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Bharati Mukherjee’s Desirable Daughters Essay

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Generally, in the depiction of the immigrant woman’s negotiations with the New World, Bharati Mukherjee’s treatment of the past spacetime becomes crucial. Usually, her novels portray the past spacetime as a circumscribing space that must be escaped in order to (re)construct identity. For instance, in Wife, Mukherjee depicts Dimple’s inability to escape from the past as an inability to transform into an American individual who has the agency to define her self. On the other hand, in Jasmine, the protagonist almost completely rejects her past and her Indianness to facilitate her transformation and assimilation in America. Both novels depict the past as a constricting spacetime. However, in Desirable Daughters, instead of depicting the past as an essentialist, fixed entity that thwarts the transformation of identity, Mukherjee highlights the active participation of the past spacetime in (re)defining identity. Mukheree’s new artistic vision parallels Homi Bhabha’s theory of the performative space, whose dynamicity challenges pedagogical fixity and contributes to the continual (re)structuring of both individual identities and nation-spaces. Meanwhile, Mukherjee’s new treatment of the past spacetime resolves some of the dialectical strands of her artistic vision. To delineate the dissolution of these dialectics, this article traces Mukherjee’s portrayal of the past spacetime, first as an essentialist entity, then as a fluid metaphor, and lastly as an ambivalent entity that helps the protagonist redefine her identity. In the process, critics who brush off Mukherjee’s novels as having an Orientalist vision may be made to reconsider her aesthetics as well as her novels.


Keywords: Bharati Mukherjee, Desirable Daughters, identity, Orient...


... middle of paper ...


...an: The Immigrant Consciousness in Jasmine.” Bharati Mukherjee: Critical Perspectives. Ed. Emmanuel Nelson. New York: Garland, 1993. 181-96.
Mason, Deborah. “The Cross-Culture Wars.” New York Times Book Review. Apr. 28, 2002. Vol 151 Issue 52102.11.
Mukherjee, Bharati. “Beyond Multiculturalism: Surviving the Nineties.” Journal of Modern Literature 20.1 (1996): 29-34.
--. Desirable Daughters. New York: Theia, 2002.
---. “A Four-Hundred Year Old Woman.” The Writer on her Work: New Essays in New Territory. Ed. Janet Sternburg. New York: Norton, 1991. 33-8.
--. Jasmine. New York: Fawcett Crest, 1989.
--. Wife. New York: Fawcett Crest, 1975.
Piper, Karen. “Post-Colonialism in the United States: Diversity or Hybridity?” Post-Colonial Literatures: Expanding the Canon. Ed. Deborah Madsen. London: Pluto, 1999. 14-29.
Said, Edward. Orientalism. New York: Pantheon, 1978.



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