Jhumpa Lahiri's Interpreter of Maladies depicts the convergence of the remorseful lives of Indian immigrants with American culture, estranged physically or spiritually from their homelands and facing adversity adjusting to America's sterility. In the story, “Mrs. Sen's,” the sense of transforming into an American lifestyle indicates Mrs. Sen's quiet strength, but an overbearing loneliness sinks into her life as readers begin to sympathize with her life. Mrs. Sen's resistance to assimilate to American culture through her obsession with material possessions back from her native India and her lonely, vicarious nature accentuates her emotional exile, making her the most sympathetic, distressful character in Lahiri's short story collection.
Mrs. Sen earns the reader's sympathy with her antisocial nature and a growing obsession with food and Indian clothing, giving a sense of homesickness and her original cultural identity. Her choice of wearing a “white sari patterned with orange paisleys” (112) indicates her passion for Bengali people, Bengali food, fish and all possessions from Calcutta. The arrival of fish at the local store is greeted as a piece of news from home, and she is “flattered” (124) to hold the fish, to cook it and to serve it to Mr. Sen. Absolute happiness eludes her as she “buys mackerel, and butterfish, and sea bass”(129), so much that “Eliot had to hold one of the bags” (129). Mrs. Sen's existence as well as her survival in America revolves around and depends upon fish, giving her pleasure and proximity. Lahiri conveys that such a strong sense of community is lost in America, as Mrs. Sen cuts vegetables and “split things in half, then quarters, speedily producing florets, cubes, slices, and shreds” (114), indicating a deep, painful loneliness as she misses her country. Mrs. Sen begins to refuse assimilation to any degree, continuing to build a barrier between new experiences and people in America and her true home in India.
Mrs. Sen's projections...
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