AD's English Literature : Critical Appreciation of Jhumpa Lahiri’s "Interpreter of Maladies"

Monday, January 10, 2011

Critical Appreciation of Jhumpa Lahiri’s "Interpreter of Maladies"

    Indian Diaspora :Diaspora is a term used for large scale migration of people from the country of their origin to other countries, either voluntarily or due to economic or political compulsions. When we speak of the Indian Diaspora we mean Indians settled in England, America, Africa, and the Caribbean. Similarly one can discuss the Caribbean Diaspora to England, Canada and France. Jhuma Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies  is Diasporic which highlights with sensibility, the terrible dilemma and divided feelings that a migrant from the Third World experiences in the West. The dilemma is: it is painful to stay but it is difficult to return. The migrant belongs to both worlds and at the same time to none.

(Image courtesy: wikipedia)
 Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies reflects the experience of Diaspora: Although Jhumpa Lahiri has never lived anywhere but America, India continues to form part of her fictional landscape. As most of the characters have an Indian background. India keeps cropping up as a setting, sometimes more figuratively, the memory of the characters. In her Interpreter of Maladies the story remains attached to India. All of the central characters in the story suffer from the feeling of alienation. The Das family is a visitor to India and theirs are the passage to the heart of India. It is more a journey of introspection, expurgation and purification.In fact, the Das family is asunder and they are mechanically living with individual goals. however, such is not the real chemistry of love. Despite of this, the wife likes to patch up her wound so to refresh herself in familial bond. Her journey to India and thereby meeting Kapasi and telling him her agonized heart is itself a journey to happiness. Thus, India and Kapasi both are metaphoric presentation of solace and peace for the Das family. India has become a metaphoric presentation of peace whereas Kapasi for interpreter of agony.

                India as a Metaphor: The marriage is a symbol of the unity of all life, as understood in the Indian family tradition. It is a manifestation of love and respect. Mrs. Das   knows this and she is sympathetic to the idea of the oneness of the family. Her reaction to the past secret shows she is in tune with this way of thinking. Since there is no sign of remedy for her in America than the other part of the world ,India ,this suggests the difference between the American and the Indian view of things.This is why India baffles and defeats her dilemma. The India as a living soul  changes her attitude to understanding. India has thus become a metaphoric presentation of ancestral root and en route to peace.The story of Mrs. Das  reminds us that the India is one entity that unifies both at the level of feeling and of intellect. Thus India and Kapasi both are mythical presentation of solace and peace for the Das family. 
                Study of Multiculturalism: Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Interpreter of Maladies is also a study of multiculturalism. The ethnic identity of America is identified by its mixed race and cultural groups. The Das family stands for that migrated Indians settling in America. The sham materialistic society of America is well contrasted to the Indian aspects of bonds of heart. It is worthy to note that despite of living husband and wife, Mrs. Das hardly gets the change of telling her sad somber life and the frustration underneath. Further, it is Mr Das who takes him busy after everything that the lacks the proper understanding of his wife. The Das family tours so long a distance to unveil the subdued agony in them. One thing, however, is noted that the likes of Das family living elsewhere in the distant migrated land might suffer the same lot. It is need less to say, not so easy for categorization. The Das family serves their duties mechanically. The duties related child rearing is divided in minute perfection between Mr and Mrs. Das. Even Mrs. Das’s careless attitude towards her sons and daughters sometimes reminds this. Looking at the dresses of Mrs. Das and Mr Das we also find out mixed cultural. While Mr. Das is typically an American traveler wearing sunglasses and tour books, Mrs. Das despite of her dress is obsessed with the filmy magazine containing the Bollywood gossips.

           Study of Feminism: The Interpreters of Maladies can also be taken as a study of Feminism. It gives a close view on the predicament of Mrs. Das. We find her a bird caged within the bond of family .She is married and lived a love with initial romanticism. But gradually as the romance gone she becomes a victim of boredom and ennui. She lives a life who hardly wishes such.

          The closing Words: Putting authors and their books into genres or categories is a difficult and controversial business. And yet some degree of categorization is necessary in fiction if we are to understand books in their context. To that sense Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Interpreter of Maladies can easily be grouped as modern short story with the possibility of multiple interpretations.



  1. Must be an enjoyable read Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri. loved the way you wrote it. I find your review very genuine and orignal, this book is going in by "to read" list.

  2. thanks mohit, i have also gone tough your analysis. its nice.

  3. The erotic pictures at Konark sun temple also had some influence on Mrs Das.the pictures themselves are representative of the fact that the ancient Indian culture was open enough to allow things like sex might gave her a sense of relief that the culture from where she originally belongs is far more open and modern in its thoughts,and is able to forgive her guilt.

  4. Dear Anirban,

    Thanks for your comment.

    Way to Konark sun temple is itself a passage to the heart of india- love, peace and harmony.And I don't think that erotic picture at the temple wall is at all supporting adultery in the name of open-mindedness.on the other hand visit to Konark sun temple reminds Mrs. Das of her hidden guilt and her purgation is the immediate result of I think that the temple for Sun could have been used in the story because he is believed to be the healer of diseases and bestower of wishes whose bliss Mrs. Das urgently requires.

  5. really enjoyable and acknowledged reding.......

  6. dear ,,,there is no clear conten about americal literature


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