Stereotypes and racism are all around us, many times affecting what we do and how we act. Quite often however, we do not realize the impact that they have on others and even ourselves. Bharati Mukherjee's short story, "The Lady From Lucknow" is about Nafeesa Hafeez, a young woman who moves from Lucknow, a city in India, to America with her husband and family. Although they are well off, Nafeesa struggles to enjoy her life and fit in with the world around her. Nafeesa then meets James Beamish, an older, married man, and the two have an affair. I will argue that Nafessa's suicide is caused by the varying degrees of racism that she experiences through her numerous attempts to assimilate in this new country and be recognized as an equal to others.
Nafeesa first encountered James Beamish and his wife, Kate, at a reception for foreign students where both the Beamishs and the Hafeezs would play host to an international student. While the Beamishs were trying to find the student to whom they would host, Nafeesa decided to strike up a conversation with them. Kate however mistakes Nafeesa as just another student and says to her, "I hope you'll be very happy here. Is this your first time abroad?" (Mukherjee 323). Each host wears a blue name tag to differentiate them from the students, and Kate could clearly see this, yet she still assumed that because Nafeesa was Indian that she was just a student. Kate continued to talk down to Nafeesa, and refused to accept her as an equal.
After this initial meeting, Nafeesa and James continue to meet in secrecy, engaging in an affair. While at James' house one day, she was looking at pictures of his daughters and realized that she was more worried and afraid about what they would think about her than, "any violence in my [Nafeesa] husband's heart" (Mukherjee 326). The woman is so desperate to find belonging that she is more worried about what complete strangers will think of her, than how her husband will feel when he discovers...
Cited: Mukherjee, Bharati. “The Lady from Lucknow.” 1985. Elements of Literature. Fourth
Canadian Edition, Eds Robert Scholes et al. Don Mills: OU Press, 2010. 321-
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