Zusammenfassung A Pair of Jeans
The short story begins when Miriam is coming home later than planned from a trip with her friends. She’s dressed in a western way, with a tight pair of jeans and a shirt showing her midriff. When she arrives at home she meets her future parents-in-law who are anyhow shocked by her appearance, just like Miriam’s mother (Fatima) who opens the door.
When they all went in, Miriam hurried up the stairs to her room where she quickly changed her clothes to the traditional Muslim outfit. But Ayub and Begum (her future parents-in-law) were still disturbed by her earlier dressing and leave very soon with a lousy excuse.
When they’re at home Ayub and Begum discuss about what to do now with Miriam’s inappropriate dressing. Begum likes Miriam and didn’t want to cancel the marriage, but she is suppressed by her husband and has to talk to Fatima, telling her that the marriage is cancelled. She is satisfying this with a white lie. She’s telling the shocked mother that Farook was promised to the daughter of Begums sister and can’t marry Miriam because of this. Fatima explains this to her daughter who quickly realizes the lie.
Now the story is divided into two endings.
In the first ending Miriam gets angry and throws away her western clothes and can’t understand why Farook is leaving her because of this (even though it actually wasn’t Farook’s decision).
In the second ending Miriam takes her western clothes back on and calls Farook because she wants to discuss with him what he’s thinking. So she is more self-confident in this ending.
The story is probably set in Northern Britain in a town with a larger Pakistani community. The quarter in which the story is set seems to be rather poor, but you actually don’t really get detailed information where in Britain the story is set. The town has to be rather big, because of the large Pakistani community.
The action takes place in the two houses of the Pakistani families about which we as well know not really much. The only thing we realize is that Miriam’s room is upstairs from the living room.
The Author: Quaisra Shahraz
Quaisra Shahraz was born 1958 in Pakistan as the daughter of two Pakistani parents. She grew up her first nine years in Pakistan till the family moved to Manchester in England (where she still lives today).
So you see that Quaisra Shahraz got influences from both cultures and you may even suggest that the short story is set in Manchester where she’s living. Furthermore she had always been an active member of the Pakistani community in the United Kingdom and tried always to combine her home country and its traditions with the new country.
In her novels and other stories she mainly dealt with two problems. On the one hand the problems of the Pakistani community in England and on the other hand the suppression of women in their rights (so she fought against gender roles or arranged marriages and engagements). With both topics she deals as well in “A Pair of Jeans”.
The Pakistani community in England
The Pakistani community is a minority in England and counts about 1.3% of the English population. They mostly immigrated in England when the British crown has colonized India and Pakistan and forced the huge displacement of people due to India’s independence (see as well: 220.127.116.11. Pakistan’s colonial past). The next wave arrived when the war between East and West Pakistan broke out.
Over 90% of the Pakistani community believes in Islam and is quite religious and furthermore a big part is very aware of the honor of their families (which sometimes even leads to honor killings or violence against women or men – last years: 3000 cases (even though they were not only committed by the Pakistanis)).
In the short story we only have Pakistani characters. And when we take a look at characters like Ayub we see as well that he’s Muslim and that he’s aware of the honor of his family.
Arranged marriage/arranged engagement
Arranged marriages are as well a topic today in England. The English officials suggest that in more than the half of the cases of forced marriage Pakistanis are involved. Furthermore they say that about 90% of the forced women are Muslims.
The marriage between Farook and Miriam seems to be an arranged one, but it isn’t a problem for Miriam and neither for Farook, because they actually love each other.
The gender roles and the suppression of women are shown by Farook’s parents Ayub and Begum in their discussion about whether the young couple can marry or not. Begum actually still wants the marriage but she is overruled by her husband.
Furthermore he blames his wife that the arrangement was her fault and he forces her to call Fatima to cancel the marriage even though such actions are usually done by both parents.
So all in all Begum has an own opinion, but she isn’t allowed to make it public and is suppressed.
Clash of cultures
Just like in several other short stories we’ve here two cultures clashing. There’s on the one side the Western free and liberate lifestyle which is here represented by the attractive and short clothes Miriam wears in the beginning of the short story and on the other side we’ve the Islamic traditional clothes Miriam wears after she went in the house.
So we see that Miriam and her mother used to accept both cultures and as well tried to profit from both whereas especially Ayub is focused on the traditional outfit and rejects the new Western culture and furthermore isn’t accepting that others will live in that way.
Links to other short stories