The Management of Grief


Bharati Mukherjee

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The Management of Grief Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Bharati Mukherjee's The Management of Grief. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Bharati Mukherjee

Bharati Mukherjee was the author of several novels, short story collections, and works of nonfiction. She was born in 1940 in Calcutta, India, where her father ran a pharmaceutical company while her mother was a homemaker. When Mukherjee was eight years old, the family moved to Europe, and she studied in Basel and London before the family returned to Calcutta three years later. She graduated from the University of Calcutta in 1959 with a degree in English, received a master’s degree from the University of Baroda, and was then accepted into the Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa, where she studied with Philip Roth, among others. She received her MFA in 1963 and completed a PhD in comparative literature, also at the University of Iowa, in 1969. In 1966, Mukherjee moved to Montreal to teach at McGill University, and she briefly lived in Toronto in the late 1970s before returning to the United States in 1980. Beginning in 1989, she taught postcolonial and world literature at the University of California, Berkeley. She died in New York City in 2017.
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Historical Context of The Management of Grief

“The Management of Grief” is a fictional account of the terrorist bombing of Air India Flight 182 on June 23, 1985. The flight was initially bound from Montreal to Mumbai with stops planned in London and Delhi along the way, but the bomb—which was planted by Canadian Sikh terrorists—exploded before the plane reached London. The attack was part of a global plot that involved a second bombing of Air India Flight 301 at New Tokyo International airport (now Narita International Airport). That bomb exploded before it was placed on the plane, killing two baggage handlers. The attack on Air India Flight 182 killed all 329 people on board and remains the deadliest terrorist attack in Canadian history.

Other Books Related to The Management of Grief

Along with “The Management of Grief,” several works of fiction have been written about the bombing of Air India Flight 182, including the novels Can You Hear the Nightbird Call? by Anita Rau Badami and All Inclusive by Farzana Doctor. Before the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001, the bombing of Air India Flight 182 was the deadliest aviation terror attack in history. Similar to “The Management of Grief,” which was written in the aftermath of the attack, many works of fiction have attempted to grapple with the September 11th attacks and their aftermath. Some of those works include Falling Man by Don DeLillo, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer, The Emperor’s Children by Claire Messud, and The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid. Though dealt with more tangentially, Ottessa Moshfegh’s My Year of Rest and Relaxation also considers the September 11th attacks. On another note, Mukherjee’s other work often touched on the triumphs and struggles of immigrants living in Canada and the United States. Her novel, Jasmine, in particular tells the story of a woman born in India who is widowed after her husband is killed in a bomb attack; the novel then traces the protagonist’s story as she moves from India to Florida, then to New York City, and finally to Iowa. 
Key Facts about The Management of Grief
  • Full Title: The Management of Grief
  • When Published: 1988
  • Literary Period: Contemporary
  • Genre: Short Story, Literary Fiction
  • Setting: Toronto, Ireland, India
  • Climax: Shaila tells Judith to pull over the car and then leaves, slamming the door without further explanation.
  • Antagonist: Judith Templeton, the terrorists who bombed the plane
  • Point of View: Third-Person Limited

Extra Credit for The Management of Grief

Sorrow and Terror. Mukherjee and her husband, the writer Clark Blaise, cowrote a nonfiction book about the terrorist bombing of Air India Flight 182 titled The Sorrow and the Terror, published in 1987.

NBCC Award. The story collection in which “The Management of Grief” initially appeared, The Middleman and Other Stories, won the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1988.