Interpreter of Maladies

In Jumpa Lahiri’s short story, the monkeys most likely represent Hanuman, the Hindu “monkey” God. “We call them hanuman” as Mr. Kapasi explained to the Das family earlier on in the story, which was a clever bit of foreshadowing.

“‘Who wishes to despoil my vow of one-man-one-wife…” said Hanuman’s very own mother, Anjana, according to an English translation of the sacred Hindu text Valmiki Ramayana (Kishkindha Kanda, 2009). This was what she exclaimed in the version of the story where she is about to be raped by the “Air-God” or “Wind-God”. There is an obvious contrast to how Bobby was conceived. Hanuman was in fact eventually born through a virgin birth.

In the same story, the brave, mischievous Hanuman (just as Bobby could be described) attempts to catch the sun, which he saw as a fruit. He ignores the “King of the Gods” Indra’s warnings to stay away from it, similar to how Bobby ignores Mr. Kapasi’s words of caution to leave the monkeys alone. For their childish behaviour they both receive punishment, Hanuman with a thunderbolt sent by Indra (Kanda).

“God, let’s get out of here… this place gives me the creeps.” Mrs. Das seems to be back to her flippant self, perhaps Hanuman had granted her the strength to go on with her life.

References

Kanda, K. (2009). “Legend of Hanuma’s Birth”. Valmiki Ramayana. Retrieved 12 April 2017, from https://www.valmikiramayan.net/utf8/kish/sarga66/kishkindha_66_frame.htm

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2 thoughts on “Interpreter of Maladies

  1. I’m impressed that you’ve done some research for this question and it’s very apt that you bring up the issue of selflessness and selfishness. To Mr Kapasi the woman’s act certainly is selfish, but to Mrs Das who comes from a culture that values individualism, she may think she is just seeking a sense of fulfillment. To have this experience in India perhaps would help her to see her own situation better with the lens of another culture.

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  2. I agree that America is a country that values individualism. Too much in fact,a lot of people there seem to be detached from reality,or maybe I’m just reading too much news. I don’t like the idea that fulfilment is related to individualism but it seems they often do go hand in hand.

    Hopefully Mrs. Das has seen the error in her ways and is living a more honest life XD

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