Identity and Belonging

November 19, 2017 Cultural

‘Interpreter of Maladies’ explores how one culture adapts to living with another. ’ Discuss. In Jhumpa Lahiri’s short story collection ‘Interpreter of Maladies’, the writer silhouetted the adaption of one culture to live within another in the form of allowing differences to exist and reaching a compromise. Lahiri drew the readers into the witness of different people battling with the obstacles they encounter.

While some people like Mrs Sens, fell to the abysm of culture-displacement because of her unwillingness to adjust herself into the new society; whereas for individuals like Mr Kapasi, are stopped by the hindrance of misunderstanding on the way of bridging the culture gap. However, tolerance can resolve the difficulty in the coexisting culture, which is evident in the marriage of Sanjeev and Twinkle. To begin with, the unwillingness to adapt into a new culture will not allow two cultures to live with one another. This stance was clearly built up in Lahiri’s depiction

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In Interpreter of Maladies a couple is navigating between the Indian traditions they’ve inherited and the baffling new world in which they grew up in. The Dases hire an old-fashioned Indian guide, Mr. Kapasi, to drive them out to the Sun Temple in Konarak, India. Mr. Kapasi, conversant I nine languages, informs the family that he also works as an interpreter for a doctor. Because her family has their fair share of problems, Mrs. Das confides in Mr. Kapasi to help solve her unhappiness. Mr. Kapasi is at a loss as to how he should “interpret” her secret. Finally, Mr.

Kapasi just asks Mrs. Das a question, “I beg your pardon, Mrs. Das, but why have you told me this information? ” (Lahiri 200) Mr. Kapasi’s feelings towards Mrs. Das grew as the day went on, but soon finds out that Mrs. Das is just looking for a good time like her other affair back home. Mr. Kapasi finds it odd that Mr. Das would call his wife by her first name when talking to his daughter and interprets this behavior as a sign that the marriage may not be a good one, meaning he might have a chance with Mrs. Das. Mr. Kapasi observes Mrs. Das, feeling slightly attracted to her. She wears a red-and-white-checkered skirt that stops above her knees, slip-on shoes with square wooden heel, and a close-fitting blouse styled like a man’s undershirt. The blouse is decorated at chest-level with a calico applique in the shape of a strawberry” (Lahiri 187). Mr. Kapasi, amazed at what Mrs. Das is wearing because it shows off all of her assets. Indian culture dictates that women do not take their clothes off nor do they wear tight clothes. To Mr. Kapasi this is like wearing nothing because he has never seen anything about the waist on his wife. Mrs. Das excites Mr.

Kapasi because she is so interested in his job and at lunch she invites him to sit next to her. Mr. Kapasi’s attraction for Mrs. Das grew as the day passed. When Mr. Kapasi picks up the family at the hotel he realizes how distant Mrs. Das… Interpreter Of Maladies In the book of short stories, Interpreter of Maladies, by Jhumpa Lahiri, there are many flawed couples and relationships. Some of these are flaws that are incredibly annoying such as in “This Blessed House” where Twinkle is   obsessed with religious symbols and statues, or flaws that are hard to overcome such as Mrs.

Das   in “Interpreter of Maladies” who experiences extreme guilt that she constantly works at pushing away. With the help of Freudian theory one can analyze the flaws in these people and observe that their already strained relationships are a result their struggles to balance their three personality aspects of id, ego, and superego. The Freudian theory is based on three terms the id, superego and ego. This theory was invented by Sigmund Freud, a psychiatrist and hypnotic expert of the late 1800s and early 1900’s.

The id is the unconscious desires of the human personality that strive to satisfy basic sexual and aggressive desires. The superego is the more realistic view and provides standards for judgment and represents internalized ideals. The ego is largely the conscience that mediates the id and superego. The ego satisfies the id’s desires in ways that will realistically bring pleasure over pain. With the support of Sigmund Feud’s theory, it is inevitable that these couples and relationships are doomed to fail if the id and superego are imbalanced.

In “This Blessed House” Twinkle and Sanjeev are a perfect example of the id theory. The id is the subconscience and desires of ones personality. Twinkle has an imbalance of the id. She is spoiled, demanding and usually her desires are fullfilled. When she finds each symbol her obsetion is fullfilled until she finds the next one to fullfill what her suppressed desires need. Soon this gets very annoying to Sanjeev because his desires are getting replaced by her new obsession. Sanjeev married Twinkle because he was lonely. Sanjeev was lonely,with an excessively generous income for a single man, and had.. In Jhumpa Lahiri’s ‘Interpreter of Maladies’ Mr. Kapasi , the main character, seems to be a person with mixed feelings. He does not seem to have fixed stand neither in his job nor on his thoughts. His thoughts and experience are structured by the strict cultural society of India. His hidden wants and desires suppressed by the community rules are looking for way to come out. The consequence is his changing thoughts and desires which at different parts of the story appear differently and brings instability in his life.

At the beginning of the story he seems to be surprised by the strange behavior of Das couples, then at the middle of the story he seems to be attracted towards Mrs. Das and at the end of the story he seems to be getting distracted from her slowly. It can be said that he had no fixed stand in life and his thoughts and feelings were changing. Mr. Kapasi’s cultural beliefs and thoughts get first blow when he looks at Das family. At the beginning of the story Mr. Kapasi seems to be surprised by the way Das couple acted in taking care of their children’s needs.

He does not find this to be in tune with Indian culture. Children very much depend on their parents in Indian society. But in this family the parents seems to have no close affection towards children as seen by Mr. Kapasi. This statement from the story supports this fact, ‘In the rearview mirror Mr. Kapasi watched as Mrs. Das emerged slowly from his bulky white ambassador, dragging her shaved, largely bare legs across the back seat. She did not hold the little girl’s hand as they walked to the rest room. ’ This brings a upheaval in his thoughts and beliefs.

When he looked at them, he guessed that the family was Indian but their dresses were like those of… “To what extent are the stories about a sense of loss? Discuss. ” The anthology of short stories in Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies assays the ramifications of loss in peoples’ lives. Largely, the stories deal with losing one’s identity as a result of the migrant experience, the disintegration of relationships through a loss of communication, and the loss of self-respect whilst undergoing traumatic experiences.

Conversely, Lahiri also explores the uplifting qualities of the human condition by illustrating the importance of harbouring a sense of hope when overcoming the trials and tribulations of life. The fabric of Interpreter of Maladies is interwoven with the theme of displacement and the sense of isolation often experienced by migrants. As an Indian-American herself, Lahiri admitted to the struggle of trying to co-exist in two immeasurably different worlds; “I felt the intense pressure to be two things, loyal to the old world and fluent in the new, approved of on either side of the hyphen”.

To this extent, her characters exhibit similar patterns as they attempt to assimilate into a new culture and lifestyle. Trapped in the cultural upheaval, they often experience an identity crisis in which they strive for a balance that captures the best of both worlds. Mrs Sen’s poignant story and ultimate failure to adjust to American society marks a prime example of the ramifications of the migrant experience.

Haunted by memories of a cherished past, the isolated young woman is unable to attain a sense of belonging as part of the American community. The cultural divide between the life of her childhood and the life she now leads is far beyond her comprehension. Her adamant desires for attaining fresh fish and playing old family tapes is a symbol of her attempt to preserve her culture, just as her refusal to learn driving is a metaphor for her aversion to assimilation. However, her ultimate failure lies at the conclusion of the story,…


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