This study guide will help you analyze the short story “Trash” by Souvankham Thammavongsa which has been used for an exam in English STX B on the 25th of May 2023. You can also find a summary of the text, as well as inspiration for interpreting it.

If you need help with Assignments 1-4 from the STX B exam on the 25th of May 2023, you can read our guide here.

Extract from the study guide:

We never learn much about the narrator’s husband. However, her initial description of him is positive:

He certainly was not like the kind of people I’d grown up around. The kind who cuss, grab their crotch, belch. If they didn’t like you, you’d know about it and they’d say it to your face. There was no pretending. I helped him carry some things to his car, and we got to talking. (ll. 14-16)

She appears to be taken with his elegance and good manners because she grew up among people who were the exact opposite. Later, however, it is indicated that the honesty of the people she grew up with is not a quality found in her new husband or Miss Emily. For instance, Miss Emily pretends to like her for days before suddenly dropping the façade. 

As the conflict between the narrator and Miss Emily evolves, the narrator’s husband is strangely absent: “I wondered where her son was. Why he had been gone for most of the day, and when he would be back” (ll. 120-121). Her husband probably knows Miss Emily’s demands better than anyone, and yet he has left his new wife to deal with her mother-in-law on her own. His lack of solidarity and concern does not bode well for the couple’s marriage in the future. 

Although the narrator initially describes their relationship as “a whirlwind romance” (ll. 2-3), it seems there is a physical as well as an emotional distance between the couple, particularly because the narrator never refers to him as “my husband”, but “Miss Emily’s son”. This indicates that he belongs more to his domineering mother than to his wife. 

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