Taking A Stand: An Essay from the Short Story “The Day It Happened”
“Some people prefer to bury themselves in sorrow, succumb to the pain of hurled rocks that life throws at them, but others stand up and fight back.”
In the short story, The Day it Happened, author Rosario Morales encompasses an issue that many women in different communities encounter in their lives which is domestic violence. Morales unveils the story of a couple who had been married for six months and were already in a pattern of countless abusive fights. She crafts the story of the protagonist Josie, a character who takes a stand for herself and decides to abandon her marriage for her own wellbeing and for the baby growing in her womb. The story’s, plot, settings, point of view, style, and dilemma convince the reader to absorb the essential theme of the story which is that one should never tolerate domestic abuse.
In the exposition, the twelve-year-old girl narrates in third person the story of the protagonist Josie as she tries to break free from her husband, Ramon, who is the antagonist. The setting of the story is in an apartment building around 1992 somewhere in New York city. The plot begins with the background story where the narrator details that, at first, Josie would not admit there was anything wrong with her marriage; she was in denial. In her mind, she had married the ideal man, and she justified his bad behavior and bad temper by saying “He can’t help himself. He doesn’t mean it.” (Morales 75). The author deliberately mentions through her simple writing style that there were other men in the apartment building who were aggressive to their wives as well. For instance, “Joe who liked to bully his wife” or “Tito who talked all the time about ‘wearing the pants in the family’.” (75). This portrays that other women sympathized with Josie, but they felt powerless to help because they could not even help themselves. This is an example of the internal dilemma that women face.
Women in abusive relationships feel embarrassed and retain that struggle and pain within themselves until they start to believe that there is nothing wrong with their marriage. Through the background story, the author manages to show to the reader that Josie was not the only one going through a tough marriage but that there were others and many of those women had gathered to witness a life changing event that was about to happen when Josie decides to pack up her suitcase to leave and wait in the taxi to break the news to Ramon.
It was indeed the gathering of the onlookers that gave a hint to the audience the rising action of the story, “We streamed out the door into the small crowd that had gathered by now” (75). It was a spectacle to the neighbors, most likely because nothing like this had happened before. No woman had had the courage to swallow their fear and confront a man that treated them as if they were an item of possession. At five o’clock, Ramon strolls down the street, he avoids the crowd and keeps his eyes fixed on his shoes as he walks. He does not look up until he hears Josie call his name from the crowd.
The climax begins when everyone notices as Ramon’s expression changes when he hurls himself at Josie and grabs her leg; how he suddenly looked so vulnerable as if all the strength that made him strike like a lion before, had transferred to the “cute,” “small” and “plump” woman that was now standing before him. She was no longer afraid to look straight into his eyes, she was no longer a victim of a lost battle but rather a survivor. She spoke with confidence and told him that she was leaving him. Ramon, upon realizing Josie’s intentions burst out into tears and asks for forgiveness. Josie probably felt a tinge of sadness for him and she probably could have taken his apology and forgive him, but he had done enough damage. Men like Ramon do not change, and Josie knew that.
The story descends with the falling action. Ramon reluctantly lets go of Josie’s leg as Olga, the neighbor, emerges from the crowd and kneels down with him to convince him to let go because there was nothing for him to do. Josie was not the little girl that he knew, the girl that he constantly bullied and took advantage of. Josie finally is liberated from Ramon’s grasp something that symbolizes her bravery and strength. She was not a fragile woman anymore, rather she was a responsible mother who had to put her child first. This leads to the resolution, where Josie gets in the taxi and tells the driver to drive off. The women in the apartment building surly felt different because they had seen Josie walk away from her abuser. They know it can be done. Or if anything else, the men probably treated their women a little better because they knew that like Josie they could walk away. An act of bravery from a woman is all that needed to happen for other women to reassure themselves that they are not alone in this fight. They understood that they were not the problem; just as Ramon told Josie when she was leaving “you are young, you do not understand” (76) at that moment Josie could have relinquished to his words but instead she remained adamant.
Author Rosario Morales successfully manages to deliver a strong message of hope for women around the world through her use of plot, settings, point of view, style and dilemma. She instills a sense of strength in women who are experiencing domestic abuse but also in little girls like the twelve-year-old narrator that witnessed Josie as she stood up to her bully husband. Throughout history, women have been depicted as weak individuals, deprived of their rights and treated unfairly. That is why it is important that stories like The Day It Happened exist and continue to empower women who find themselves in any situation where their rights as human beings are violated. This story speaks truth and it illustrates that domestic abuse should not be tolerated in any way.
Have read this story before? What’s your opinion about it? Kindly share it in the comments and I’ll be happy to connect with you. Please read our other book reviews from our recent posts!