Interpreter of Maladies: Mrs. Sen's

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Interpreter of Maladies: Mrs. Sen's

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mar 15, 2017, 12:00pm

Here's our discussion thread for the sixth story in Interpreter of Maladies. What did you think of it, or of Mrs. Sen? Why do you think the story was named after Mrs. Sen's home or place instead of her as a person?

If you'd like to discuss themes across multiple stories, please feel free to create a new topic (see the "Post a new topic" link on the left-hand side of this page). For folks who've finished reading the whole book ahead of schedule, here's a thread where you can discuss the whole thing:

mar 16, 2017, 1:22am

Another story with a rather involved plot. For me, Lahiri is at her best when the plots are not too involved (meaning she's not always trying to give us more and more complications/conflicts) and she takes her time with giving us interesting character and setting details. But, maybe, that's just me.

This is another story where we see the Indian people through the eyes of non-Indians. So, there's that whole prevailing sense of "otherness" throughout, which Lahiri does well because she herself grew up in the US and mostly around a certain Indian-American demographic (educated academics, doctors, etc.) To her, Indian-Americans from other social strata were/are, I imagine, the "other." Nothing wrong with that -- just an observation as to why she reverted to this POV in more than 1-2 stories in this collection.

Also, the precocious kid POV pops up again here, interestingly.

mar 16, 2017, 9:11am

I agree that Lahiri is in a unique position to observe both cultures but I don't think her observations are exclusively Indian versus non-Indian.
Eliot is the one who sees his mother as ''odd'' when they me Mrs. Sen for the first time is just one example.
The differences between the couple in the first story is another example of not culturally based issues.
I think Lahiri's theme of ''otherness'' is broader than that.

Using the observant child as narrator of the story is a frequently used devise, (Great Expectations springs to mind). The child notices details that adults overlook but at the same time doesn't fully understand the implications of what they observe.

mar 16, 2017, 10:32am

>3 Divasin::

"but I don't think her observations are exclusively Indian versus non-Indian."

That's actually not what I wrote.

"I think Lahiri's theme of ''otherness'' is broader than that."

I agree. I was talking simply about the predominant theme of otherness. A single story is more than just one thing, of course. There are layers. But, some things jump out more so than others. I shared what jumped out for me, as an Indian-American myself.

And, re. the child narrator -- yeah, I get the point of that perspective. I was simply pointing out that she was using this literary device in yet another story. I've also written and had published a couple of short stories with a child's POV. It's always a very conscious choice for specific reasons.

FWIW: I also wrote a 2013 blog post on this with other examples (way better than Great Expectations, for me):

apr 1, 2017, 2:35pm

Several other threads that you can see here, as well as in other stories in the book, are of mismatches—of couples, of neighbors, and of people and their residences.