Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Justine Van Meter
Most scholars who have published analyses of the title story of Jhumpa Lahiri’s 1999 Pulitzer Prize-winning short story collection, Interpreter of Maladies, read Mina Das’s character as a woman who chose to be unfaithful to her husband with a friend who once stayed in their home, resulting in the conception of her second son, Bobby. This general consensus is likely influenced by how Mr. Kapasi, the story’s narrator and the tour guide in whom Mina confides her story, concludes that the “pain” Mina complains of is actually “guilt” (Lahiri 63). The work of Tzuhsiu Beryl Chiu, however, stands out among the scholarship as it suggests that Bobby’s conception was the result of a rape rather than infidelity and that Mina has thereby “experienced great trauma and suffered the unspeakable pain alone” (172). If Chiu’s reading contains some truth that Mina was raped, then Mina’s character, choices, and language would be highly effected by that event of trauma. This thesis uses literary trauma theory to explore that possibility and rediscover Mina Das not as a dissatisfied and unfaithful housewife, but as a woman who has perhaps experienced trauma in multiple contexts and finally finds a way to tell her own story. I explore how viewing Mina as a character informed by trauma can illuminate our understanding of her relationships with her parents, her husband, and her children. I also examine how Mr. Kapasi’s point of view and the brief section of omniscient narration seem to silence and distort Mina’s story, leaving space for this alternative interpretation. In a society becoming increasingly concerned with the definitions of consent, rape, sexual harassment, and abuse, the question of whether or not Mina Das was raped matters because our answer can represent how we interpret and value women’s stories of trauma and pain on a greater scale.
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Morrison, Ansalee. Lack of Affirmative Consent: Trauma in Jhumpa Lahiri’s "Interpreter of Maladies". 2022. Chapman University, MA Thesis. Chapman University Digital Commons, https://doi.org/10.36837/chapman.000326
Available for download on Monday, January 01, 2024