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The Man Who Hugged Women - Mischa Hiller

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The Man Who Hugged Women

Analytical Essay about Mischa Hiller’s short story

In our current day society, it is too easy to get stuck on an unfavourable path. People get stuck in unfavourable jobs, educations, and marriages. People mostly end up in these situations by chasing “the good life”. But the problem is just that “the good life” is a standard set by society. It’s a social norm, and most people are not what you could call normal. Everyone is different, and everyone should make their own choices based on that. Accepting the path one might be on, just because it follows social norms, does not mean it leads to eventual happiness… And that’s hard to realise and admit. In the short story “The Man Who Hugged Women”, written by Mischa Hiller, Freya is confronted with this exact realization and an accompanying jealousy of her friend Pearl, who spontaneously seeks to improve her own life.

The story is written in third person, with a limited narrator bound to Freya. For that reason, the readers only experience Freya’s perspective on the narrative. However, the readers also get a very thought-filled insight into Freya’s mind specifically, which contains a vital part of the story’s theme and message.  

Our main character Freya is a 40-year-old woman living in the environs of London. Freya is married to the psychiatrist Mukesh. Together Freya and Mukesh have a child by the name of Rita going to: “[…] a mediocre university, having been coached and cajoled beyond her natural ability through her A-levels to make sure she got in.” (p. 4, ll. 113-115). Their family of three is either middle or upper class, and their major source of income coming from Mukesh. “[…] the large kitchen – recently refurbished thanks to Mukesh’s private practice.” (p. 1, ll. 2-3).

Freya herself is without a fulltime job, but still: “[...] pitched in as a teacher’s assistant at the local primary school where their daughter Rita had gone.” (p.3, ll. 96-97). Looking further into things Freya seems to have gone through something very traumatic, which she either went to surgery for, received psychological help for or something third. “[…] Pearl had come with her that once, for something a lot more traumatic” (p. 3, ll. 100-101).

Freya seems rather subordinate when it comes to making her own choices. She is often considering in, what Mukesh would think. “Did Mukesh like it?” (p. 1, l. 19). She lacks independence, and even considered involving Mukesh in Pearl’s matters. “That night she thought about bringing the matter up with Mukesh” (p. 3, l. 104). Freya didn’t even fight back when Mukesh and her could not agree on Rita’s future, she: “[…] had been shut down pretty sharpish and she’d never mentioned it again” (p. 4, ll. 116-117).

Freya’s will to let Mukesh decide for her definitely points to the theme and message of this story, but more on that later. Freya seems discontent with many important parts of her life, but instead of doing something about it, she keeps it to herself. “[… everything as if it came from some marriage counselling manual, rather than from the heart or between the legs.]” (p. 2, ll. 50-51). Her lack of a job or something meaningful to do, is one of the few things she’s taken an initiative about.: “[…] It was something to fill her time and make her feel she was giving something back” (p. 3, ll. 97-98).

Luckily Freya has realised her problem, but she just lacks the capability to do something proactive about it. Freya has observed that Pearl has a seemingly easier time remedying her life’s dissatisfactions and not overthinking too much. Freya has consequently developed a sort of jealousy for how happy-go-lucky and spontaneous Pearl can be about life, compared to Freya.: “[…] the truth was that she would love to be a bit more like Pearl” (p. 1, l. 24).

Because of the limited 3rd person narrator, we only get to know Pearl, and her relationship with Freya, through the eyes of Freya herself. Even though Freya and Pearl have very non-identical personalities they still get along well, and Freya admires Pearl’s vastly different personality traits.



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