Portrayal of Male Characters in Jhumpa Lahiri’s Selected Short Stories Essay Example
Portrayal of Male Characters in Jhumpa Lahiri’s Selected Short Stories Essay Example

Portrayal of Male Characters in Jhumpa Lahiri’s Selected Short Stories Essay Example

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This study analyzes the male characters in Jhumpa Lahiri’s three selected short stories. The formalistic theory chosen to dissect the texts has enable readers to be objective in their interpretation by separating the elements of theme, plot, point of view and the setting of the story. By concentrating only on the characterization factor, the characters of each of the male characters were revealed.

Using the formalistic theory, this study had objectively looked into the appearances of the characters and their relationships with wives and daughter in the stories. The main findings exposed their meticulousness in observing the female characters, at the same time, revealing the bitterness of their marriage relationship.


Background of the Study The purpose of this study is to find out how Jhumpa Lahiri portrays the male characters in three sel


ected short stories.

In a gentle manner, Lahiri lends her voice to male and female in her first book, Interpreter of Maladies, and her second compilation of short stories, Unaccustomed Earth. It is interesting how a mother of two children had taken the challenge to position herself in the shoes of male and to loan her thoughts to them in an elegant way. Calm and composed, the male characters in the three short stories are depicted as soft-spoken men who tackle conflicts one step at a time. Lahiri’s male characters are usually economical with their words.

Most of the time, they are keeping to themselves and are always on monologue mode. Readers, regardless of their gender, feel the male characters are truly revealing their emotions, speaking to them alone and very much connected to what they are experiencing at that moment. The pattern of relationship between th

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male characters and the female characters is also an aim of this study. Males would look at an issue differently, as compared to females. In this modern world, issues of failing marriage seems significant to youngsters.

Marriage frustrations, bickering, and arguments are spices in a relationship; however, it does add value to lives, depending on how we look and react to it. Scope of the Study Two books have been chosen in this study. The first book is Interpreter of Maladies and the second book is Unaccustomed Earth. Two short stories have been chosen for the analysis, namely, Interpreter of Maladies and Third and Final Continent. The other story is Unaccustomed Earth, the title story from the book itself. Research Questions This study is able answer the questions that emerged from the three selected short stories.

The questions are as stated below: 1. Who are the male characters in the study in each of the short stories? 2. What are their similarities and differences in each of the short stories? 3. To identify how Jhumpa Lahiri describes the male character’s relationship with its female characters in each of the short stories. Objective of the Study The objective of this study is to: 1. To analyze how Jhumpa Lahiri portrays the male characters in three selected short stories; and 2. To describe the relationship the male characters with the female characters in three selected short stories Summary of Chapters

The remaining parts of this paper are divided into four more chapters, specifically: |Chapter 1 |: |Introduction | |Chapter 2 |: |Discussion on Literature Review | |Chapter 3 |: |Methodology to conduct the study | |Chapter 4 |: |Analysis of

Findings | |Chapter 5 |: |Conclusion of the study and recommendations for future studies | Significance of the Study

Clearly, this study will reveal how a female author successfully portrays the male characters in the three short stories. By using formalistic theory, this approach will help to uncover some key issues that men face in their daily routines and the conflicts they encounter, with female characters surrounding them. Formalistic theory is chosen to dissect these texts because readers would be able to acknowledge the relationship between male and female, father and daughter and the husband with his wife.


Introduction Jhumpa Lahiri was born in 1967 to Bengali parents in London and grew up in Rhodes Island, America. Her father was a librarian and her mother is a teacher (Large, Jackie & Quinn, 2002).

Lahiri received a B. An in English Literature at Barnard College, and later received her M. A in English, Creative writing, and Comparative Studies in Literature and the Arts, as well as a Ph. D in Renaissance Studies from Boston University (Large, Jackie & Quinn, 2002). Interpreter of Maladies, Lahiri’s first book was published in 1999. It is a collection of nine short stories, however, seven of the stories had appeared elsewhere, in a slightly different form. ‘A Temporary Matter’ had appeared in the New Yorker, ‘When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine’ in the Louisville Review, ‘Interpreter of Maladies’ in the Agni Review, ‘A Real Durwan’ in Harvard Review, ‘Mrs.

Sen’s in the Salamander, ‘This Blessed House’ in Epoch and ‘The Treatment of Bibi Haldar’ in Story Quarterly. (Lahiri, 1999). The second publication, which was a novel, The Namesake spent several weeks on the New

York Times bestseller list. In addition to receiving the 2000 Pulitzer Prize, Lahiri had also received a PEN/Hemingway Award, an O. Henry Award, The New Yorker’s best debut of the year award, and an Addison Metcalf award from the American academy of arts and letters. The writer’s books have also been recognized as the New York Times Notable Book, Publishers Weekly Best Books of the Year, a New England book show selection, Los Angeles Times best book and Los Angeles Times book prize finalist (Large, Jackie & Quinn, 2002).

Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies tells stories of different South Asian diaspora communities (Hogskolan Dalarna, 2004). Much of her story’s themes are about the survival of Indian-American, specifically Bengalis. More often that not, her fictional characters left for other continent to establish themselves at a foreign land, only to find their heart and identities bounces back and forth to India. Indian foods were fondly depicted in Lahiri’s stories. Egg curry, Darjeeling tea and dipping biscuits in their drinks appeared simultaneously in Third and Final Continent and When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine. These are significant items in her fictions that will highlight their sense of belongings to India. Bengali language also appeared in Unaccustomed Earth.

The male character had taught Akash, his grandson “lal” which means “red” and “neel” for the sky (Lahiri, 2008, 45). To add, the female characters wear sari despite the fact the weather in America. In the story Third and Final Continent, Mala was wearing a clean silk sari when her husband wanted to take her for a walk. Mrs. Sen too wore a sari in the story Mrs. Sen’s. Despite the fact that

she is only a housewife, she wore a shimmering white sari patterned with orange paisleys, more suitable for an evening affair than for a quiet, faintly drizzling afternoon (Lahiri, 1999, 112). In short, even though they had left their homeland for decades, India is still close to them.

In each of Lahiri’s stories, she illustrates characters in ordinary situations, so that readers could easily picture themselves in the character’s positions. Her range of both talent and imaginations are broad, however, she still brings the readers to a focus. She carries the capability of painting her male and female characters in a balanced way, without leaning to any genders. For instance, out of nine stories in the Interpreter of Maladies, she had appointed females as her protagonist in three stories, namely, A Real Durwan, Sexy and Mrs. Sen’s. On the other hand, A Temporary Matter, This Blessed House and Third and Final Continent had a male’s voice throughout the story.

Readers could naturally sense the writer’s strong belief in family relationship. Her compilation of short stories discusses on the point of view of young children, adults, parents and even a hundred-year-old landlady. In the short story When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine, Lahiri radiantly depict how a young girl, Lilia, looks at her parent’s relationship with their Bengali friend who had converted to Muslim. Although there is a gap in their religious practice, sincere bonding seized every single difference between them. Lilia even prays for Mr. Pirzada’s family who lived in Pakistan. On each night, her parents would enjoy long, leisurely meals.

From her room, she could hear them as they drank more tea, and listened to cassettes of

Kishore Kumar, played scrabble on the coffee table, laughing and arguing long into the night about the spelling of English words (Lahiri, 2008, 34). The short stories were chosen because I am amazed at how Lahiri is very much fond of giving details in each of her characters. She carefully builds up her characters until it seems the person in standing right in front of me. This is important in order for me to follow their movements. Also, the minute details of the characters will help me to imagine their looks. For example, in the short story A Temporary Matter, Shoba is a thirty-three-year-old lady who goes to gymnasium regularly.

Her husband, Shukumar would put her details that can be found on page 1. As he described it, “she wore navy blue poplin raincoat over gray sweatpants and white sneakers. Her cranberry lipstick was visible only on the outer reaches of her mouth, and her eyeliner had left charcoal patches beneath her lower lashes”. (Lahiri, 1999, 1). Her description of a lady who just came back from the gym was accurate and precise. In addition, she also describes Shoba’s mother. In observing her, “she was a religious woman, being polite to Shukumar without being friendly. She folds her sweaters with expertise she had learned from her job in a department store.

She replaced a missing button on his winter coat and knit him a beige and brown scarf, presenting it to him without the least bit of ceremony, as if he had only dropped it and hadn’t noticed”. (Lahiri, 2008, 9). The conflicts between husband and wife also interest me. Again, Lahiri presented the bitterness and challenges

in relationships in a quiet manner. There was no brutal argument that leads to sulking and anger. She had injected extreme patients in the characters but full with emotions. The presence of anger and disappointments did materialize, but as the story flows, the feelings slowly disappear as Lahiri brilliantly inserted her reasoning. Synopsis of Three Selected Stories Interpreter of Maladies This story is about Mr. Kapasi, who was assigned to take the Das family to the Sun Temple in Konarak, India.

During the tour, he noticed the signs of marriage disappointments nested between Raj and Mina. Upon understanding the nature of Mr. Kapasi’s full time interpreting occupation, Mina revealed her extra marital affair with Raj’s friend until Bobby, their second was born. She kept that as a secret and now that she learnt Mr. Kapasi could interpret illness, she demanded him to translate the illness she had been enduring. He declined her request because he only interprets tangible illness, not guilt. Third and Final Continent This story discusses the student’s survival in countries, specifically United Kingdom and United States of America. It was about adjusting and conforming to the European and American culture.

Back then, marriages were arranged by parents or older siblings and the men had to fly back to India to tie the knot. His wife, Mala was ignored at first, but the stiff bonding became softer when he felt sympathetic towards her. Together they build a family and became the permanent residence of America. He was proud that he could overcome all obstacles that he faced in three continents and hoped his son would instill powerful spirits within him. Unaccustomed Earth A widowed man

spends his retiring age by traveling to European countries. Throughout the stay both the father and daughter had several misunderstandings and keep reminiscing the days when his wife was alive.

His daughter was obsessed to the fact she had to care for her aging father. We see a man who worked hard to provide a life but was not appreciated. So near, yet so far, they were separated by bitter memories of the past. The gap between them was huge that he did not want to prolong his stay in Brooklyn. Portrayed were signs of failing relationship of a husband and a father.


