For Andrić an essential feature of human relationships remains attack and defense, and he examines this now in his depiction of family life, where one partner in the marriage is seen as the aggressor. One situation is developed in several stories as a symbol of such covert aggression. “Mistreatment” (1946) is a typical instance.
This story opens with a statement of general hostility towards Anica, the wife in one of these ostensibly unexceptionable marriages, and criticism of her having left her husband: “No one could understand why Anica, the wife of Andrija Zereković, one day left her home and husband. There was no obvious reason or reasonable justification for such an action”.
This story offers an example of the balance between individual experience and generalization that typifies Andrić’s technique of characterization. The generalization is deliberately intensified in this story to heighten the contrast between the familiarity of the pattern, the expectations of outsiders and the reality of the marriage itself.
The nature of the harassment to which Anica is exposed is then described. The first hints lie in the way her husband looks on her arrival in his household as a new acquisition, the crowning touch to a perfectly successful life. He likes to refer to “his wife” as often as possible in conversation with others, implying that he is more concentrated with the sound of the world as a boost to his public image than with the woman herself.
The striking common feature of all the stories portraying these various kinds of violence is that its vehicle is speech. It is through words that Andrija persecutes his wife; another character compensates for the humiliation of his working life as a civil servant. A supervisor on a state farm tyrannizes an employee through words which alternate with unpredictable periods of silence.