Sunday, May 19, 2013

"Portrait of a Marriage" Pearl S Buck

When I picked up this book from my library ,I must confess ,I was prejudiced.But I was proven wrong .And I am glad I was proven wrong!  Coming to the story ,it is about two individual  (diametrically opposite ones!) in love ,how they  stay together till the end despite their disagreements .How symbiosis is achieved with conflicts.

Ruth and William are the lovers and the story is spread across three major parts of their lives.The first part reveals how they meet and fall in love and unite .The second one is about Ruth's silent fight with  William's eccentricities and her struggle to raise her kids without William's help. The third is about acceptance of each other in a beautiful way . 

William belongs to the upper class  but he  is restless there .  His peace comes with Ruth. When Ruth is unhappy in New York he agrees to  leave the city and live in her farmhouse with her parents. Ruth only can stir his soul and he feels if she is unhappy then he cannot be happy either. I found Ruth's behavior a bit selfish that she cannot adjust to the city even when William tries his best to accommodate her .She withdraws and pushes William away from her.William longs for her physically but when he confronts her finds out that she can be herself only when she is in her place he agrees to move to the country.He is inspired and complete only when Ruth is happy.

They move back and the next stage starts .They have two girls and a boy.The boy is a rebel. William has no connection with their rearing.He just paints .He has no interest in farming and he still is inspired by Ruth only.His love for her has increased four fold .Ruth grudgingly accepts that if she admonishes him in anyway he may leave her and go back to the city life .The burden of his sacrifice is always felt. She will endure his disinterest ,his zero earning power to keep him with her. She silently agrees with him in everything.The one thing which keeps them together always is their strong passion for each other.

The turning point of their life is when one day William visits his parents and is suddenly stuck by the fact that he is not "himself"  anymore.His paintings are not reaching anybody.The depth is gone. William's father suggests that he  go on tour on his own and search for his passion again . William is in two minds .When he reaches home he sees Ruth with a whip in her hand trying to whip her son Hal. William is shocked. He suddenly feels the harshness of Ruth and for the first time is repelled by her. He almost decides to leave because this Ruth is not his Ruth  .Ruth tries to please him physically as well but he is determined to leave.But by morning he sees that Hal has run away and Ruth is heartbroken.And when he sees her that way he cannot but stay back.Because he realizes she is his purpose of being.If she is unhappy he cannot be happy anywhere. Life continues till Hal returns .The children grow up,Mary is like her mom.Jill like William and Hal is a simply a new personality altogether.

Children grow up and finally  leave to find their destinies .Mary is married to farm guy(William is not happy but accepts).Jill goes away with William's ex-lover(Ruth learns to accept this ) and Hal marries a girl from Paris and settles there. Ruth always frets about her children but William has only eyes for Ruth 
Old age catches up with them and the William's time is up.Ruth always rebukes him for "not being a man" but William hardly reacts. When he finally dies in sleep ,Ruth realizes that they both loved each other always and love was the only thing which bound them together. The novel ends on this note.

William doesn't earn money,he won't participate in family affairs ,he simply paints . Ruth won't adjust in William's city ,she is always insecure,she feels threatened,she rebukes him for his weaknesses. But in all this they find love and learn to live with their differences so that they both can stay together forever.They cannot part with each other. That's the truth they  constantly discover. The love story makes you feel sad ,angry and sometimes helpless as well  .But is definitely engaging and worth a read.

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