This chapter presents the methodology that had been used in analyzing data. In dissecting the three selected short stories by Jhumpa Lahiri, the Formalistic Theory was chosen because it allows readers to focus on only one aspect of the theory, which is the analyzing of characters aspect.

Discussions on theme, plot, point of view and setting of the stories will only be covered in general. Formalistic Approach The formalistic theory was founded by John Crowe Ransom, Allen Tate, I. A Richards and T. S. Elliot (Guerin, Labor, Morgan, Reesman and Willingham, 1999). According to them, formalistic theory is more involved in the analysis of form, the structure of a literary piece and its use of language, than in the content. This theory started to flourish in the early twentieth century by suggesting the “close reading” technique. It seeks to bring readers’ attention back to the literature itself and shove it away from history, sociology, cultural or literary influences and authors’ intentions (Guerin et al. 1999).

Formalists seek to be objective in their analysis, focusing on the

work itself and eschewing external considerations (Murfin and Ray, 1997). It is not interested in whether the author’s background stories are reflected in the literary piece. Simply, this theory means readers do not have to concern what lies beyond a literature piece. The formalistic theory emphasizes on theme, plot, characteristics, language, setting and point of view analysis (Mana Sikana, 1982). All these devices are necessary in order to see a literature piece has its own values. In talking about the content, it comprises of theme, conflict or philosophy. The content must complement the form, as the form compliments the content.

We may use a structured way to analyse a text, separating the form from its content (Mana Sikana, 1982). Nevertheless, no matter how independent a text can be, a good judgment to a text should touch on diverse features of the text. Firstly, it recommends looking at the theme of a story. A theme is the meaning of the story, issues that readers should identify as the central idea. It can occur as a conflict of ethics or principles. Themes are divided into two categories, the main theme and the secondary theme. It is the responsibility of a critic to disclose how the author applies these two fundamentals in a text. Some authors position themes in a very glaring way, hich enables audience to recount themselves to the story. Audience extracts themes from the characters, through their body language, verbal and physical actions that occurred throughout the story. After looking at the theme, this theory discusses the story plot. A plot is how the story flows, in other words, the actions that take place. For instance,

if an author writes, “ The villain died and then his lover died,” there is no plot for a story. Instead, it can be stated as, “ The villain died and then his lover died of extreme misery,” the author has established a plot line for the story. The best example could be seen in Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights novel (1939).

After Catherine had married Edgar Linton, Heathcliff couldn’t clinch to the fact that his childhood lover had rejected his love. He grew more rebellious, revengeful and hated almost everybody around him. Plot draws readers’ attention into the characters’ lives and steer them in understanding the preferences of the characters. In looking at a plot, Gustav Freytag, a German novelist saw common patterns occurred in stories and developed a simple pyramid to analyse stories. The 19th century icon schemed a story’s plot using a pyramid that contains three major items – the exposition, conflict, climax and the falling action. The pyramid is shown in Figure 1: [pic] Figure 1: Source: Technique of the Drama: An Exposition of Dramatic Composition and Art (1863)

The first item in the pyramid is the setting of the scene or also known as “exposition”. At this stage, the writer introduces the characters and setting of the story with descriptions of its backgrounds. Then, Gustav recommends the “rising action”. Here, the author slowly builds up the story, piece by piece and creates excitement. As the story climbs up, it reaches to its highest point, known as climax. This phase proposes the greatest tension in the story. The “falling action” takes place as a result of the climax. Events and conflicts that appear in

the text would begin to resolve themselves. Readers would be able to sense that the story will soon end. After that comes the “resolution” phase.

At this point, characters in the story solve their conflicts or the main problem they face, or sometimes other characters answer the problem on their behalf. Gustav then used a French term – “denouement”, that provides the final outcome or the aftermath of the previous events in the story. In short, it un-knots the conflicts that occurred. The third element in this theory is the discussions on characterizations. Characters are items that would make the themes and plots progress and grow alive. Without characters, the movements of plots and themes would not be comprehended. In presenting characters, the author determines whether the character is dynamic or static.

Dynamic or round characters mature throughout the whole story, they experience change and deal with conflicts throughout their lives. A good example would be from the play – “A Doll’s House” by Hendrik Ibsen (1879). Nora, the main character grew from being docile and submissive to being a stronger and liberated lady. A static character remains as it is or even disappears shortly after a story starts. For instance, Ernest Hemingway’s old, deaf man in the short story, “Clean, Well-Lighted Place” (1926). The eighty-year-old man would sit at the same spot every night, having the same type of drink. Hemingway did not even name him, giving cues that he will not develop or cause effects to its readers.

However, the people who surrounded him, the two waiters who entertained him every night were greatly affected by his presence. Hemingway ended the old man’s character during the

rising action, leaving the two men with continuous arguments. It is crucial that we first imagine how the characters look like. Some authors do not describe this item in detail; however, it is useful for readers to picture their appearance. This is significant, especially when, for instance, the author tells us that the main character is always in her crisp uniform. The first thing that would trigger our mind is the character has a profession within a public or private sector. It would different if the author depicts her characters as wearing shabby clothes.

