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Book Review of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

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  1. The book Interpreter of Maladies incorporates several stories that explore the lives of Indians and Indian Americans. The peculiarity of these stories is that they express a conflict of two worlds. One of them is native, rural and has tight family values as well as connection with nature. Another one is a world of cities and civilization. It turns out that the protagonists of the book are stuck between these two different worlds. The text has a direct connection to the world depicting the objective realities that either existed or exist. However, the author adds a shade of fiction in order to highlight the peculiarities of the characters through situations. Moreover, it appeals to the human values expressing the daily conflicts and the lives of protagonists. The text itself is a piece of art because of the vividly depicted scenes and characters. That is why the author received a Pulitzer Prize for this book. I am not aware of its connection to other texts, but it definitely has a connection with the cultures whereas one of them is old and more traditional, and the other one is new and more innovative. Each of the nine stories’ plots of the book unfold in the above mentioned situation of the clash of cultures.    
  2. The passage that I think is significant is on the page 15. It is:e couldn’t recall the last time they’d been photographed. They had stopped attending parties, went nowhere together.I think that the film in the camera contains all the memories of the good past that once occurred to the protagonists. It is inside the camera and thus no one can bring it back. It seems to me that even the time has stooped and then just came a misunderstanding. The irony of the camera is also present when Md. Das, having a new sparkling lens and an impressive camera, captured people that live far poorer than he does. It is also his history, the history of his remnants. However, having touched the civilization, he forgot about all the problems. That is why there is not only misunderstanding between people but between cultures and even within cultures. For instance, I cannot imagine refusing help to a person that made me recall my past. However, Mr. Das ignores the presence of the poverty despite his strange interest to capture it on the camera. I think that the given passage is the beginning of all the negative things that occur to the protagonists. It reveals the central message, which is misunderstanding. Nothing prevents those people from going somewhere together and enjoying their lives. Furthermore, nothing prevents them from helping the poor. However, their feelings are incorporated in that old film that would never become  reality again.
  3. I think the author named his book Interpreter of Maladies in order to express and highlight the irony of life and the depicted situations. Thus, despite the fact that the interpreter’s duty is to enhance the understanding between people, the reader sees numerous misunderstandings. I would call it the mocking of the adults’ capability to have rational discussions and understanding. Thus, the basic words and concepts of the story are opposite to those which an interpreter might enhance. Consequently, the protagonists experience the emotions of separation, guilt and lack of connection and up to isolation. For instance, it turns out that the two married adults never had any natural intimacy. The example of it is Mr. Kapasi has never seen his wife naked. Moreover, the two adults are not capable of showing their affection to each other. That is why the author mocks the character he created. Likewise, an interpreter degrades to the knowledge of just one language instead of several that he knew. Furthermore, he loses connection with the rest of the world. I’m not aware o more symbolic name, but there are stories that depict the controversy of the rich and the poor. For instance, Mr. Das, being well-fed and having a camera, captures poor and starving people. Mrs. Das hides her eyes behind the sunglasses. It makes me think of the hypocrisy. That is why I would propose the title “The walls of Misunderstanding”. I think the protagonists build those walls themselves. And I blame them for that.
  4. A significant scene, to my mind, is in the story Interpreter of Maladies, which bears the  name as the book. The scene occured after Mrs. Das talked with Mr. Kapasi at the temple. During their stay in the temple, Mr. Kapasi admires her and dreams of their letters, he likes her very much. The temple is full of monkeys, but they do not touch anyone because no one feeds them. A calm and tragic scene comes after this loud and peaceful one. Mrs. Das is tired and she rests is the car. Something struck her mind, and she made a confession. She told Mr. Kapasi that Bobby, her younger son, is born out of an affair. The affair occurred eight years ago, and it was kept a secret. At that time she was lonely, and her friend invited her… Now she has a son from that man, not the husband. Next, there is the climax of the story. Mr. Kapasi is in despair, he feels as if he has been cheated. Moreover, Mrs. Das asks for help and Mr. Kapasi is struck by such a proposal. She thought he might help her because he is an interpreter of maladies. But Mr. Kapasi is insulted and blames her for the whole situation with the affair. I enjoyed this part because the author depicted the non-persistency of human feelings. Thus, at one time Mr. Kapasi is almost in love and wishes happiness to Mrs. Das. However, afterwards he is deeply upset and blames her, his love has gone. I think I had the similar event in life, I was also disappointed.
