How does Jhumpa Lahiri emphasize the difference in cultural values between characters?
What are the different values between the American and Indian culture?
In what ways does Lahiri portray there are differences?
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As a science teacher in a middle school who takes his classes to the Museum of Natural History in New York City, Mr. Das expresses a sense of kinship with Mr. Kapasi in his role as a tour guide. Also, although unknown to Mr. Das, both are the fathers of three children, and both are in less than totally satisfactory marriages. But beyond such superficial resemblances, everything in the text suggests the great differences between the two: Mr. Das is somewhat immature, quite unselfconscious, a bit crass, seemingly satisfied with his life and himself; Mr. Kapasi is older, a person of dignity and reserve, greatly concerned with his appearance and the impression he makes on others, who has established a life of comforting rituals to cope with his unhappiness in his marriage.
Though Indian in appearance, Mr. and Mrs. Das dress like Americans and speak with American accents (unsurprisingly, as they were born and raised and have lived their entire lives in America). Their reactions to the monuments of their own native culture range from shallow to indifferent, and are expressed in terms such as “neat” and“cool.” They seem incapable of—and, except for a few perfunctory tries, uninterestedin—disciplining their own children, and in fact seem to Mr. Kapasi more like children than parents: “it was hard to believe they were regularly responsible for anything other than themselves” (paragraph 45). As Mrs. Das later makes clear, they have been thrown together from a very early age and allowed to explore and fashion their own relationship: “The things we did those Friday and Saturday nights, while our parents sat downstairs drinking tea . . . I could tell you stories, Mr. Kapasi” (paragraph 141). This is in sharp contrast to Mr. Kapasi’sarranged marriage, with its total lack of physical joy and intimacy (paragraph 99).
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