Jhumpa Lahiri's book of short stories, Interpreter of Maladies, reflects a realism that is seldom read in fiction. The characters are neither boring nor extraordinary, but they do face situations and dilemmas that are indicative of real life. Though the stories are all unrelated, they do share similar themes. These reoccurring motifs are religion, New-world v .Old-world tradition, gender roles, and secrecy. These themes become vital in the development of each and every character in the work.
In Lahiri's collection of works, a common, yet subtle theme is secrecy. In the stories, many of the characters find themselves in different situations that manifest solely because they have withheld things from their loved ones. Such an example is in the opening story of the book, A Temporary Matter. In the story, the married couple, Shukumar and Shoba, find themselves divulging secrets that they concealed their entire marriage. In the end, their lack of communication proves to be their downfall. In the story Sexy, the entire story is centered around a secret affair between a single woman and a married man. In this story, Lahiri takes a creative turn, in which the protagonist Miranda keeps secrets from Dev, the married man with whom the affair is taking place. This is a bit of irony that even within an affair, a relationship initially built upon secrecy can in fact fall prey to secrecy. But furthermore, it is Lahiri's use of secrecy that in turn humanizes her characters and makes them more relatable to the reader.
A second important overtone in Interpreter of Maladies is the presentation of traditional gender roles. Rather than presenting gender roles as stated by tradition, Lahiri presented the reader with instances in which the "roles" of husbands and wives were often challenged or reversed. In the title story, Interpreter of Maladies, the character of Mrs. Das behaves in an almost opposite manner from any traditional Indian woman. She is cold and callous towards her...
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