The book Interpreter of Maladies is beautifully written and portrays Lahiri as a versatile storyteller. The plot revolves around the Das family’s encounters while on a holiday tour of their native country. The novel is arguably a masterpiece, and the plot holds the reader’s attention. The story discusses crucial topics such as the risks of a lack of contact in a marriage. Notably, the reader will note that the main disagreements are chronicled on a communication failure. This story also looks at the topic of passion. Mr. Kapasi, the family’s tour driver, develops feelings for Mrs. Das. The characters used in the story also play a crucial role in the development of the plot and help the reader to understand the events of the story. As such, Interpreter of Maladies elucidates to be an immensely personal story which is eloquently written exploring the themes of marriage, love, and ethnicity along with a brilliant character development.
The family of Das tour their country of heritage and they hire Mr. Kapasi to be their driver. From Mr. Kapasi’s point of view, the family acts immature, and their conversation exposes that they do not have a good relationship. The family is also selflessly indifferent to their children. When they arrive, Mr. Das and the children get out of the car, but Mrs. Das does not and remains eating snacks. She does not offer them to anyone. Mr. and Mrs. Das inquire about Kapasi’s job, and he tells that on weekdays, he works as an interpreter in a doctor’s office. However, he notes that his wife does not like his job because he works a clinic which failed to cure their son and hence died from typhoid fever. However, the Das family love his, job and tell him that the life of many patients depends on his correct interpretation of their maladies. Later in the story, Mr. Kapasi develops romantic interests for Mrs. Das. The two have a private conversation, and Mr. Kapasi imagines a future with Mrs. Das. He pictures how they will be able to build a strong relationship. Also, Mrs. Das confines in Mr. Kapasi due to his profession, and she hopes that he will be able to interpret the feelings she has similar to what he does with the patients. “Mrs. Das goes ahead to tell Mr. Kapasi the strory of her marriage” (Gale Cengage Learning 16). Nonetheless, he expresses disappointment in her and due to this, Mrs. Das storms off. As she walks to her family, she leaves behind a trail of puffed rice and monkeys starts to follow her. The monkeys then start to attack Bobb, a son of the Das family and Mr, Kapasi quickly goes to save him.
The dangers of lack of communication is an essential theme Lahiri’s story. Communication breakdown is evident in the characters and elucidates how this is detrimental to marriage and relationships. Undoubtedly, the challenges of communication in this story make love and marriage to be complicated. Mr. Kapasi also says that he does not have a good relationship with his wife because they do not communicate to solve their problems. They have a loveless marriage. Perhaps, the problem of lack of communication is highly evident between Mr. and Mrs. Das. They do not communicate to find and solve the challenges in their marriage. According to Mr. Das, his family is entirely happy, but the reader knows that his wife is dissatisfied. She does not like the idea that her husband is spending a lot of time in the guidebook and instead of telling him, Mrs. Das decides to hide his sunglasses. Also, the parents do not find time to talk to their children and hence develop undesirable characters, and they do not listen to their parents. Notably, the inability to foster good communication frustrates the relationships in Mr. Das and Mr. Kapasi families. Evidently, the Kapasi family is trapped in a failing marriage because of the poor form of communication. Also, a reader is able to see that the Das are openly hostile to one another as there is no proper communication.
Another key theme in the story is love and the danger of romanticism. When Mrs. Das explains to Mr. Kapasi about her family life, he views her to be a lonely housewife. As a result, Mr. Kapasi develops love feelings for her and thinks that Mrs. Das would be a perfect woman for him. He wants her to help him to overcome the loneliness in his life. Similarly, Mr. Das also wants Mr. Kapasi to be a person who will help her in solving the marital problems that she faces. Mrs. Das sees him be a good father. Assimilation is also a significant theme in the story. The narrator says that “The family looked Indian but dressed as foreigners did, the children in stiff, brightly colored clothing and caps with translucent visors” (Luhiri 67). This shows assimilation of the Indian-American culture. This illustrates how the Das family is not completely Indian.
