“Baglady” is a British short story written by A. S. Byatt, it was published in the collection “Elementals” in 1998. The main character in this story is Daphne Gulver- Robins. Daphne accompanies her husband on a business trip to the Far East. The main reason she is on the trip, is for her husband to be able to impress his boss, by showing his family side.
Daphne would have preferred staying home taking care of the animals on the farm, because she knows that her and the other wives have nothing in common:” Most of the other wives are elegant, with silk suits and silky legs and exquisitely cut hair” (9:16) this quote indicates that the other women are sophisticated to superficial.
In their social group the exterior means everything. Daphne is aware of the shallow and superficial environment she is stepping in to.
Even though Daphne is not exited about the trip she still makes an effort to try and impress the other wives by loosing weight for this specific trip:” She has tried to make herself attractive for this jaunt and has lost ten pounds and had her hands manicured” (9:22) Daphne is very insecure and feels inferior compared to the other women, her weight loss is a desperate attempt to fit in, but she ends up being an outsider.
They women entertain themselves by going to The Good Fortune mall:” The Good Fortune shopping mall resembles an army of barracks or a prison block,…“(10: 26) The mall represents the rich part of the society and all the chaos around.
This mall is secured well so that the poor, thieves and unwelcome guest can’t get in. While in the mall the other women leaves Daphne behind and she ends up wandering around the mall by herself. Daphne explores the mall but quickly gets confused because everything seems to be chaotic and out of place.
Daphne’s frustration begins when she realizes that her camera is missing, which I would interpret as point off of no return. She goes to the bathroom to restore her make up, and discovers that her face looks like a mess, which is another signs of her dissolving and breaking down, all of this leads to her being late for the meeting with the driver and the other women. In her panic and desperation to find an EXIT and get out of the mall her heel breaks off one of her shoes and she takes her shoes off, and but them in her bag. She notices that her credit cards and her purse have disappeared as well.
She no longer has any identification and all of her belongings are missing in other words her identity is absent. She cries for help, and a policeman walks over to her: “Help me said Daphne I’m an English lady, I have been robbed, I must go home” in this quote it becomes clear that Daphne expects the police man to help her just because she is rich and British, because she lacks identification, the police man refuses to help her, which tells us that in the oriental society you have to be part of the rich upper class in order for help or assistance.
The main theme in Baglady is identity. Throughout the entire story Daphne is in the state of flux. She loses her identity in a foreign country which leads to her being disoriented, and even before they arrive she feels out of her comfort zone, because of her dissimilar character. The loss of her materialistic possessions leads to her identity loss which shows that Daphne comes from a capitalistic society where materialistic things define the individual.
And by losing her belonging she goes from being and middle/upper class British lady, to a worthless Baglady. Another theme could be the clash between the western and oriental world. The characteristics of this story being postmodern are very obvious. The themes which are writing above clarifies that the text it postmodern and the fact that the story has an open ending is also an element in postmodern writing.