World Lit. H
Between the Lines
In some literature, upon occasion, the real magic of the message can only be expressed in an abstract, off hand way. In certain pieces, the richness of the idea is often passed between the lines through symbols. A “symbol” is a word, phrase, image, or the like having a complex of associated meanings and perceived as having inherent value separable from that which is symbolized. This is apparent in Jhumpa Lahiri’s, “A Real Darwan”. Boori Ma is an unofficial, unpaid “Durwan”, or doorman of a lower-middle class apartment building. She is quite elderly, and the word “feeble” can come to mind when talking of Boori Ma. In exchange for her services, the residents allow Boori Ma to live on the roof of the building. As she conducts her duties, she tells stories of an extravagant past: The residents hear continuous contradictions in Boori’s storytelling, but her stories are seductive and compelling, so they let her contradictions rest. The short story itself though straight forward, has many every day concepts in its layers. Instead of saying it in plain text, symbols are used to further represent the ideas of age, social status, and change.
It is said, as you get older you become more like a child than an adult in the fact you grow dependent on the youth around you to function. Boori Ma, standing at sixty-four years old, is not a youth. The story begins with signs of her aging, “Lately Boori Ma had been thinking that the stairs were getting steeper…” (70). Though that is obvious after stating she had constant knee pains, there are points of information of this topic hidden in the text. Later on, the description of the apartment could also very much apply to her, “It was a very old building, the kind with (…) windows without glass, and privy scaffolds made of bricks” (72). “Windows without glass” shows she no longer has anything or anybody to protect her from the outside world. A “privy scaffold made...
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