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Interpreter of Maladies


Important Quotations Explained

Quotes Important Quotations Explained
3. He decided to begin with the most obvious question, to get to the heart of the matter, and so he asked, “Is it really pain you feel, Mrs. Das, or is it guilt?”

This quotation appears near the end of the story, after Mrs. Das has confessed to her affair and to the fact that Bobby is another man’s son. Mr. Kapasi responds to Mrs. Das’s confession in the worst possible way, from her perspective. He believes that he is beginning a conversation, but for her, his comment is the end of all possible discussion. She believes that she has privileged him by confiding her secret in him, but he is insulted that she would tell him such sordid personal matters and disgusted by her behavior in general. Mr. Kapasi here performs the ultimate act of interpretation: he reveals to Mrs. Das the true nature of her problem. He tells her the precise word for what she feels. For Mrs. Das, however, the diagnosis is too accurate. She cannot forgive such a judgmental proclamation of her situation. The heart of the matter is that Mrs. Das wants absolution, not questioning; she wants relief, not reflection. And Mr. Kapasi wants a friend whose actions and motives he can understand, even relate to. This breakdown in communication is heart wrenching because they are both lonely and believed they were reaching out to the other. Their differences, however, keep them apart.