For this reason, we would imagine the characters are self-employed. Next is the deliberation on point of view. Readers need to acknowledge who is narrating the story. If the person is applying the third point of view, this mean the narrator of the story does not participate in the action of the story as one of the characters, but, he or she lets us know exactly how the characters are thinking or feeling. On the other hand, when the author is using the first point of view, the narrator does participate in the actions of the story. First person point of view is very reader-friendly. We can feel in intimacy because the character confesses issues that could not be shared with their best friends or parents.

An example can be seen in Franz Kafka’s Letter to His Father (Kaiser and Wilkins, 1954). He used “I” when writing to his father, expressing his frustrations, tortures, and the emotional agonies he had suffered following his father’s treatment towards him. Kafka confided to his father, however, by applying the first point of view narration, readers feel

as if they are writing the letter and they understand the prolonged miseries. However, when the author utilizes the first person point of view, we need to realize that what the narrator is telling might not be the whole truth. We can question the trustworthiness or whether the narrator is portraying the objective fact (Lamarque, 1996).

Subsequently, the most common choice many authors would pick to narrate their stories is the third person point of view. It uses the third person pronoun such as “he”, “she” and “they” to recite the story. A clear example is evident in the story The Necklace, by Guy de Maupassant (1907). He opened his short story by using the word “she”, who is Mathilde Loisel, the main character in the story. Setting plays an important role in the success of stories. The time and location in which a story takes place is important in order to examine how it contributes to a tale. Readers need to realize the background of a place, including the mood or the atmosphere the writer is trying to illustrate.

For instance in Little Women (1871) all the ladies are wearing traditional gowns, with long sleeves and covered necks. The games they played at limited to homebound games only. Women at that era did not go out if not accompanied by men. As for the vehicles they used at that time, only horse carts were seen as not many cars were invented yet. Similarly, we see modern items such as computers, mobile phones, and the Internet in modern stories setting. Those are believable equipment with the intention that readers could clearly picture the characters’ movement and match

it with their surroundings. Whether the location really exists or fictitious, characters mingle with the setting to show and narrate a story.

In order to study the three selected short stories, I am looking at the similarities and differences in each of the male characters in the stories. Reading the stories is the first step in this study. Next, I put more focus on the fine points of each of the male characters. Since it has been Lahiri’s trend to describe the characters in minute detail, it is significant that this value be highlighted. The second step is to explore on the relationship between the each of the male characters with their female characters. The male characters in the three short stories do not talk much as compared to the females. Normally, they are quiet characters that would observe their female characters and their surroundings. All these elements are crucial in using the formalistic theory.

As stated earlier, only the aspect of characterization will be discussed in this study. By applying the “close reading” approach in examining the three selected short stories, readers are able to realize a significant pattern in Lahiri’s male characters in each of the selected short stories.


The objective of this chapter is to present the findings on the three male characters in three different short stories by Jhumpa Lahiri using the Formalistic Approach. This study only focuses on the male characters in the three short stories using the Formalistic Approach.

The first character is Mr. Kapasi in Interpreter of Maladies, followed by the student in the Third and Final Continent and the father in the Unaccustomed Earth. The first part of this chapter analyzed

the character of Mr. Kapasi, the male character in the Interpreter of Maladies. The character as an observer The character is a meticulous observer. First, he observed Mina Das. He looked at her “shaved, largely bare legs”. (Lahiri, 1999, 43). Then, he described her appearance. According to him, “she wore a red-and-white checkered skirt that stopped above her knees, slip-on shoes with a square wooden heel, and a fitting blouse styled like a man’s undershirt.

The blouse was decorated at chest-level with a calico applique in the shape of strawberry. She was a short woman, with small hands like paws, her frosty pink fingernails painted to match her lips, and was slightly plump in her figure. Her hair, shorn only a little longer than her husband’s, was parted far to one side. She was wearing large dark brown sunglasses with a pinkish tint to them and carried a big straw bag, almost as big as her torso, shaped like a bowl, with water bottle poking out of it. She walked slowly, carrying some puffed rice tossed with peanuts and chili peppers in a large packet made from newspapers” (Lahiri, 1999,46). Next, he introduced Raj Das.

He is “a clean-shaven man who was wearing a sapphire blue visor, and was dressed in shorts, sneakers, and a T-shirt. When he shakes hand with Mr. Kapasi, he squeezed hands like Americans did. His voice, somehow tentative and a little shrill, sounded as if it had not reached maturity (Lahiri, 1999, 44). In observing Mr. and Mrs. Das’s appearance, in his opinion, “they were very young, perhaps not even thirty (Lahiri,1999, 43). Also, he looked at their behavior. They “behaved like

an older brother and sister, not parents. It seemed like they were to take care of their children for that day only” (Lahiri, 1999, 49). Relationship with wife Mr. Kapasi is a forty six year old Bengali man with receding silver hairs.