  5. The alternative ending of the story: Mrs. Das was sitting alone in the temple and thinking about all those bad things that she has done. Of course, she should not have cheated on everyone. But what could she do? She was a young lady who wanted to be loved, and there was a man who gave it to her. Her husband was unbearable. Now, she was assured of that. She just watched his photos from the camera. How can he make photos of those poor people? She has to find that person and apologize. And then she feels affection to Mr. Kapasi. But, he is such a man that would not agree to stay with her, even if she would divorce Mr. Das. Anyway, she has to try…  The next day she tells her husband about the divorce. Surprisingly, he does not seem to care. He takes his clothes and leaves. Furthermore, it appears that he took all the money. Mrs. Das is in despair. She goes to Mr. Kapasi and tells him everything. He is surprised that she has done this difficult decision. Is it a real love and happiness that might come to him? After all, he has a job and he can earn enough to bring up the child and to live in a happy family… He decides to try. He marries Mr. Das and from then on they live a happy life.
  6. I think that the problems depicted in the stories are quite realistic and can relate to the lives of many people. Unfortunately, we may see numerous people that seek for understanding and try to escape loneliness. They may aspire for understanding and be not aware of the factors that feed their problems. Furthermore, one can see rich people that turn their backs on the poor. There are numerous family conflicts based on different reasons. Some people neglect their children, some refuse to talk to their parents. Many people cheat on their beloved ones. On the other hand, there are individuals that are upset because of their broken love. It turns out that in our world the rich are very close the poor, the beloved are close to the lovers, the truth is very close to lies. And it is a personal decision whether to wear glasses of hypocrisy and look at everything through the lenses of ignorance. As I can see, people have a variety of choices. Thus, there are those who choose the easiest way which is often not so good. However, they are paid back accordingly because everything in the world is connected. To be honest, I avoid such people as protagonists. I do not like cheaters, liars and ignorant individuals. That is why I do not want to be somewhere in reality with the characters from the book.
  7. I have to point out that the book is quite easy to read. Nothing prevented me from reading it or distracted my attention. I liked the language of the author and the way he expresses his ideas and depicts the protagonists. The thing that I found confusing is the scope of problems incorporated in the stories. From the beginning I expected a much easier plot, without those vivid pictures of the problems and the ignorance that the people have. I would recommend reading this book for my friends. But not to all of them, because one has to be mature enough to grasp its main idea. There are people that set out to read difficult books and then lose interest because the plot and the characters are too complicated for them. Then they start claiming that reading in general is bad.. This is not the case with this book. I like it indeed and I am sure to advise it at least to my mom and dad. They are a happy couple but I guess they would be even happier after reading it. Moreover, some of my friends have a signs of a hypocritical and decisive nature. That is why such a book would enhance their understanding of themselves.
  8. A letter to Mr. Kapasi: Dear Mr. Kapasi, I admire you as a person. I can imagine how bad you may feel because of the terrible truth about Mrs. Das. To be honest, I too thought that she is a good person. She might be pretty and have a lot of fans. But she does not deserve you, that is certain. Maybe she really deserves Mr. Das as a husband. Just look at him! He is a not a match to you. I have noticed that he goes everywhere with his camera. Did you know that he photographs poor people? Moreover, he did not help or give money to them. I feel sorry for him because he is a bad person. I also feel sorry for you. You might have moved to another place and would be happy there with another woman. You deserve love and you deserve happiness. However, it is completely impossible for you to be happy with Mrs. Das. Just imagine: the man of truth with a liar woman. She is not your choice, you are right. If you happened to marry her, she would be cheating on you, I am completely assured in that. Mr. Kapasi, maybe you will try to recollect your knowledge of languages? By doing a lot of work you might forget about the worst moments of your life. I wish you all the best!
  9. I choose Mr. Kapasi. I think that he is a good man. At least at one time he was an experienced person and knew many languages. However, he had lost interest in everything. As I see, he might be brought back to life through love because he is a lover. There are episodes in the book when he is in rage, despair and filled with hate. However, that is just a first impression of him being disappointed. He searches for love but faces some additional problems that do not suit his vision of life. He is a romanticist as I can conclude from his deeds. The reader can see that his absence of interest about the changes in the world with his emerging feelings to Mrs. Das. Thus, I can tell that he is a good character. He wants to love, he can love but he is not so lucky. He is extremely honest and that spoils his aspirations for the decisive Mrs. Das. I feel sorry for him because he deserves better. He might want to have a family with Mrs. Das. However, he sees that se cheats on everyone. She is a cheater to her husband, to her lover and to her children. I think it is terrible to be such a person as her.
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