Cross Cultural Conflict in “the Tiger's Daughter” of Bharati Mukherjee

Topics: Novel, Bharati Mukherjee, India Pages: 8 (2489 words) Published: December 17, 2010

Rajaram Solaimalai
Associate Professor in English,
Thiagarajar College of Engineering, Madurai625 015
Tamil Nadu, India

email: sreng@tce.tce website:

Bharati Mukherjee, an Indian born American novelist, is a familiar voice in the Indian Diaspora. Her fiction truly reflects the temperament and mood of the present American society as experienced by immigrants in America. She depicts the cross cultural crisis faced by her women in her novels. She found herself difficult to adapt to the culture, customs, and traditions, which she depicts through her female protagonists’ cultural crisis. Bharati Mukherjee’s first novel The Tiger’s Daughter (1972) deals with an upper class Bengali Brahmin girl named Tara Banerjee Cartwright, who goes to America for higher studies.. This paper throws light on the cross cultural conflict of the 22-year old heroine when she revisits India after a seven year stay in the United States. It highlights the cultural turmoil faced by Tara when she refuses to accept Calcutta as her home again. This paper also analyses how Tara, caught in a gulf between the two contrasting worlds, leads to her illusion, depression, and finally her tragic end. The author also attempts to portray how the novelist herself intimately projects her own self through the heroine in this novel. **************** The Tiger’s Daughter and Wife are about two different problems of expatriates. The Tiger’s Daughter, Mukherjee’s first novel, is about the cultural conflict of Tara Banerjee Cartwright, a Benghali Brahmin girl, who goes to America for higher studies at the age of sixteen. Having married a white American, she returns home for a holiday trip to visit her parents. .The fusion of the Americanness and Indianness in the mind of Tara and the resulting of split personality due to the cultural conflict is the theme of the novel. In “The Tiger’s Daughter” Mukherjee creates a heroine Tara, who like herself, returns to India after several years in the West to discover a country quite unlike the one she remembered. Memories of a gentle Brahmin lifestyle are usurped by new impressions of poverty, hungry children and political unrest.

At the age of fifteen Tara goes for higher study. “For Tara Vassar had been an unsalvageable mistake” (10). In Poughkeepsie Tara senses discrimination when her room mate refuses to share her bottle of Mango chutney. So she feels sad and homesick. She is unable to share her thoughts with pale dry skinned girls. Chowdury observes in this connection :

She had been desperately homesick, lonely, and desperate to belong - in fact she was in the typical position of an immigrant. ... She had to adjust to things which had been outside the purview of her previous idea of life as a hole. (82)

Like other Indians she defends her family and her country. She also prays to Goddess Kali for strength, so that she would not break down before Americans. New York has driven to despair. Here, in the beginning she could not digest the culture of the States because of her deep-rooted Indianness. As ill luck would have it, Tara falls in love with an American named David and marries him. David is totally western and Tara finds it difficult to communicate the finer nuances of her family background and of her life in Calcutta. It was because of the cultural difference. “Her husband asked naïve questions about Indian customs and traditions. She felt insecure in an alien atmosphere. Madison Square was unbearable and her husband was after all a foreigner” (Shoba Shinde , quoted in R. K Dhawan 50).

In the second part, when Tara visits India after seven years, she fails to bring back her old sense of perception and views India with a keenness of...

References: Mukherjee, Bharati. The Tiger’s Daughter. Houghton Miffin, 1972
Chowdhury Enakshi
Prestige Books, 1996.
Iain, Jasbir. Foreignness of Spirit : the world of Bharati Mukherjee’s Novels. Journal of
Indian Writing in English,13, 2 ( 1985)
Writing: A Study in Expatriate Experience. New Delhi , Prestige Books, 1994
Sivaramakrishna, M
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