Critical Analysis Essay of Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies
Interpreter of Maladies is a short story written by Indian American writer Jhumpa Lahiri. It is regarded as one of Lahiri’s best works as it won a number of awards such as the Pulitzer Prize for fiction as well as PEN Award (Roy 227). It follows the story of a couple, Mr. and Mrs. Das who went on a vacation. Along with their children, the couple hired a driver and tour guide, Mr. Kapasi for their tour. But during their vacation, the characters discover a number of things, about themselves and their relationship with one another. Within the narrative, the author presented important themes which were central to the development of the story. This includes the communication and the concept of personal perspective (Lahiri 36).
Communication is one of the main themes of story. More particularly, the author presented how communication can be difficult at times and has the tendency to break down. This in turn, can cause hurtful consequences such broken relationships. The difficulty in communication is first evident in the character of Mr. Kapasi. Dubbed as the “interpreter of maladies”, it is ironic how Mr. Kapasi interprets for a living; and yet he is unable to properly communicate with his own wife. Hence, he is forced to drink his tea alone every night as a result of his loveless marriage. His ability to communicate is also represented by his lost ability to speak other languages. At the beginning of the story, he relates how he used to be a scholar of many languages during his younger years. However, he has lost this ability and is now fluent only in English.
Aside from Mr. Kapasi, the inability to establish a clear line of communication is also evident in the characters of Mr. and Mrs. Das. Throughout the story, the reader finds that the only time that the couple talks to each other is when they are arguing. At the opening part of the story, we see the couple arguing about who should bring their daughter to the bathroom. It is also evident that throughout the story, Mrs. Das often hides behind her sunglasses while her husband is preoccupied reading the guidebook. This activities symbolizes how the couple is unable to properly talk with each other. It is no wonder why their failure to communicate is also evident in their relationship with their children. For example, their son Ronny who gives a gum to a goat did not follow his father’s orders; in the same way that Mr. Das does not to follow through or enforce his commands. Their children similarly do not listen to their parents whenever they speak. Ultimately, the family’s inability to communicate and connect with each other is evident with how the children are often running around while the parents are everywhere else.
Another important theme in this story is perspective. In the narrative, each character has a different way of seeing things. For example, Mrs. Das hates her husband’s job and believes that he is a failure; while Mr. Das sees his occupation as important. Mr. Kapasi similarly believes that his job is but a waste of his linguistic skill; but Mr. Das deems the job as “romantic” and a huge responsibility. The character’s varying perspective of the world is symbolized by their behavior. Mr. Das for instance, is always looking through the lens of his camera. Mrs. Das on the other hand, is always wearing her sunglass; while Mr. Das always looks at the rearview mirror of the car (Reddy 138).
Based on the points provided, it can be concluded that the author presented two important themes in this story. This includes the communication and perspective, both of which were evident in each character as well as with their relationship with one another.
Lahiri, J. Interpreter of Maladies. NY: Houghton Mifflin, 1999
Reddy, B. Aspects of Contemporary world Literature. NY: Atlantic Publishers, 2008
Roy, A. Partitioned Lives. NY: Pearson, 2008