Susie: Now in New Haven, Suleri becomes “mistress” of her time, introduced to the concept of daylight saving, whereas “the sudden twilights of the East denied such duty” from her day.

Summer turns its tables on me now, and March arrives to tell me things are inside out, that I no longer need a moment to prepare. And though the month brought twice to me days of wicked occasion, some simple principle of understanding makes me recognize that I have not mourned in March. [p.171]

Instead of “anther summer,” Suleri now bemoans, “another winter,” imagining herself as a “poor winter tree” (171;186). What is the significance of Suleri’s temporal and seasonal transformations in the context of her growth and disembodiment? Can she save daylight, controlling her memories and history, only after she severs her narrative from Pip, Mair, and Pakistan?

The passages at the memoir’s conclusion to which Susie refers underscore this tactic and illuminate the significance of the details Suleri emphasizes in her earlier description of her mother’s death. In “Saving Daylight, Suleri writes of being made “mistress of my time” (170) by the unfamiliar practice of daylight savings time. She contrasts the effect of this western practice with the nature of her girlhood in Pakistan: “The sudden twilights of the East denied such duty from our day — never said to us, ‘Put back the clock’ — and thus did not unleash into our time the strangeness of an hour that seems uncertain of its own numerical arrangement” (170). Time’s passage, Suleri suggests through diction emphasizing uncertainty and confusion, can be as confounding and disorienting in minor increments, such as the change of an hour, as in the change of seasons, elapsing of years, and death of generations. Her struggle, even after ten years, to grasp the implications and consequences of daylight savings time rhetorically doubles the challenge of understanding and accepting the deaths of relatives and friends: “In October, when I turn back the clock, I know we must sleep deftly before we recollect that tomorrow, night will come before its hour. It cannot matter. Bodies break” (186). The phrase “night will come before its hour” recalls the individuals Suleri has depicted in the book, such as her mother, whose “night” came “before its hour.” Suleri’s resignation that “it cannot matter” indicates the attitude she chooses, perhaps out of necessity, in order to endure in the face of such loss: “bodies break,” she declares, an observation that, superficially, has nothing to do with daylight savings. However, Suleri’s tendency to use the passage of hours as a cipher for thinking about unquantifiable loss makes clear the connection between artificially imposed, premature night and premature death. Her mother’s life, like daylight savings time, was cut short artificially.


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Last modified 21 April 2011