Sad Girl Poems and Other Writings

The Societal Regulation of Identity: A Comparison of Lahiri and Soto 10th Grade

Jhumpa Lahiri and Christopher Soto, in their respective pieces “Hell-Heaven” and “Winter Sundays”, discuss the restrictions on cultural expression for minority groups. The claim of both authors is that there is a unique cultural identity for each person, and that society has always tried to illegitimately regulate it. Lahiri and Soto both use the disparity of cultural toleration between generations in order to explore the suppression through forced conformity of individual identity by traditional figures of authority. Both authors’ respective characters embrace open sexuality, in terms of orientation as well as promiscuity, triggering violent backlash and exposing society’s rejection of anything outside the cultural norms.

In the story “Hell-Heaven,” the mother, Boudi, refuses to accept change. For instance, when the family moves to Natick, they continue to live in the house as if they were tenants, closing the blinds in the afternoon and never repainting the walls. Thus, she is symbolically rejecting American culture as radically different from her Bengali upbringing by refusing to let the sun into her house. And since she is a housewife, who controls and stays within the domestic sphere, she is rejecting all things American...

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