The camera is a crucial symbol in the story. The camera that Mr. Kapasi has represents his inability to see the world clearly and even engage with it. The reason behind this is because he views the world through his camera lenses and not through his eyes. Hence he ends up missing the reality surrounding his family and the marriage. The reality camera destroys the reality of life for Mr. Kapasi, and he is not able to know that Mr. Das is married but thinks that she would be the woman of her dreams. On the same note, Mr. Das uses the camera in constructing a family life which in reality does not exist. His wife depicts to be distant, and the children are also insolent and yet he tries to pose them in pictures which suggest a healthy family. The happy life which Mr. Das aspires to capture in films is purely a fabrication, but he does not seem to know. Another symbol is seen in Mrs. Das’s puffed rice which signifies the mistake that she has done through her careless actions. She does not love her husband and children the way a mother has to. She is simply caught up in the boredom of her life and does not depict to love her role as a housewife. She also eats the puffed rice alone and does not care about her family. The apathy and depression of Mrs. Das distance her from the family, and she hides a key secret that could tear the family apart. Similarly, Mrs. Das carelessly scatters the puffed rice, and this is equally symbol of how she acts without thinking about the danger that her actions could create.
Point of View
This story is told in the third person point of view. It is told by a narrator who objectively reveals the perceptions of the characters such as Mr. Kapasi. The third persona narration brings out the feelings, emotional perception and thinking of the characters. The reader gets to understand the characters more deeply and gives one an insight of how the relationships between the families fail. Notably, this third person point of view enables the narrator to go deep into the consciousness or the perspectives of the characters and thus discloses their thoughts (Noelle 452). The narrator comments on the events that are happening and vividly allow the reader to understand the storyline. The voice of third-person embodies the characters and happenings in a way that is fascinating. One understands that the Das and Kapasi family are circled in a marital problem. More importantly, the narrator discloses every little information about each character making the story to be captivating.
Character analysis and Development
In Lahiri’s story, Mrs. Das, Mr. Kapasi, and Mr. Das are the main characters that have helped in the development of the plot. The conflict in the story revolves around them, and they are involved in significant family problems. In attempts to develop his characters, Lahiri provides every detail that is important to the reader. This sheds light on the reader on how the characters transform into the story. The method that he uses gives in-depth information on all people. The reader can note that from the initial paragraph of the story Mrs. Das and Tina are not in good terms. It is also revealed that the Mr. and Mrs. Das are involved in the marital conflict. The story also evidences that Mrs. Das is a careless mother. Again, the reader gets to learn that the willful ignorance and distance that Mr. Das has torn his family apart. The children are also disrespectful, and this is seen through their behavior. For example, Ronny approaches the gate with gum and Tina plays with the car locks, and she does not stop even when asked to. The little pieces of information that describe Mrs. Das are indeed overwhelming. She is an adulterous woman and has an affair with her husband’s friend. The idea that she does not bother to share her puffed rice with her husband or even the children reveal her to be uncaring and a mean character.
Mr. Kapasi is a tour guide in the story and also works for a clinical doctor. The story elucidates that Mr. Kapasi translates the signs of Gujurati patients. It is also revealed that he dreamt of becoming an interpreter of the diplomats, but he ended up settling for doctor translator. This was fueled by the death of her son and unhappy marriage. Mr. Kapasi gets enticed by Mrs. Das after taking the Das family to see the Sun Temple of Konark. This shows that he is also adulterous and he is not faithful to her wife. Lahiri’s attempt to give specific details on every character enables him to vividly portray the true nature of the characters, and this becomes effective with the use of the third person point of view. Mr. Das, the husband of Mrs. Das, is also blind to the unhappiness of his children and wife and this leads to family problems.
Interpreter of Maladies is a story that is well written, and there is no doubt that it is incredibly captivating. The themes in this story include lack of communication in marriage and love. Symbols have also been underlining in communicating the true meaning of the story. This includes the puffed rice and the camera. The storyline is chronicled around Mr. and Mrs. Das and Mr. Kapasi, and they propel the plot. Notably, Interpreter of Maladies is a story that is enchanting and makes the reader appreciate Lahiri as an enigmatic writer.
Gale Cengage Learning. A Study Guide for Jhumpa Lahiri’s “Interpreter of Maladies.” Gale, Cengage Learning. 2009
Lahiri Jhumpa. Interpreter of Maladies. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 22 May 2000
Noelle Brada-Williams. Reading Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies as a Short Story Cycle. Mult-Ethnic Litrature of United States. 1 September 2004