shout whenever anyone mentioned a wedding, a bridegroom, a betrothal, and dissolve in hectic laughter. While her mother collected stainless steel cooking pots and her sisters embroidered pillowcases and anti-macassars for her, she dreamt the magazine dream of marriage: herself, stepping out of a car with a plastic shopping bag full of groceries and filling them into the gleaming refrigerator, then rushing to the telephone placed on a lace doily upon a three-legged table and excitedly ringing up her friends to invite them to see a picture show with her and her husband who was beaming at her from behind a flowered curtain.

But by marrying into the academic profession and moving to a small town outside the capital, none of these dreams had materialized, and she was naturally embittered. [67-68]

What other characters in books you have read confront "the magazine dream of marriage"? How does Sarla's version of it resemble and how does it differ from Gerty's in Joyce's Ulysses? With whose aspirations and daydreams do you most sympathize -- Sarla's, Deven's, Nur's wife, Imtiaz Begum? What do these hope and desires have to do with Great Expectations?