With butterscotch complexion and “unlined brow, he looked younger than his age because he used to dab his brow with lotus-oil balm. On that day, he was wearing gray trousers and a matching jacket-style shirt, tapered at the waist with short sleeves and a large pointed collar” (Lahiri, 1999, 45). Living in Puri, India, the male character works as an interpreter at a Gujaratian clinic. The doctor doesn’t speak Gujarati, therefore, Mr. Kapasi was hired due to his ability to converse in that language. On weekend, he is a tourist guide (Lahiri, 1999, 50). He had been a part time tourist guide for five years (Lahiri, 1999, 46). The character was married, however, his wife’s name was not mentioned throughout the story.

This is evident in page 52 when he said, “he knew it reminded her of the son she’d lost” (Lahiri, 1999, 52). The exact number of children he had was not stated. Mr. Kapasi had a sour relationship with his nameless wife. It was stated that Mr. Kapasi knew that his wife had little regard for his career as an interpreter. Furthermore, his full time occupation had reminded her of the death of their seven-year-old son to typhoid. Before being a full time interpreter, he was a teacher at a grammar school. In order to pay for the medical expenses, he took up the interpreting job. Sadly, the boy died “in his mother’s

arms, his limbs burning with fever” (Lahiri, 1999, 52).

To add, if she would have to refer to his occupation, she would label it as a “doctor’s assistant, as if the process of interpretation were equal to taking someone’s temperature, or changing a bedpan. She never asked him about the patients who came to the doctor’s office. Besides, she resented the patients’ lives he had helped in his own way” (Lahiri, 53). Another issue that showed that he had a bitter relationship with his wife was when he dreads the thought that the tour to the Sun Temple would end. Usually, he would “race back to Puri, excited to return home, clean himself and enjoy the evening newspaper and a cup of tea that his wife would serve him in silence” (Lahiri, 1999, 60). Even though Mr.

Kapasi had already immune to such stillness, it saddened him even more. He also talked about his sex experience. He recalled how he had never seen “his wife fully naked”. Whenever they made love, she would “be wearing her underskirt and keeps the panels of her blouse hooked together”(Lahiri, 1999, 58). Mr. Kapasi had also given a clue that he was discontented with his marriage. He witnessed Mr. and Mrs. Das’s “bickering, the indifference and the protracted silence (Lahiri, 1999, 53). Upon observing the unpleasant scenes, he revealed that those were the signs of his own marriage. The female character affects the male characters Mr. Kapasi’s character was affected by the presence of Mrs. Mina Das.

She is one of his tourists who go on tour to Konarak. At the beginning of the story, Mina did not pay any attention to

Mr. Kapasi. During the car ride to Konarak, she “sat a bit slouched at one end of the back seat”, enjoying her puffed rice all by herself (Lahiri, 1999, 47). Then, she occupied herself by polishing her nails (Lahiri, 1999, 48). The protagonist shared with them about his full-time occupation. He told them briefly that his task is to interpret patient’s illness to the doctor who does not understand Gujarati. Interestingly, Mina found his job “romantic”. “She lifted her pinkish-brown sunglasses and arranged them on top of her head like a tiara.

At this point, their eyes met in the rearview mirror” (Lahiri, 1999, 50). She then offered Mr. Kapasi a piece of gum as a sign she wants to befriend him. He adhered to Mina’s request that he tell them more about his occupation. Gladly, he explained about a man who came to the clinic “with a pain in his throat”. He complained that it felt as if there were “long pieces of straw stuck in his throat” (Lahiri, 1999, 50). The doctor was able to recommend the proper medication after listening to Mr. Kapasi’s interpretation. Mina considered he shoulder a big responsibility because both the doctor and patient are totally dependent on him. He agreed, but only said “yes” after hesitating for a while.

Mina’s praises towards his jobs made him realize his intellectual abilities because he was able to converse in more than one language. Besides English, he could communicate fluently in French, Russian, Portuguese, Italian, Hindi, Bengali, Orissi and Gujarati. With this talent, “he had dreamed to be an interpreter for diplomats and dignitaries, resolving conflicts between people and nations”(Lahiri, 1999, 52). Moreover,

Mina Das had requested for his home address so that she could send copies of their photographs. However, Mr. Kapasi had wrongly interpreted her request by fantasizing that Mina would write to him, first in a casual manner, finally she would reveal her frustrations of her marriage. By doing this, he trust, their friendship “would grow and flourish.

As he was imagining this, he experienced a pleasing surprise that was similar to the feeling when he succeeded in translating a passage from a French novel or an Italian sonnet on his own” (Lahiri, 1999, 54). Mr. Kapasi keeps on fantasizing about Mina. The thought of writing to each other after knowing his address was safe in her straw bag, delights him even more. When he imagined Mina living far way, “he tumbled, until he felt the urge to hug her, in an embrace observed by the Surya, his favorite sun god” (Lahiri, 1999, 58). Also, he contemplated in telling Mina that she had a “pleasing smile or compliments her strawberry shirt, or perhaps, when Raj was not looking, Mr. Kapasi would take Mina’s hand” (Lahiri, 1999,60).

