The Interpreter of Maladies
Many children in the world are born and raised into cross cultural lives. Jhumpa Lahiri is an example of one of those people. Lahiris life experiences influence her symbolism, themes and styles of her writing. Growing up in America, she was greatly influenced by the Indian and American culture making her an Indian American. Jhumpa Lahiris personal experience as an Indian American is conveyed through Lilia’s cross cultural struggles in “Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine,” Mr. Kipasis perspective on Mrs. Das and the American culture in “The Interpreter of Maladies,” and Miranda’s personal struggles and interest in the Indian culture in the story “Sexy. In “Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine,” Lilia deals with cross cultural struggles between the American world she lives in and the Indian culture she hears and sees through her family, the media and Mr. Pirzada. Her mother shows how she is grateful that her daughter can grow up without violence and struggles on a day to day basis in her country unlike her mother and fathers childhood in India. “She seemed genuinely proud of the fact, as if it were a reflection of my character. In her estimation, I knew, I was assured a safe life, an easy life, a fine education, every opportunity.
I would never have to eat rationed food, or obey curfews, or watch riots from my rooftop, or hide neighbors in water tanks to prevent them from being shot, as she and my father had” (Lahiri 26, 27). Lilias mother shows how she agrees with her daughter not learning about the violence occurring in other countries and keeping her young mind out of adult problems shown in the media. By having her mother and father disagree, it leaves Lilia wondering about other places in the world and why she isn’t learning about those countries.
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Lilias father completely disagrees with her mother. “’But what does she learn about the world? ’ My father rattled the cashew in his hand. ‘What is she learning? ”’ (Lahiri 27). Even though Lilias father only quickly talks about his disagreement of what his daughter is learning in school, he strongly believes that she should be learning about the real history, misfortunes, riots, government issues, moral and ethical problems and occurrences in the real world, instead of the text book explanations about the fabricated stories of Columbus and the history of America.
In “The Interpreter of Maladies,” the clashing of cultures and lust between two characters are the main themes in the story. The Das family sticks out like a sore thumb in the country of India. “The family looked Indian but dressed as foreigners did, the children in stiff, brightly colored clothing and caps with translucent visors” (Lahiri 43, 44). The difference between Indians and Indian Americans is shown through descriptions of how the family’s behavior and how they dress and present themselves.
The theme of clashing cultures is what Lahiri could have felt as a child which led her to use it in her writing and as a theme in the story. The lust between Mr. Kipasi and Mrs. Das plays a huge role in the story. “He had never admired the backs of his wife’s legs the way he now admired those of Mrs. Das, walking as if for his benefit alone. He had, of course, seen plenty of bare limbs before, belonging to the American and European ladies who took his tours. But Mrs. Das was different” (Lahiri 58). Mr. Kipasi looked at Mrs. Das with lust and as someone who is lonely and could spend time with him and his loneliness. Mrs. Das does not look at Mr. Kipasi with lust but rather as someone who could help her with her own problems and as someone who would be a good father figure. She sees him as an interpreter of her own maladies, personal sickness or struggles. Mrs. Das is desperate for someone to listen to her and help her so she does not think twice about being able to trust Mr. Kipasi. In the story “Sexy,” the main character, Miranda, is a young, free, aimless woman.
She engages in an affair and relationship with a married man. Although it is morally wrong to engage in a relationship with a married man, Miranda cannot seem to help herself. “Unlike the boys she dated in college, who were simply taller, heavier versions of the ones she dated in high school, Dev was the first to always pay for things, and hold doors open, and reach across a table in a restaurant to kiss her hand. He was the first to bring her a bouquet of flowers…and the first to whisper her name again and again when they made love” (Lahiri 89).
The way Dev treated Miranda made her emotionally fall in love where as his attraction was mostly physical. Miranda was not used to being treated like a woman by a man. She recalls her previous relationships and makes them sound as if they were with immature boys. Once she had a taste of what a real relationship should be like, she could not imagine having anything else, even if Dev was a married man. Miranda thinks that having a relationship with Dev will change her and make her a woman. “While Dev was at the airport, Miranda went to Filene’s Basement to buy herself things she thought a mistress should have.
She found a pair of black high heels with buckles smaller than a baby’s teeth. She found a satin slip with scalloped edges and a knee-length silk robe. Instead of the pantyhose she normally wore to work, she found sheer stockings with a seam…It was the first time a man had called her sexy, and when she closed her eyes she could still feel the whisper drifting through her body, under her skin” (Lahiri 92). When Miranda buys these clothes for herself she is somewhat playing dress up. She is trying to be someone she is not and at the same time she is attempting to grow up and become a woman.
Dev made a huge impact on her by calling her sexy which changed the way she thought men looked at her and made her always want that feeling. She thought by dressing seductively she could potentially change the way men would look at her in the future so the feeling Dev gave her would be the same in her future relationships. Jhumpa Lahiri expresses her life story in her writings. Some of these stories her readers may never know the exact details but can predict how her life relates to some of the characters.
Her personal experience as an Indian American is conveyed through Lilia’s cross cultural struggles in “Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine,” Mr. Kipasis perspective on Mrs. Das and the American culture in “The Interpreter of Maladies,” and Miranda’s personal struggles and interest in the Indian culture in the story “Sexy. ” Her novels will always be appreciated by many different types of people. The popular struggles in her writing pertain to many audiences and people of different cultures which will always make her an author that is well liked.