Interpreter of Maladies

Universal Isolation in Interpreter of Maladies 12th Grade

Jhumpa Lahiri herself is the ‘Interpreter of Maladies’ in her poignant short-story collection, laying bare universal features of loneliness and isolation. Enlightening experiences in Calcutta empowered the Indian-American author to write from the perspectives of ostensibly dissimilar characters, most of whom are afflicted with the emotional confusion of an outsider, stemming from geographic displacement, migration, familial neglect or lack of communication. These range from a displaced stair sweeper and grief-stricken couple to an eleven-year-old boy in the care of a home-sick Indian wife. Imbued with explicit details of both Indian and American cultures, the tales speak with universal articulateness and empathy to everyone who has ever felt alienated.

The ‘migrant experience’ responsible for evoking feelings of isolation worldwide, personally or indirectly affects all of Lahiri’s characters. Holistically, the anthology voices grave repercussions of India’s diaspora. By focusing in on Boori Ma, a seemingly insignificant stairwell sweeper, Lahiri contends that feelings of seclusion are universal, irrespective of social status, ethnicity or age. Her “deportation to Calcutta after Partition” shapes Boori Ma’s forlorn destiny. She...

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