Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
In Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri we have the theme of responsibility, connection, conflict, redemption and loneliness. Taken from her collection of the same name it becomes clear to the reader from the beginning of the story that Lahiri may be exploring the theme of responsibility. Neither Raj nor Mina wish to take Tina to the toilet. It is as though they do not wish to be responsible for the situation they find themselves in. With Raj suggesting to Mina that he bathed Tina the night before and as such it was Mina’s turn to do something for Tina. Also Raj does not wish to take responsibility when Ronny leads his way to pet a goat, preferring instead to stretch his legs while he is outside of the car. This may be significant as Raj and Mina are very young. Mina is only twenty-eight and Raj is probably of at the same age. Responsibility may not be something that they are overly concerned about. Though they should be as parents to young children.
The theme of loneliness is also evident in the story. Mr Kapasi is married to a woman who does not love him. If anything he sees Mina as an opportunity for happiness. Allowing for his mind to race and become first pen pals with Mina and then lovers. This is significant as Mina does not display or show any real romantic interest in Mr. Kapasi. She may think his job as an interpreter is romantic but that is as far as it goes. So fast is Mr. Kapasi’s mind racing that he thinks, when he gives Mina his address, that it will take six weeks for her letter to reach him. It is as though he has everything planned. He is prepared to cheat or leave his wife in order to start a one-sided relationship with Mina. If anything Mr. Kapasi believes he has made a connection with Mina.
There may also be some symbolism in the story which might be important. The fact that Mina does not offer any of her puffed rice to her family suggests she is thinking only of herself and acting selfishly. Though it is noticeable that later in the story when she is alone with Mr. Kapasi, she does offer him some rice. There is a sort of redemption now that Mina has told Mr. Kapasi that Bobby is not Raj’s son. She has gotten the guilt off her chest by telling a complete stranger her biggest secret. The monkeys are also important as they could represent conflict both internal and external. The internal conflict is the feelings that Mina has about Raj thinking Bobby is his son. While the external conflict is when Bobby is attacked by the monkeys.
The end of the story is interesting as Mina appears to have a moment of realization after Bobby is attacked. Where previously she told Mr. Kapasi that she wanted to throw everything in her life away. She now lovingly combs Bobby’s hair. This along with the bandage that Mina places on Bobby’s knee are the only time that Mina shows any of her children affection or love. The fact that the piece of paper that contained Mr. Kapasi’s address is blown out the car window is also important. Mr. Kapasi knows that he will never see the Das’ again. So he holds on to the image of Mina combing Bobby’s hair. A sight that is pleasing to Mr. Kapasi. He knows that deep down there is to be no affair with Mina and that she has the capacity to be a loving mother. Again there is a sense that Mina has redeemed herself.