Interpreter of Maladies: The Third and Final Continent

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Interpreter of Maladies: The Third and Final Continent

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1lorannen
mar 22, 2017, 12:00pm

Here's our discussion thread for the ninth (and last) story in Interpreter of Maladies. What did you think of it? What impact did Mrs. Croft have on the narrator and his life? What tone did this story set for the ending of the collection as a whole? Why do you think the author chose this one to wrap up the collection?

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). If you're reading on-schedule, you should be all finished as of today! Here's our ongoing thread for folks who've finished the book: https://www.librarything.com/topic/250720.

2pbirch01
mar 22, 2017, 9:25pm

For me, this was exactly what I expected the book to be and I am glad the author ended with this particular story. It reminded me a lot of when I moved out of out of state to start college. That first night in the dorms by myself with no smartphone and no internet set up was both exciting and very lonely. I was alone in a new city with nothing but my thoughts and a paperback book. I felt like the protagonist was in a similar situation and the author did a really good job showing that sense of excitement, loneliness and sheer boredom that comes with spending your first few nights in a new city. Mrs. Croft was an interesting character and I am not really sure what she added. If anything she allowed the protagonist to show his kinder, more empathetic side but I don't think she helped him much in his own relationship with his new wife.

3jennybhatt
mar 23, 2017, 7:21am

This was my favorite of the lot too. I agree with all the points made by >2 pbirch01:.

As a first-time immigrant to the UK as a student, I also went through some of what the protagonist did -- starting with the dorm experience to the old landlady (mine was a white-haired, Scottish Mrs Millar in her 70s and I lived with her for 3 whole years).

To me, Mrs Croft, despite all her weirdness and otherness, brought out the kinder/considerate aspects of the protagonist's own nature. And that probably helped him with his new marriage, eventually. I say this from personal experience -- moving to a new country for the first time under difficult circumstances can harden a person, make them put their defenses up, withdraw, etc. But, meeting and living with an individual who makes you see your new world differently can change that.

I read in a few places that, while the protagonist is not exactly Lahiri's father, the story is similar to his own. I wonder whether that is the reason I found more tenderness and less distance in this story than I found in the others. This might just be my own cognitive bias but I felt that even before I learned of his fact. But, for example, this, I loved and totally identified with: "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."

4pbirch01
mar 23, 2017, 1:40pm

>3 jennybhatt: that last quote is very, very good and a good summary of that story - thank you for posting!

5Diane-bpcb
apr 28, 2017, 12:04am

I agree with you both that this was the best of the stories. Maybe it had to do with being able to identify with the experience of being a complete stranger in a new location. I think that the details Lumphira chose to write about were well chosen.