Sexy by Jhumpa Lahiri
In Sexy by Jhumpa Lahiri we have the theme of adultery, loneliness, curiosity, innocence, shame and connection. Taken from her Interpreter of Maladies collection the story is narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator and from the beginning of the story it becomes clear to the reader that Lahiri may be exploring the theme of adultery. Laxmi’s cousin’s husband is having an affair with another, younger woman. A woman that he met on a plane and that he has fallen in love with. Similarly as the story progresses we realize that Miranda is also having an affair with a married man called Dev. A man she met while purchasing some cosmetic products. While he was buying items for his wife. Despite Dev being married this does not stop Miranda from pursuing a relationship with Dev. This may be important as Lahiri may be suggesting that Miranda is lonely. She knows very few people in Boston apart from Laxmi and her husband.
The theme of connection is evident. Just as Laxmi’s cousin’s husband made a connection with the woman on the plane. Likewise Miranda has made a connection with Dev. He wines and dines her or a week till the relationship becomes a one day (Sunday) affair. Something that does not appear to bother Miranda. If anything there is sense that Miranda is being used by Dev. She is a convenience to him. Someone he can have in his life without any strings attached. It is also significant that Miranda is curious about Dev’s wife. Going as far as to realize that she is beautiful. This may make Miranda a little bit jealous but she does not really show it. She is content with being Dev’s mistress even going as far as buying lingerie and a cocktail dress that she thinks Dev will like.
There may also be some symbolism in the story which might be important. The Economist magazine, with its map, could represent identity to Miranda. She does not know where Bengal is and in reality Miranda knows very little about Dev and she does not appear to be concerned, having committed her heart to him. Rohin plays an important role in the story as it is through his innocence that Miranda realizes she has to end her relationship with Dev. Rohin’s definition of sexy is the final straw for Miranda as she becomes aware of the fact that she really is a convenience for Dev. If anything Rohin, without knowing it, makes Miranda feel ashamed. A shame she hasn’t felt since she didn’t pay for pancakes when she was in college. Miranda’s attempt to write her name down in Bengali is significant as it suggests that Miranda wants to make a further connection with Dev. Something on a deeper level. When Miranda and Dev whisper to one another at The Mapparium Lahiri could be highlighting the dishonest nature of their relationship. It is not to be spoken of aloud. Real people, like Dev’s wife, will be hurt. The three cigarettes that Dev smokes when he is at Miranda’s apartment serve to represent a ritual of sorts. Dev has a routine that he does not sway from.
The end of the story is interesting as Miranda comes to a realization that she has to end her relationship with Dev. First she wants to meet him one or two more times but due to circumstances (cold and weather) Miranda never sees Dev again. Something that is symbolically noticeable by Lahiri using a clear-blue sky as Miranda is sitting on the bench outside The Mapparium. There will be no more obstacles in Miranda’s life now that she has decided to end the affair. An affair in whereby Miranda played second fiddle to Dev’s wife. She may not have been the first of Dev’s adulterous relationships and one suspects she will not be his last either. Throughout the story Dev thought only of his own needs.