"Interpreter of Maladies" by Jhumpa Lahiri

Essay by ryanoqUniversity, Bachelor'sA-, July 2003

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Mina's Secret

In "Interpreter of Maladies," Jhumpa Lahiri uses Mina Das's red outfit as a way to represent an unfaithful woman, who is disconnected from her roots, and has fallen out of love with life. Her guilt from keeping a secret that one of her children is not from her husband, but from an affair, has caused her to act in a very distant and uncaring way. Through the family's visit to the Sun Temple, and the hills at Udayagiri and Khandagiri in India, accompanied by Mr. Kapasi, a Gujarati interpreter for a doctor and part-time tour guide, the author paints a picture of a woman who has grown cold and disconnected from her feelings. Because of the events that happened on this trip to her native land, she may have come to realize the error of her ways.

Mrs. Das's clothes have a symbolic meaning. She wore a red checked skirt and a blouse.

"The blouse was decorated at chest level with a calico appliqué in the shape of a strawberry" (256). The design on her shirt may not mean anything to her. It is probably just for looks, but I think it does represent something about who she is. The color red is often considered to represent sex or lust. In this case, knowing about her infidelity, it makes sense that the strawberry may represent a marking similar to the scarlet letter. It also alludes to the fact that even though she is of Indian decent, she really is an American. I'm sure the way she is dressed is not very common for an Indian woman in India.

Mrs. Das consistently showed irresponsible and negligent behavior toward her children. In one example, the couple bickered about who would take their daughter Tina to the bathroom.