Power Passage and Identity: Names and the Mistress

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Power Passage and Identity: Names and the Mistress

Shakespeare said “"What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” In that statement he says that a name is a false and meaningless ideal, that the character and heart and not the name makes the man. But is this true? Chita Banerjee Divakaruni challenges this notion. In her book, “The Mistress of Spices,” Divakaruni uses her unique style and language to boldly state that a name is so much more than mere personal identity. Additionally a name can promote influence perception and power.

In many cultures a name Surname instills many things upon its bearer, and holds many responsibilities to those who bear it. It must be cultivated, adorned when possible and it should not allow anything to leave its stain upon it. To protect one’s family name a person may put themselves through many indignities. Lalita Chowhardy is a prime example of a person sacrificing all they have in life for the sake of their family honor. To hear Lalita tell the tale of her early life, she was a woman happy within her simple circumstances. “I didn’t really want to get married. I had a good life, my sewing, my woman friends and I would go to the movies with…even my own bank account, enough so I didn’t have to ask my father for spending money” (p. 104).This changed when he parents approached her with a proposal of an arranged marriage. Though happy with her current existence, she chose instead to accept the proposal instead of adding any shame to the family by remaining a spinster. She was upset when it came to light that the man she was to marry had lied by sending an older photograph of himself. In spite of her anger at his lies, she still married him mostly out of fear of embarrassing her father or putting the stain of “those headstrong Chowhardy girls” (p.105) onto her sisters. She endures the disappointment of her life, the sacrifices, the endurances of his cruelty and controlling nature – all so...
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