Time and Chronology in "Meatless Days"

Caroline Ang, English 171, Sages and Satirists, Brown University, Autumn 1997

In Sara Suleri's Meatless Days, time and chronology seem muted in contrast to the personal and national events that the author carefully delineates. For some reason, as readers, our internal clocks are thrown off by the aberrant role that time plays in this work. Suleri is much more concerned with communicating the actual happenings of an event and hinting at their significance, as opposed to their placement in a conventional chronological sequence. And when she does place events in a chronology, she uses her own markers of time, such as the series of cooks her family employed over the years and a friend's craze for lingerie.

Consider the following passages:

Am I wrong, then, to say that my parable has to do with nothing less than the imaginative extravagance of food and all the transmogrifications of which it is capable? Food certainly gave us a way not simply of ordering a week or a day but of living inside history, measuring everything we remembered against a chronology of cooks. [34]


But now I am anticipating the overthrow of a regime that didn't occur until years alter, for the petticoat government of Mustakori's camisoles began only in her post-Beijing American sojourn. Her conversation with Ifat, however, had taken place in Lahore shortly after we had graduated from Kinnaird and were left glancing about a bit in order to guess what would happen next. [57]

Reading Questions:

1. What do these passages tell us about the way Suleri views events involving her family against events occuring in the outside world? Does either one bear greater significance in her mind?

2. What is her purpose for using her personal life to contextualize national events? Does this help her to identify personally with the history of her country? Does it draw us as readers into the story or alienate us?

3. How does this different way of marking time throw off our understanding of the order in which things happened? As in the second apssage, when Suleri jumps quickly between the personal to the national and distinguishes time on her own terms, what general impression do we come away with?

Main Screen Pakistan Sara Suleri Meatless Days Leading Questions

Last modified 23 April 2002