Mrs. Sen's Displacement in America: "Interpreter of Maladies" by Jhumpa Lahiri

Essay by julzanneCollege, UndergraduateA+, February 2007

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The short story, "Mrs. Sen's", by Jhumpa Lahiri, tells the experiences of Mrs. Sen, an Indian Bengali housewife, who has unhappily immigrated from Calcutta, India to the United states, due to her husbands profession. She is married to Mr. Sen, who spends the majority of his time at his work place as a mathematics professor at an American University. As a result, Mrs. Sen decides to become a babysitter for an 11-year-old- boy, named Eliot, as a way to fill up her lonely afternoons while her husband teaches all day. Mr. Sen is also teaching Mrs. Sen to drive in the United States so that she can become more independent like American women. Throughout the story, there is repeated food and driving imagery that emphasizes Mrs. Sens feelings of displacement as she is going through a cultural transition in the United States.

The fish imagery functions as a way for Mrs.

Sen's to stay connected to her homeland and her traditional culture in India. For Mrs. Sen buying and consuming fish represents her way to staying in close proximity to home back in India, while she is living in the United States. It also shows how she misses her previous life in Calcutta and reveals her feelings of homesickness for her homeland. The author shows an example of this when Mrs. Sen says,

"In the supermarket I can feed a cat thirty-two dinners from one of thirty-two tins, but I can never find a single fish I like, never a single." Mrs. Sen said she had grown up eating fish twice a day. She added that, Calcutta people ate fish first thing in the morning, last thing before bed, as a snack after school if they were lucky" (123).

Fish was an integral part of her everyday...