Jhumpa Lahiri’s short story, “Interpreter of Maladies,” follows the adventure of an American-Indian family who are taking the role of tourists in their own native homeland. The Das family is inherently Indian, but the experience of being born and raised in America has diluted their cultural background. The Das family is a symbol of both American and Indian cultures intermixing, and due to this, the family does not completely belong in either culture.
The Das family is Indian, but they have been socialized into American culture. These observations of the family’s American-like behaviors are seen through the eyes of the Indian tour-guide, Mr. Kapasi. During a rest stop, Lahiri mentions, “Where’s Mina?” Mr. Das asked. Mr. Kapasi found it strange that Mr. Das should refer to his wife by her first name when speaking to the little girl” (337). Mr. Das was inquiring of the whereabouts of his wife, and did so by using her first name. The lack of Mr. Das’ term of respect for his wife, especially in front of his child, is shocking to Mr. Kapasi. Mr. Kapasi probably has been socialized to use respectful terms to refer to one’s wife, and this norm is emphasized when in the company of a young child who must likewise, understand the importance of respect. However, Mr. and Mrs. Das were raised in American, an individualistic society, and it is seen as normal, in American standards, for an individual to be called by her first name. It does not matter who the audience is as long as she is regarded as an individual. Of course, this is all very strange to Mr. Kapasi, who has not experienced American culture first-handed. However, Mr. Kapasi has been able to peak into American life through the watching of television programs. Lahiri writes, “Thei...
... middle of paper ...
... on TV. The Das family cannot completely associate with American culture, yet they can longer associate with Indian culture. They are floating in the middle between both cultures, and there is nowhere they truly belong.
The Das family represents the intermixing of American and Indian culture. The family displays distinct American cultural norms from their individualistic terms of respect, accent, and the Barbie doll Tina plays with. Yet, the family also displays unique Indian values such as getting married young, having an arranged marriage, and the importance of big families. Due to this dualism of partial belonging in distinct cultures, the Das family can never fully associate with a culture, which means there is nowhere that they truly belong.
Lahiri, Jhumpa. “Interpreter of Maladies.” New York: Houghton Mufflin, 2003. Print. 2 March
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