Interpreter of Maladies: Love and marriage

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Interpreter of Maladies: Love and marriage

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Mar 15, 2017, 12:01 pm

Love and—perhaps moreso—marriage is a major theme in many of the stories in Interpreter of Maladies. What do these stories say about relationships with those who are (in theory, at least) closest to us? What kinds of marriages are represented in these stories?

Mar 16, 2017, 1:36 am

So, most of the marriages here are unhappy ones. I find this with most Indian immigrant stories. Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's Arranged Marriage: Stories is full of them too.

From the outside, these marriages have all the markings of comfort -- nice homes, jobs, etc. But, there are failed expectations, unspoken/unshared sorrows, miscommunication, etc. And all this despite being from the same cultural backgrounds. So, it seems to me, Lahiri was trying to bust that big myth that her generation and her parents' generation of Indian immigrants have/had -- about how marrying within your own is better than not.

Interestingly, the last story is also that of an arranged marriage and yet ends on a hopeful/positive note. I'm not sure why this is. Will revisit that story later in the right thread.

Mar 16, 2017, 9:29 am

The parents of Lilia in ''When Mr Pirzada came to dine'' don't have an unhappy marriage and neither does Mr. Pirzada.
Unhappy marriages are common in most cultures, that conflict makes for good story telling,
I don't see that larger theme about one kind of marriage being better than another.

Mar 16, 2017, 10:25 am

>3 Divasin:: Of course unhappy marriages make for good conflict in storytelling. That's not my point, though.

And, yes, there are 2-3 stories where the marriages are not unhappy hence my qualifier "most" vs "all."

What I described is specific to the Indian immigrant community -- how there is a common belief that marrying within the community is best for a happy marriage/life. At least that has been the case with the generation of Jhumpa's parents and, to a large extent, her/my generation as well.

This idea of how arranged marriages within Indian immigrant communities are really not all they are cracked up to be is not new to Lahiri. It is found in the stories of almost all Indian-American writers of Lahiri's generation and older: e.g. Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Bharati Mukherjee, Anita Desai, and more.

Recently, there has been a fair bit of criticism (so many articles out there) of this repeated trope as well because the younger generation isn't quite as keen on or even compelled to consider marriage within the community.

Mar 16, 2017, 11:05 am

I'm sure you are right but where is the evidence that Lahiri is targeting this issue specifically.

Edited: Mar 16, 2017, 5:55 pm

>4 jennybhatt: Off topic, but I saw your mention of Chitra Divakaruni; absolutely love her books. If you werent thrilled with this book you might try hers. Sisters of the Heart and Queen of Spices are my favorites. While her stories are pretty typical in the immigrant genre (change out Indian for Jewish or Greek, you see a lot of similarities) I love how her characters and stories are complex enough that they aren't just about tradition vs assimilation. Quite lovely writing as well.

edit - sorry, touchstones dont seem to be working

Edited: Mar 16, 2017, 11:01 pm

>5 Divasin:: I was sharing my personal thoughts on what themes jumped out at me. That said, if you're interested in "evidence", just google this: "jhumpa lahiri interpreter of maladies marriage" and you'll get a slew of links about how much she explored this theme in this collection and other books. Like this one by a respectable, scholarly critic in the NY Times:

I also recall reading interviews with Lahiri when the book came out and she talked about this. Again, Google will uncover these, I'm sure, if it interests you further.

I'm going to move on from this topic because it is pointless to argue about what themes struck me as important vs what struck you as important. In the end, we bring our own experiences and beliefs to our reading.


>6 cindydavid4:: Actually, though I'm a big reader of Indian-American writers (or, more broadly, American writers of South Asian origin), and I've read some Divakaruni, I'm not a fan of her work. I can't pinpoint why exactly because I haven't spent enough time thinking it through. I only know that, after forcing myself to get to the end of her collection of stories Arranged Marriage: Stories, I have not picked up another of her books.

These days, the most interesting writing by Indian-American (or writers of South Asian origin) women writers I am liking are: Nina McConigley, Tanwi Nandini Islam, Tahmima Anam, Mira Jacob, Sejal Shah, Tania James, Jade Sharma, and more.

With male writers of South Asian origin, these are most interesting to me these days: Amitava Ghosh, Akhil Sharma, Vikram Chandra -- whose Sacred Games is going to be a Netflix series, Kanishk Tharoor, Karan Mahajan, Anuk Arudpragasam, Sunil Yapa, et al.

Mar 16, 2017, 11:33 pm

>7 jennybhatt: I actually didn't care for Arranged Marriages, and haven't read her last couple. I do really like Ghosh and Chandra, and should check out some of the women authors on your list.

Mar 17, 2017, 1:04 am

>8 cindydavid4:: Some of the best writers of South Asian origin are actually being published in literary magazines across the US. And many of these mags post a selection of their stories online, free to read. So that might be one way to start reading some of these -- see if you like them. Just google their names. Some of them have websites and they link to their short stories or book excerpts online. :)