Interpreter of Maladies

by: Jhumpa Lahiri

Motifs

Seeing

Each character in the story has a distorted way of seeing the others, as each views others through some artificial means. Mr. Das views the world through his camera. His camera is always around his neck, and he sees even harsh realities through its lens. For example, he takes pictures of the starving peasant, even though doing so blatantly ignores the peasant’s essential reality. Mrs. Das hides behind her sunglasses, seeing the others through their tint and blocking others’ view of her eyes. Additionally, her window does not roll down, so she cannot directly see the world outside the taxi cab. Mr. Kapasi watches Mrs. Das through the rearview mirror, which distorts his view of her and prevents him from looking at her directly. Each child is wearing a visor, which suggests that their vision will one day be as distorted as their parents’ is. Finally, Mr. Das and Ronny closely resemble each other, whereas Mr. Das and Bobby have little in common. Mr. Kapasi simply observes this fact but draws no inference from it, even though this simple fact hints at the deeper truth: that Mr. Das is not Bobby’s father. Because Mr. Kapasi sees the Das family as a unit, he never suspects this truth. His idea of family distorts the reality of the situation.