What is Sexy?
What makes an object startling and strange is its lack of presence in everyday life. The unfamiliar evokes in people a sense of beauty and a need to understand that which they do not know. The foreign is both frightening -- for we do not know what may come of it -- and appealing -- for we wish to delve into its background and know its secrets. Jhumpa Lahiri is no slouch when it comes to understanding the intimate relationship humans have with the foreign, and many of her short stories in Interpreter of Maladies are centered on how the characters feel about and react to the foreign. Most notable among these tales is “Sexy”, where the unknown seems to be what brings people together as well as the very thing that tears them apart. Lahiri uses the foreign to allow the reader to more thoroughly identify with her characters. Their inability to grasp new concepts and/or change and adapt with their surroundings gives readers a more intimate portrait of their own lives. Perhaps the unknown is the sibling of excitement, and where one goes, the other follows. Lahiri seeks to regale her readers with the mysteriousness of her characters’ backgrounds. Like getting a thrill from a roller-coaster ride in the dark, Lahiri’s characters are both twisted and exciting.
Those who seek beauty in the foreign are clearly represented in “Sexy”, “Interpreter of Maladies” and “This Blessed House”. “Sexy” features the mistress Miranda who has for reasons she cannot comprehend, fallen in love with an Indian man, Dev. This story in particular features the beauty and power of the unknown. Sexiness itself is defined by 7-year-old Rohin as “loving someone you don’t know”(107). According to this child, sexiness and foreignness are wrapped up and knotted around each other, sexiness does not exist without the foreign. “Interpreter of Maladies” also agrees with the child’s idea. Mr. Kapasi is drawn to the oblivious Mrs. Das because she is so unlike anyone he has ever...
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