Jhumpa Lahiri’s “Interpreter of Maladies”

Jhumpa Lahiri in her book “Interpreter of Maladies” reflects on the importance of communication in relationships. None of her characters can really communicate their thoughts and feelings, and that’s what ultimately drives them away from each other. The Das family is a prototype of a modern American family. Even though they are of Indian descent, they have preserved very little of Indian culture. The ways they dress, talk to each other, discipline their children and behave in general imply their deep assimilation into American culture. The parents have no authority over their own children and appear to be disinterested in correcting their behavior anyway. They are very self-absorbed and are greatly unhappy. The children are unruly and ignored for the most part. When little Tina needs to use the bathroom, none of the parents is willing to take the responsibility but rather start arguing. The narrator says, “ Eventually Mrs. Das relented when Mr. Das pointed out that he had given the girl her bath the night before.” When there is no love between parents even taking a child to the bathroom feels like a chore.

The reader can’t but notice that the Lahiri’s characters have distorted pictures of each other. Symbolically, they see the world around them through the camera lenses, sunglasses, mirrors and visors. They fail to see reality as it is but rather sit in silence and fantasize. Sadly, Mr. Kapasi sees in Mrs. Das a companion who could tend to his needs to be heard and admired for what he is. His extreme loneliness makes him vulnerable and he appears to be naïve for believing that he could establish any kind of relationship with someone as self-centered and selfish as Mrs. Das.

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One response to “Jhumpa Lahiri’s “Interpreter of Maladies”

  1. This is such a beautiful, thoughtful response. I agree that one of the major themes in this piece is what you’ve pointed out about communication. I also like that you identify the Das family as prototypically American. Great job!

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