In order to spend more time with Mina, he suggested that they visit the hills at Udayagiri and Khandagiri. Raj and his children were excited to explore the hills but Mina chose to be in the car with Mr. Kapasi. Before long, Mina revealed the secret that she had kept for eight years. It was her extra marital affair with Raj’s friend. Unexpectedly, she wanted Mr. Kapasi to interpret her pain and why she had the urge to throw her belongings, including her children out the window. She assumed Mr. Kapasi

could interpret the torture she has been enduring for eight years. Mina expressed that she thought it was his job to at least offer an opinion to her illness. Despite the fact that Mina now needs his expertise, he stayed calm.

Acquiring eight languages and capable of interpreting patient’s maladies do not mean he could ease her agony by prescribing some medication. This request had insulted him. It was frustrating to learn that Mina had looked down on his intellectual abilities. Nonetheless, he realized it was his responsibility to help Mina. He contemplated for a while whether he should advise her to tell the truth by explaining that “honesty is the best policy or he would offer to chair a discussion. Offhandedly, he asked, “is it really pain you feel, Mrs. Das, or is it guilt? ” (Lahiri, 1999, 66). Mina was stricken by Mr. Kapasi’s blunt reply. She glared at him, trying to say something but she stopped and left the car.

He was crushed by Mina’s reaction, “he knew that he was not important enough to be properly insulted” (Lahiri, 1999, 66). The second part of this chapter presents the findings on the character of the student in the story Third and Final Continent. The character as an observer The student in this story is a detailed observer. This is evident on page 177 of the story when he detailed the appearance of Mrs. Croft, his landlady. “She is a tiny, extremely, old woman who was wearing along black skirt that spread like a stiff tent on the floor, and a starched white shirt edged with ruffles at the throat and cuffs. Her hands, folded

together in her lap. Had long pallid fingers, with swollen knuckles and tough yellow nails.

She looked like a man, with sharp, shrunken eyes. Her lips, chapped and faded, had nearly disappeared, and her eyebrows were missing altogether. According to the student, the lady looked fierce” (Lahiri, 1999,178). Secondly, he described the lady’s house. “There was a round table with its legs fully concealed. A lamp, a transistor radio, a leather change purse and a telephone were placed on the table. A thick, wooden cane coated with a layer of dust was propped against one side. On his right was a parlor, lined with bookcases and filled with shabby claw-footed furniture. In addition, there was a grand piano with its top down, piled with papers” (Lahiri, 1999, 178).

After the landlady commanded that he see the room he wanted to rent, he illustrated his room he was going to stay for the next six weeks. “It contained a twin bed under a sloping ceiling, a brown oval rug, a basin with an exposed pipe, and a chest of drawers. One door, painted white, led to a closet, another to a toilet and a tub. The walls were covered with gray and ivory striped paper. The window was open; net curtains stirred in the breeze. At the back yard, there were few fruit trees and empty clotheslines” (Lahiri, 1999, 180). The student also described Helen, Mrs. Croft’s daughter. Helen “was short and thick-waisted, with cropped silver hair and bright pink lipstick.

She wore a sleeveless summer dress, a row of white plastic beads, and spectacles on a chain that hung like a swing against her chest. The back of

her legs were mapped with dark blue veins, and her upper arms sagged like the flesh of a roasted eggplant” (Lahiri, 1999, 184). Relationship with wife By applying the “close reading” technique, it was detected that the author did not portray and discuss on the student’s physical appearance. We only know that he is thirty six year old Bengali man who works at Dewey library, at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He lived in three countries, namely India, United Kingdom and United States of America. The character migrated to United Kingdom to look for better job prospects.

The support for this claim can be noticed in the first paragraph of the story. “I left India in 1964 with a certificate in commerce and the equivalent, in those days, of ten dollars to my name. For three weeks, I sale on the SS Roma, an Italian cargo vessel, in a third-class cabin next to the ship’s engine, across the Arabian Sea, the Red Sea, the Mediterranean, and finally to England. I lived in North London, in Finsbury Park, in a house occupied entirely by penniless Bengali bachelors like myself, at least a dozen and sometimes more, all struggling to educate and establish ourselves abroad” (Lahiri, 1999, 173). The male character is married to Mala.

His marriage was arranged by his brother and sister in law who lived in India. He had a son. The student’s relationship with his wife was bitter at first. As it was an arranged marriage, he was not enthusiastic about the idea, but did not decline because he knew it was a duty expected of every man. In the story, the twenty seven year old

Mala was not pictured as a beautiful lady. Although she could cook, knit, embroider, sketch landscape and recite Tagore’s poems, many men had rejected her. In order to save her from spinsterhood, her parents were willing to Mala halfway across the world. (Lahiri, 1999, 181). For five nights they did not embrace each other.

