Interpreter of Maladies

Topics: Jhumpa Lahiri, Short story, Culture Pages: 2 (393 words) Published: October 12, 2010
Interpreter of Maladies Essay
“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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