Family Dynamics in Jhumpa Lahiri's Stories

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Interpreter of Maladies
Mr. and Mrs. Das, Indian Americans visiting the country of their heritage, hire middle-aged tour guide Mr. Kapasi as their driver for the day as they tour. Mr. Kapasi notes the parents’ immaturity. Mr. and Mrs. Das look and act young to the point of childishness, go by their first names when talking to their children, Ronny, Bobby, and Tina, and seem selfishly indifferent to the kids. On their trip, when her husband and children get out of the car to sightsee, Mrs. Das sits in the car, eating snacks she offers to no one else, wearing her sunglasses as a barrier, and painting her nails. When Tina asks her to paint her nails as well, Mrs. Das just turns away and rebuffs her daughter. Mr. and Mrs. Das ask the good-natured Mr. Kapasi about his job as a tour guide, and he tells them about his weekday job as an interpreter in a doctor’s office. Mr. Kapasi’s wife resents her husband’s job because he works at the doctor’s clinic that previously failed to cure their son of typhoid fever. She belittles his job, and he, too, discounts the importance of his occupation as a waste of his linguistic skills. However, Mrs. Das deems it “romantic” and a big responsibility, pointing out that the health of the patients depends upon Mr. Kapasi’s correct interpretation of their maladies. Mr. Kapasi begins to develop a romantic interest in Mrs. Das, and conducts a private conversation with her during the trip. Mr. Kapasi imagines a future correspondence with Mrs. Das, picturing them building a relationship to translate the transcontinental gap between them. However, Mrs. Das reveals a secret: she tells Mr. Kapasi the story of an affair she once had, and that her son Bobby had been born out of her adultery. She explains that she chose to tell Mr. Kapasi because of his profession; she hopes he can interpret her feelings and make her feel better as he does for his patients, translating without passing judgment. However, when Mr. Kapasi reveals his disappointment...
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