Every night, after doing her hair, Mala would turn from him and cry because, he assume, she missed her parents. The student did nothing to comfort her, instead, he read his guidebook by using flashlight and anticipating his travel. When Mala’s passport and green card were ready, the student received a telegram from her with her flight information (Lahiri, 1999, 189). In her letter, there was no salutation line, she addressed her husband by name, showing that both of them had not discovered any newlywed intimacies. Clearly, he was not touched by Mala’s short letter. Not able to remember how exactly she looked like, he considered her arrival was inevitable, as the arrival of days and months. The female character affects the male character

The student’s coldness towards Mala had decreased after a few days of receiving her letter. During his walk to work in the morning, he saw an Indian lady with a free end of her sari nearly dragging “on the footpath” (Lahiri, 1999, 190). A small black dog suddenly came barking, seizing the end of her sari between its teeth. He realized that to welcome and take care of Mala were now his obligations. He was not responsible to buy her first pair of snow boots and winter coat. He would also caution her on the streets to avoid and

tell her not to let the free end of her sari drag on the footpath. Upon Mala’s arrival at the airport, however, did not witness any embrace of a newlywed couple.

The only question was about the meal she had on the flight. At home, they only exchanged a few words in a reserved manner. However, after one week, the student and Mala were still stranger to each other. After dinner, he would bury his nose in the newspaper while Mala sat at the kitchen table, knitting a cardigan for herself or writing letter to her homeland. On Friday, the student took Mala for a walk down Massachusetts Avenue. They stopped by Mrs. Croft’s house to visit her and to show Mala the house he had lived in before her arrival. The old lady wanted him to shout “splendid” when she told him that she called the police after falling from the bench. When Mala heard the scream, she laughed.

It was the first time the student heard her laughter, with her eyes bright with delight. Mrs. Croft was stunned and ordered her to rise from the bench to observe her. Upon seeing her wife standing, adjusting the free end of her sari over her head and holding it to her chest, for the first time, he felt sympathy (Lahiri, 1999, 195). This was the point that he recalled his trying days of adjusting his life in London. He realized that Mala was truly depending on him, she had travelled thousands of miles away from India, leaving her family and relatives, just to be his wife. Strangely, he knew that one day, her death would affect him

as much as his death would affect her. The incident at Mrs.

Croft’s residence was the turning point of the student and Mala’s lives. The months that followed were a honeymoon for them. They learn to “embrace each other, kissed and discovered comfort in each other’s arms” (Lahiri, 1999, 196). The final part of this chapter discusses the character of the father in Unaccustomed Earth. The character as an observer The male character is a comprehensive observer. First, he observed and described Meenakshi or fondly known as Mrs. Bagchi. She was his friend whom he befriended during one of his European tours. He guessed she was probably almost sixty years old. “She wore Western clothing, cardigan and black pull-on slacks and styled her thick dark hair in a bun.

It was her voice that appealed to him most, well modulated and her words were always measured” (Lahiri, 2008, 9). Next, he portrayed his daughter, Ruma. “He felt that her appearance had changed, she resembled his late wife so vividly”. She looked older, with gray hair at her temples, twisted with an expandable band into a loose knot. “She had identical shape and shade of the eyes like her mother, and the dimple on the left side when they smiled” (Lahiri, 2008, 27) Relationship with his wife The male character in this story is a seventy-year-old Bengali man. At that age, he is pictured as having plentiful gray hairs, looked like an American with clear skin on hands and face.

On the day of his visit to Ruma’s house, he was “wearing a baseball cap, brown cotton pants and a sky-blue polo shirt and a pair white leather sneakers”

(Lahiri, 2008, 11). The character, whjo were named as “father” had retired from a pharmaceutical company after working for many decades. (Lahiri, 2008, 3). As he was living alone, he moved to a one-bedroom condominium in Pennsylvania, America. In this story, no reason was stated as of why the character had migrated to America. Having to children, Roma and Ruma, his wife had died to in a surgery due to heart failure. When his wife was alive, their relationship was bitter. This can be identified when he compared Mrs. Bagshi’s relationship with her late husband with his late wife of forty years. According to him, Mrs. Bagshi had “loved er husband of two years more than he had loved his wife of nearly forty years” (Lahiri, 2008, 30). Also, he was not present when his wife died. He was enjoying a cup of tea and reading a magazine at the hospital cafeteria. However, he did not experience any guilt. The second evidence could be found when he was contemplating whether to share with Ruma about his relationship with Mrs. Bagshi. He found it was hard to tell Ruma as it reminded him of her allies with her late wife. While he willingly tolerated Ruma’s resentments, he also endured his late wife’s overly demanding attitudes and unwilling to value the life he’d worked hard to provide. (Lahiri, 2008, 40). The female character affects the male character

The character was not affected by Ruma’s presence, his daughter in the story. He had planned to spend a week at Ruma’s residence before leaving for Prague. Ruma had misunderstood his intention and felt uneasy if the one-week stay was a

clue that she should be taking care of him for the rest of his life after her mother’s death. Visiting to attractive places did not fill the one-week stay. Ruma suggested visiting the Space Needle, Pike Place Market and aquarium along its waterfront. They could also spend time on ferry rides to Puget Sound and go to Victoria for the day or visit the Boeing factory. However, he was not interested in visiting those places and wanted a rest from all that.

The father filled his time mostly with Akash, his five-year-old grandson. He taped Akash’s swimming actions continuously, in a manner that Ruma and Romi had not had the pleasure of that sort when they were smaller. It was their mother who would sit by the pool, watching both children climbed the ladder then plunged off the high diving board. Her father had never taught Romi play baseball and had not taken them to learn skating on the pond. Ruma had talked to Adam, her husband arguing whether her father’s stay would be prolonged. On the other hand, her father, most of the time was outside the house, harboring his passion for gardening with Akash playing in his inflatable kiddie pool.

