For this week's Short Story Monday, I read The White Wife and the Brown 'Woman' by Louis Becke. This is a story set in the Pacific at the turn-of-the-century, and it is filled with deception, inintended bigamy, and caste and race issues.
A sailor is thought to have died in a shipwreck, and is far away from home recouperating when he sees in the new paper that his wife has married his friend. Rather than cause an uncomfortable scene for everyone, he sails off into the Pacific and falls in love with an Islander and they set up house. All is well until his wife and her new husband unwittingly show up for a 6-week stay.
It was the title that drew me to this story, I was all ready to go in guns blazing about the use of the word 'woman.' But it didn't symbolize any sort of perjorative meaning as I had feared, it was more about her status as a common-law wife rather than lawful wife.
It's hard not to sympathize with the women in this story. The woman who mourns her lost husband, and then finds out he is living off in paradise with another woman without a fare'thee'well? The woman who is looked down upon by her compatriates for setting up house with the man she loves until his wife shows up? Those characters deserve sympathy. I'm not so sure about the man who claimed them both, it seems like he is the one who comes out of this the best despite it being his fault. I guess that's why the title references the two women.