Interpreter of Maladies

The Role of Rituals in Lahiri’s Lonely Characters College

In Jhumpha Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies, ritual plays important roles in both perpetuating and alleviating the loneliness of her characters. Many characters such as Mrs. Sen, Mr. Pirzada, Boori Ma, and Mrs. Croft maintain their rituals in order to connect to the society they miss. However, characters who stick too rigidly to rituals, such as Mrs. Sen and Sanjeev, find themselves even more isolated. On the other hand, Lilia, Twinkle, the narrator, and other characters create rituals as a way to conquer loneliness.

Mrs. Sen maintains rituals that resemble her lifestyles in India because she misses her home. Despite being in America, “when Mrs. Sen said home, she meant India, not the apartment where she sat chopping vegetables” (116). While Noelle Brada-Williams suggested that Mrs. Sen’s “daily ritual or routine connects Mrs. Sen with India” (459), her ritual also emphasizes her loneliness from being distant from home and from her isolation in America.

Mrs. Sen first appears wearing “a shimmering white sari patterned with orange paisleys” (112), which she ‘neatened’ upon hearing the word ‘India’. Her eloquent and formal manner of wearing her sari with a different pattern but “all identical, embedded in a communal expanse of log...

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