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A Confessional Talk

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AYUSH AGARWAL 131 - J Individual Oral Presentation A Confessional Talk Maladies both momentary and life-changing, communication and compassion, routines and rituals, and the deterioration of past cultural values - these are among the themes of Jhumpa Lahiri's extraordinary Pulitzer Prize winning debut collection of stories. Lahiri's stories are filled with emotional characters searching for love beyond the barriers of nations, cultures, religions and generations. The theme that will be the focus of my presentation today is the use of 'confessions' in Lahiri's stories from the book 'Interpreter of Maladies'. The stories that I will be focusing on are 'A Temporary Matter', the title story 'Interpreter of Maladies' and 'Sexy'. At the very outset of my presentation let me explain the word 'confession'. The definition of confession is a formal declaration of ones sins to a priest. Well it is not necessary to confess to a priest. A more generalized definition would be to accept a sin or a mistake committed by a person. The first story of the collection 'A Temporary Matter' is a Bengali diaspora in the U.S. In this story we see two characters Shoba and Shukumar who are extremely depressed after the loss of their baby. The action in this story occurs sequentially, in a progressive manner. A resolution occurs towards the end when Shukumar makes a confession of what was unknown to Shoba for quite some time. We should note that the confessions are made in this story by both protagonists for the purpose of alienating the other. This also brings the concept of deception. ...read more.


Das to a person she has no connection with, simply to reduce the guilt of the mistake she has committed. In 'Sexy' the conflict is set in the mind of the protagonist. Also the resolution occurs in the protagonists' mind in the form of a confession. What we should note is how confession contributes to these stories as a whole. In the first story, the power outages are a 'temporary matter' which leads to the coming together of both the protagonists. This is very ironical as both of them are emotionally distant but are forced to interact more closely. In 'Interpreter of Maladies' as well, the confession comes as a result of Mr. Kapasi revealing his role as an interpreter of maladies. Similar to the first story, this story is also ironical as Kapasi's passion for Mrs. Das, - noticing the "golden brown hollow in her throat", the "strawberry between her breasts" - his fantasy that romantic love could arise between them fades as quickly as the scrap of paper disappears in the wind. Coming to the third story 'Sexy' we see that it is the word 'sexy' that actually initiates the confession. After Rohin describes the word, Miranda undergoes a remarkable change. From this moment, the story ceases to be an external conflict and a conflict arises in Miranda's mind. This helps her in realizing her mistake due to which she then avoids Dev's visits. Lahiri depicts the title very well in this story using a series of similes as an observation of visual images - "She had silver eyes ...read more.


Similarly in 'Sexy' Miranda's future is unclear. What we should note is that this type of indefinite closure suits a story with immense drama where the climax forms the denouement of the story. To conclude I would like to say that Lahiri's stories are simple, with uncomplicated plots and have variety of thoughts. Confession forms one of the only modes of communication in these stories and plays a huge role to the book as a whole. Confessions have been portrayed in a variety of manners in these stories. They also help in bringing about other themes in these stories such as deception and conflict. The stories are well-seasoned with irony, and Lahiri uses immense imagery to depict different themes. Also the mood of these stories is such that the confessions generate catharsis among the readers. I feel that reading this text as a novel and not as independent stories will provide us with an in-depth understanding of the text. It will give us a more refined interpretation of the South Asian diaspora. Lahiri paints the worlds of both the immigrant and the native in miniature, allowing for a micro analysis of the characters, at the same time places them in a macro perspective of the universal truth. As the protagonist of 'The Third and Final Continent' notes: Still, there are times I am bewildered by each mile I have traveled, each meal I have eaten, each person I have known, each room in which I have slept. As ordinary as it all appears, there are times when it is beyond my imagination." Interpreter of Maladies takes us beyond our own imaginations and we are all the better for it. ...read more.

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