The main theme explored in the short story “Trash” by Souvankham Thammavongsa is expectations, particularly not being able to live up to the expectations others have for us.
The theme is mainly illustrated by the complicated relationship between the narrator and Miss Emily, her mother-in-law. When she was young and poor, Miss Emily had high expectations for herself and worked hard to overcome her circumstances:
Her husband had died a few years ago. Heart attack. Sudden. She had married him right after college. Gone to law school, made partner, owned her own practice. Had three children. Bought property. She could afford to travel and take vacations abroad. (ll. 34-37)
Just like Miss Emily had expectations for herself, she also has high expectat...