Adjusting to a major life change is not always an easy task, and adapting to a new culture is no exception. “Mrs. Dutta Writes a Letter” by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni and “Who’s Irish?” by Gish Jen each tell the story of a foreign, elderly woman and her struggle to adjust to life with her family in the United States. Prior to immigrating, each woman had only experienced her native culture, and, upon arrival, each is reluctant to adopt the American lifestyle. However, Mrs. Dutta, in “Mrs. Dutta Writes a Letter,” makes an effort to please her family by pretending to conform to their habits and silencing her personal unhappiness with her family’s living standards as well as America as a whole. In contrast, the Chinese narrator in “Who’s Irish?” reminds her family, through words and actions, that she favors Chinese customs over American customs. In the end, the difference in their personalities influences Mrs. Dutta’s decision to return to India and the Chinese narrator to remain in America. By leaving their families, both women choose comfort and understanding over flesh and blood.
In the beginning of “Mrs. Dutta Writes a Letter,” Mrs. Dutta makes an effort to convince herself that she belongs in America with her family. “’How can I not like it, Roma?’ Mrs. Dutta’s voice was strident, even to her own ears. With an effort she controlled it and continued, ‘…I’ll miss my friends, I know—and you most of all…but they’re my only family. And blood is blood after all’” (Divakaruni 236). Mrs. Dutta associates family with America and refers to them as the, “Flesh of my flesh, blood of my blood” (234). When life in America is difficult, she repeats this phrase to herself as a reminder of why she must adjust to...
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...e for that matter, but she gives her the undivided attention needed in order for them to develop a close, caring relationship. She also provides the Chinese narrator with the understanding of the difficulties of living in the American culture she needs to be happy.
Both Mrs. Dutta and the Chinese narrator realize that being around those whom they can relate to and trust is the key to happiness no matter where they are. The desire for comfort influences Mrs. Dutta’s decision to return to India and leads to the Chinese narrator’s unexpected friendship with Bess. Mrs. Dutta says, “It isn’t about being needed. It isn’t about being with family either. It has something to do with love…” (Divakaruni 243). Happiness does not always lie with flesh and blood or even a particular place. Sometimes happiness lies where one is surrounded by comfort, love, and friendship.
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