What is the summary of "The Lady from Lucknow" by Bharati Mukherjee?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Mukherjee's short story centers on the affair of an Indian Muslim woman living in Atlanta.  Nafeesa Hafeez is the wife of a wealthy industrialist who works for IBM and lives for his work.  She has left India and has become quite cosmopolitan in all of her being all around the world.  While she is devoted to her husband, there is a sense of emptiness that exists in their relationship.  In large part, this comes from his devotion to his work.  In part, though, this exists as Nafeesa exists as a character who wishes to appropriate the world in accordance to her own subjectivity.  This is in stark contrast to the story she relates in the opening of the story about a girl who lived next door to Nafeesa when she was four years old.  In this story, the girl was in love with someone not approved by her father and when he found he, she was killed in a brutal and savage way.  As the relationship grows between Nafeesa and James, an older American man, it develops into a more forward and brazen sexual endeavor, only to be discovered by his wife.  Throughout this process, Nafeesa does not lose her strong and independent voice, something that is overshadowed by the ending, when the implications of her own actions fly in the face of the memory of the girl who is killed by her father.  In the end, Nafeesa has to learn how to live with the appropriation of the world in accordance to her own subjectivity and how her own cultural baggage filters into such a subjectivity.

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