Ruma and his father were in their own world. They spent time together but the passion of a father and daughter being together could not be found. He was looking forward to spend his time in Prague with Mrs. Bagshi. On the last day of his visit, Ruma tried to make her father stay with them forever. She said that with tears in her eyes but her father did not comfort her. “He stood still,

waiting for the moment to pass” (Lahiri, 2008, 52). He knew that it was not for his sake that his daughter was asking him to live there. It was for hers. “He did not want to live in the margins of his daughter’s life, in the shadow of her marriage” (Lahiri, 2008, 53).

Discussion on Findings The findings as stated in this chapter throw some light on the understanding of the male characters in Jhumpa Lahiri’s short stories. Based on the findings, we can detect similarities and differences in the protagonist’s characteristics. The similarities and differences of characters are listed below: Each of the male characters in the selected short stories is Bengali man. Lahiri had related her roots to each of the male characters even though the formalistic theory does not require her background to be studied. By applying “close reading technique”, it was found that Mr. Kapasi dressed smartly because of his nature of work.

He meets people every day at the clinic, thus, it is important for him to be presentable in front of his patients. Moreover, his part time work as a tourist guide, too, needs him to portray a good image while he was on duty. The two stated facts mean it is compulsory for him to be conscious of his appearance. Nevertheless, the father character in the Unaccustomed Earth still dressed smartly even though he had retired. After working in a pharmaceutical company for many decades, he is still conscious of his appearance. In depicting the student’s character in Third and Final Continent, Lahiri did not narrate how he looks like because he works in a library and his nature of

work does not require him to meet people.

In short, two of the male characters are mindful on their appearance due to their nature of work. In terms of age, each of the male characters is above thirty-five years old. Mr. Kapasi in Interpreter of Maladies is forty-six years old. At that age, he is still capable to do two jobs in a week. The youngest character is the student in Third and Final Continent, who is thirty-six years old. As he is the still young, he travels the most, from India to London and finally to America. The male character in Unaccustomed Earth, who is seventy years old, only travels to European countries after he had retired. Each of the male characters in Lahiri’s stories has permanent occupations. Only Mr.

Kapasi, the character in the Interpreter of Maladies had two occupations. Permanent occupations are important because each of the characters has a family, which means they are the breadwinners in the family. The first character, Mr. Kapasi lived in India. Ironically, although he had never been to other countries, he acquired four foreign languages and four local languages. He does not apply those foreign languages into his job but it was his long time passion to be able to be an interpreter of languages. The second character in Third and Final Continent stayed in India, the United Kingdom and finally America. He did not further his studies but worked in a library at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

As for the father in Unaccustomed Earth, Lahiri stated that he lived in a one-bedroom apartment in Pennsylvania, America. Mr. Kapasi did not migrate to other countries. Having a

number of children and high medical bills to pay for, he only resorted to doing two jobs in a week. The idea of migrating to other countries did not occur to him throughout the story. The student in the Third and Final Continent had first migrated to United Kingdom in 1964, then to America. As for the male character in Unaccustomed Earth, the author did not tell us why he migrated to America. From the three stories, it was clear that each of the male characters are meticulous observers. Each of the male characters observes and describes their female characters in great detail.

They observe their physical appearances and background. They know their emotions and anticipate their movements. Only the male character’s wife in the Third and Final Continent has a name. This is interesting because he realized how important it is for him to care for and protect her. The case is different in Interpreter of Maladies and Unaccustomed Earth. Both wives were nameless because there was no evidence that they are happy with their wives. Each of the male characters in the three short stories has a son. However, Mr. Kapasi’s son died of typhoid fever. The student’s son was mentioned towards the end of the story that he is a Harvard student.

Occasionally, he would be reminded of his Bengali roots and still eats with his hands. The father’s son in Unaccustomed Earth, Roma, lived in New Zealand. He only appeared in Rumi’s monologue when she was recounting their childhood days. Each of the male characters in Lahiri’s stories had bitter relationship with their wives. They did not bicker openly but we could depict

their dissatisfactions through their monologues. Mr. Kapasi in Interpreter of Maladies and the father in Unaccustomed Earth bitter relationship were clearly stated. As Mr. Kapasi was not happy with his wife, he was drowning in his fantasies with Mina. Coincidently, Mina was fascinated by Mr.

Kapasi’s interpreting job because she had been keeping her sin of sleeping with another man and their illegitimate child. Similarly, the father in Unaccustomed earth tried to fill the gap of a wife’s role by dating a Bengali women, Mrs. Bagshi. It was discovered that the presence of female characters had affected the each of the male characters in the Interpreter of Maladies and Third and Final Continent. Mr. Kapasi fantasized about Mina and recalled his long forgotten dream to be an interpreter. He was not aware of Mina’s true intention until she requested him to suggest a remedy for her sin. Although he was on his part time occupation, his interpreting job had left an impact to him. It was also his main first job that had left his wife discontented.


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