What is the overall theme of Jasmine by Bharati Mukherjee?

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

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I think that one of the fundamental themes of Mukherjee's novel is that women can redefine themselves.  This is demonstrated in Jasmine, herself.  The idea of a woman being locked into a role where freedom and autonomy are absent is something that is challenged from the start of the novel.  Jasmine is not contextually challenged.  She is able to use her freedom at different points to reimage her own life in what she feels as desirable.  She is able to escape an impoverished condition in India, brought about by Partition riots that claimed the lives of millions, escapes to America, survives harrowing conditions of economic and social challenge in a new world, and finds herself in situations where physical and emotional hurdles present themselves.  In each of these contexts, the constant is Jasmine's sense of autonomy and freedom.  She is able to use freedom to define herself and her life.  This becomes a major theme in the work because it shows that Jasmine is not going to be victimized.  Whether it is through cultural means of silencing voice, physical threat of violence, or emotional challenges, Jasmine is able to utilize freedom in all settings in order to define herself and seek what she wishes in her life.

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