Jhumpa LAHIRI, ‘Interpreter of maladies’
From Lahiri’s ‘Interpreter of maladies’, a collection of 9 short stories, you are going to read ‘A temporary matter’. Read thoroughly through the assignment before you start.
Short stories tend to be less complex than novels. Usually, a short story will focus on only one incident, has a single plot, a single setting, a limited number of characters, and covers a short period of time.
A Point of view
1 Which point of view did the author choose to present the story from? Explain and use examples from the text.
1. He used the point of view of Shukumar to tell the story. Because of that point of view, we know the thoughts, experiences, events etc. of Shukumar, but not the thoughts and experiences of Shoba. Examples: ‘He was relieved and yet he was sickened’ (we know his feelings), ‘The following day Shukumar thought for hours about what to say to her’ (we know his thoughts). The whole day we’re with Shukumar in the story, while we only feel Shoba’s presence just for a little while.
2 What are the advantages of this viewpoint according to you?
2. Instead of knowing no feelings or thoughts, we get to know some feelings of one character now. We get able to understand his point of view on the relationship, we discover his experiences, and that makes us feel some sympathy for that character. We can commiserate with the characters and empathize with the story.
1 What is the problem in the story?
1. The lost of their baby makes Shukumar and his wife, Shoba, grow apart. Since that terrible experience, Shukumar and Shoba are ignoring their selves. They neglect their house and their selves (e.g. Shukumar doesn’t brush his teeth, Shoba doesn’t cook anymore, doesn’t go to the market anymore, while that were things that she loved to do). Shukumar gets the blame of Shoba’s mother that he wasn’t there with the birth, while Shoba insisted that he went to his business meeting. Shoba pounces upon her job while Shukumar sleeps until midday and acts like he’s working. They once were a terrific couple, but the birth of their dead baby has torn everything apart.
2 Is it solved? Why (not)?
2. We don’t know if the problem is solved, because when the story ends, the relationship between Shukumar isn’t over yet, but Shoba just needs some time to think and some time for her own. We just can guess if they will come back together. I hope they will come back together, because the things we read about Shukumar and Shoba before the birth were beautiful, and they were really happy.
1 How does the author create suspense in her story? Explain.
1. We don’t know how it’s going to end between Shukumar and Shoba because it’s a short story and stops at a point where a lot still needs to happen. The author creates suspense because we just need to guess how it will end between the couple. She also creates suspense because of her point of view; we only know the thoughts of Shukumar, so we don’t know how Shoba is feeling.
2 Quote or mention some of the highlights.
2. ‘At some point in the evening she visited him. When he heard her approach he would pur away his novel and begin typing sentences. She would rest her hands on his shoulders and stare with him into the blue glow of the computer screen. “Don’t work too hard,” she would say after a minute or two, and head off to bed. It was the one time in the day she sought him out, and yet he’d come to dread it. : You don’t know, because of the point of view, if Shoba still loves Shukumar or if she just comes to visit him because of sympathy.
‘Shukumar stood up and stacked his plate on top of hers. He carried the plates to the sink, but instead of running the tap he looked out the window. Outside the evening was still warm, and the Bradfords were walking arm in arm. As he watched the couple the room went dark, and he spun around. Shoba had turned the lights off. She came back to the table and sat down, and after a moment Shukumar joined her. They wept together, for the things they now knew. : This is the end of the story, and like I mentioned earlier, we just have to guess now what will happen.
In the very beginning of the book you can find quotations from British, US and Indian reviews about ‘Interpreter of maladies’. Choose one of them and give your personal comment on it referring to your own reading experience.
The 8th quotation of the US reviews: ‘Aside from Lahiri’s eloquence, there are two things, seemingly at odds with one another, that make this a stunning literary debut. One is her spectacular ability to portray characters who are unassuming, if not passive. The other is her talent for making stories featuring these same characters remarkably suspenseful.’
She doesn’t need to give characters a lot of characteristics because her way of writing makes them suspenseful. It are simple stories which she can make special because of her skills. Losing a baby is something we also come across with, but she makes an ordinary story so interesting and touching that I felt sorry for the characters.