In general the term ‘survival’ is defined, as continuing to exist or wanting to continue exist. We all have a strong survival instinct, which is why the fight of living has been a struggle of a human kind since the begging of time. People fight for their own subsists whether it is surviving in society, spiritually, physically or psychotically. This is the essential theme and point in ‘For Their Own Survival’ (2002) a short story by Ursula Hegi.
The story is about Sam Fulton whose wife, Liz, decided to leave him after eleven years of marriage. This is ironically since it was her who promised to stay with him forever. Sam is in the short story presented as a man who has an acutely need for forming and controlling people. It could be a slightly exaggerated image of men who prefer being in being in charge of women, to command a woman who’s simply as butter in his hands. But this could also be seen as a great talent and a gift that he earned and developed through his previous carrier. Sam was a well-disciplined instructor for the army even though he didn’t approve the war in Vietnam. In relation to the title is this relevant, since he prepared the soldiers to survive in the war by breaking them down psychotically and physically. First after erasing their personalities he could construct them to be in the way that he decided, which made him feel powerful. He simply needed being in command and control in order to survive, and to show that he knew that he was great at his job. This was possibly how he saw Liz, when they first met. She was simply like one of his soldiers. Could he only have fallen in love with the idea of her and the challenge of this uncut diamond that needed to be polished and grinded?
Liz is characterized through Sam’s vision, which gives us a subjective perspective. He described her as ‘a shy, worried woman, a failed painter’ (p. 15 l. 86) when she first came into the marriage. This seemed to change after ‘he’d scraped of her fears, her doubts, with infinite kindness and patience, until she no longer knew who she was’. Suddenly he constructed her from nothing to a new woman with success and confidence who they both could be proud of, a perfect woman for him. Their relationship seemed to be built on choices decided by Sam. On the face of it he has a lot of interests that’s why they were so active together as they travelled, hiked, swam, took care of the garden and their two dogs. Possibly it was Sam’s decision, that they didn’t got kids. After all we only know things from his perspective.
In a way they lived in symbioses because they needed each other for ‘surviving’. When they first met, she needed support for evolving personally. He needed her to satisfy his needs of using his excellently skills and methods since he’s a principal and not in army any more. It was just a part of his nature to shape people like that, and therefore he did not mean to hurt her from the begging. When she finally flourished, she didn’t need him any more for her own survival and they simply grew from each other. That’s when he realized that he has been controlling towards Liz and had to change himself. This is difficult for him since he’s only had to change others. But he is a very smart man, therefore he wants to find out through literature what she was thinking when she left him. Now he needs to search for the reason in this female mind, why she left him, instead of blaming himself for the re
On the other hand she left him maybe because she got enough of the suffering living with Sam meant, that it was unbearable. She didn’t get any spare time for herself and in the end she said ‘I’ll go crazy if I stay with you.'(p.14 l.3)