18th October 2017

Reading Response #5

  • Title: In Arms
  • Text type: Short Story
  • Author: Monica Rana

“In Arms” by Monica Rana is a short story about a young, widowed mother in the midst of a civil war in Nepal. Narrated by the mother, we understand that she is fighting two battles, one with herself and another alongside soldiers. She is constantly haunted by her horrific memories whilst attempting to suppress all her emotions as they are not allowed to be distracted from the fight; they “don’t feel.” The story is a touching tragedy, providing readers with a tiny insight of what life was like in Nepal during this time.

“In Arms” is predominately structured as a series of flashbacks leading up to the present time, however, the story begins randomly, amid the action of war. Our narrator’s recollections are strongly focused on her family, specifically her husband and daughter. We discover that her husband, motivated by his sister’s death caused by rape, left his wife and young daughter to fight in the war. “And then he was gone. Gone to address the ghost of his sister in the sky, gone to undo all the injustices in the land {…} He went with his eyes dreaming and left me with a raw nipple, daughter in arms.” When he died, our storyteller recounts the praise she inherited due to her husband becoming the “village hero,” yet the pain she felt was too intense to be overcome by any amount of support. Pain caused by the man she loved leaving and dying, pain generated by her feeling of helplessness, and pain initiated by the fact that her daughter’s future was to be fatherless and war-torn. “What future do you have here, I asked, what future with your father dead your mother out of her mind your village torn and shredded, meat to the dogs?” As a result, our widowed protagonist required little convincing to recruit and “join the ranks,” despite having to leave her daughter behind and facing people shaped by the repercussions of war. She became “meat to the dogs,” taken advantage of by men, along with many other defenseless women, however, she possessed a will to fight, to “live for the purpose.” Her strength was undeniable and proved that a mother’s love is a physiological power second to none.

This story affected me as my worse worries and most spine-tingling fears are nothing compared to the trying events this woman has faced in her life, however, we are bestowed with feeling a strong connection to her as the story is recorded from the mother’s point of view. We relate to her, sympathizing with her pain and celebrating her triumphs. One of the many examples of this is when she writes: “Then there was emptiness and silence. I could not hear my heartbeat, and so I replaced it with the heart of my daughter.” I am not a mother but this undisguised sense of vulnerability is so vehement that it is impossible to not share and empathize with her suffering. “In Arms” is written with a raw, knowing hand that indicates the author’s pass has not been so different to what she writes about. This on its own is another aspect that forces readers to truly connect with the story due to the meticulous detail and undisguised emotion that cannot just be fabricated from an imagination.

The name of the story is yet another example of the author’s indisputable talents. “In Arms” refers to both the “armed” forces that the narrator joins and the passionate love she feels for her daughter in her arms. The connection between these two aspects, her joining the ranks in order to protect and improve her daughter’s future, ties the title together in equal parts of love and hate. In this sense, readers are forced to question their morals and wonder if the amount of senseless hate that can institute one to kill justifiable if it is caused by love?

In conclusion, Monica Rana’s “In Arms” was a short story that captured the complete essence of the Nepalese Civil War in a shorter amount of words than novels, yeat was still able to completely satisfy the story. I thoroughly enjoyed “In Arms” due to the writer’s ability to force your sympathy by feeling a closeness to her character. I believe it is important to have many stories such as this one told and for people all around the world to hear them in order to remove themselves from the bubbles of their own lives and widen their circle of awareness. “In Arms” put my life into perspective and helped teach me to appreciate all I am blessed to have.

Respond now!


Personal Reading