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Interpreter of Maladies

Jhumpa Lahiri

Point of View

Themes, Motifs, and Symbols

Character Development

“Interpreter of Maladies” is told from third-person limited point of view—that is, the story is told by an objective narrator who reveals the perceptions of Mr. Kapasi’s perceptions but not those of the other characters. Events unfold primarily as Mr. Kapasi, not Mrs. Das, sees them. For example, when the characters leave the taxi at the temple, the narrator follows Mr. Kapasi, who walks ahead so as not to disturb Mrs. Das, and does not show us what Mrs. Das is doing until she again enters Mr. Kapasi’s view. Likewise, when Mrs. Das leaves the taxi to take Tina to the bathroom, the narrator stays in the car with Mr. Kapasi, who waits alone while the boys and Mr. Das get out of the car. Even the characters’ names reflect the focus on Mr. Kapasi. Instead of calling Mrs. Das by her first name, Mina, as both her husband and her children do, the narrator refers to her exclusively as Mrs. Das, which is how Mr. Kapasi sees her. Likewise, the narrator does not disclose information that Mr. Kapasi would not know. We do not, for example, ever learn the exact ages of Ronny and Tina. We do, however, hear about how Mr. Kapasi has only two suits, the better of the two is the one he wears in the story.

By using this point of view, Lahiri limits the scope of our knowledge about the Das family and emphasizes the disconnection between Mrs. Das and Mr. Kapasi. Although Mr. Kapasi interprets Mrs. Das’s comments as flattering and even flirtatious, Mrs. Das likely did not intend her comments to be construed this way. Mr. Kapasi wishes for an intimate connection with Mrs. Das, but when she finally does spill her secrets—her affair, her true feelings about her husband, the heated beginning of their relationship—Mr. Kapasi is overwhelmed and disgusted. She was unaware of how crass and inappropriate her revelations would seem to Mr. Kapasi, just as she is oblivious to how insulting it is for her to expect him to have a “cure” for her pain. Mr. Kapasi thinks he and Mrs. Das have a connection because he recognizes in her situation the distant spouse and troubled marriage from his own life. However, any connection between them is only in his mind.

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