The Characters (Masterplots II: American Fiction Series, Revised Edition)
Jasmine is a complex, resourceful, and dynamic character who undergoes dramatic changes throughout the novel. A young, daring woman from India, she represents Bharati Mukherjee’s concept of “the new breed” of Americans from non-European countries who are imperceptibly changing the face of America. Endowed by nature with good looks and a good mind, she uses them both to her fullest advantage to seek happiness and self-fulfillment. With her remarkable willpower, she fights an undesirable fate as she resists the hold of a feudal and patriarchal family. Her marriage to Prakash allows her to break the mold of the traditional female role in Indian society and strengthens her hopes for a bright future. When Prakash decides to go to school in America, she sees this as a possible way to subvert the fate predicted by the astrologer. Even her husband’s death does not deter her from realizing her American Dream. Her arduous voyage to America shows her stubborn will to survive and her determination to re-create her destiny. She goes through several rebirths to become all-American. Her adaptability and readiness to reinvent herself aid her assimilation into American society.
Prakash Vijh, Jyoti’s husband, impresses the reader with his modern outlook and revolutionary ideas. He liberates Jyoti from her feudal past and transforms her into a new kind of modern woman, capable of independent thought. He renames her Jasmine and stirs her mind with new...
(The entire section is 545 words.)
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Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Jasmine Vijh, later called Jane Ripplemeyer, the narrator. She was born in Hasnapur, India, and given the name Jyoti. She is the fifth daughter of her parents and the seventh of nine children; as such, she is somewhat unwanted. An astrologer predicts that she is doomed to widowhood and exile. Jasmine is determined to chart the course of her own life. She marries Prakash Vijh at the age of fourteen, and he renames her Jasmine as a means of breaking her from her past. After he is murdered by a Muslim fanatic, Jasmine fulfills Prakash’s wish and goes to the United States, entering illegally. She first works as a caregiver for Taylor Hayes, a college professor in New York City. She then flees from Sukhwinder, the man who killed her husband, and moves to Baden, Iowa, where she falls in love with Bud Ripplemeyer and becomes his common-law wife, living as Jane Ripplemeyer. Taylor eventually finds Jasmine, and the two decide to move to California. Jasmine has several identities; she is a different person to different people. To Prakash, she is Jasmine; to Half-Face, the man who raped her, she is the goddess Kali; to Lillian Gordon, who helped her find a job in New York City, she is Jazzy; to Taylor, she is Jase; to Bud, she is Jane. Her various identities finally make Jasmine realize that she is who she wants to make herself. At the end of the book, she is ready to take control of her own destiny.
(The entire section is 778 words.)
Jyoti is a beautiful, smart, dowryless girl born eighteen years after the Partition Riots in a makeshift birthing hut in Hasnapur, Jullundhar District, Punjab, India. She is the fifth daughter, the seventh of nine children. An astrologer tells the young Jasmine's fate of widowhood and alienation, and both predictions come true. She attends school twice as long as most Indian girls, and impresses her teachers with her intelligence. Jyoti's name and identity change and change. Her grandma names her Jyoti, meaning "light." Prakash, her Indian husband killed by a terrorist bomb, calls her Jasmine. Lillian Gordan calls her Jazzy, Taylor names her Jase, and Bud Ripplemeyer gives her the moniker Jane. Jasmine originally shares Prakash's dream of an American life of prosperity. After his murder, she travels abroad to burn herself on his pyre. Upon landing in America, Half-Face, the captain of the boat that carried her over, rapes her. She then kills him. Lillian Gordan saves Jasmine, coaches her, and sends her to Flushing, New York. There, she spends five oppressive months with Professorji, an Indian immigrant, and his family. From there, she goes to Manhattan to be Duff's au pair. She falls in love with her employer, Taylor, who eventually entices her to run away to California with him. In Iowa, she is Bud's lover Jane, a caregiver to a crippled man. She becomes pregnant through artificial insemination. Du, their adopted teenaged child, also flees to California.
(The entire section is 239 words.)
Jasmine's brother co-inherits the responsibility of caring for his large family upon his father's death. He quits technical college in Jullundhar, sells the family farm, and opens a scooter repair shop. His political activism brings Jasmine in contact with her future first husband, as well as her husband's killer. He is given no character traits which distinguish him from his brother.
Under a banyan tree, he tells the young Jasmine's fate of widowhood and exile.
Leader of all fanatics.
Jasmine's maternal grandmother aggressively supports traditional Indian values. Dida opposes Jasmine's efforts to extend her formal education. When Jasmine is 13, Dida unsuccessfully tries to arrange a marriage with a Ludhiana widower. In reference to Jasmine's bleak prospects, she says, ‘‘You're going to wear out your sandals getting rid of this one.’’
Stuart, an economist, has an affair with Wylie Hayes. Eventually, it breaks up their comfortable family, and allows Taylor to pursue Jasmine. He is tall, extremely thin, and pleasant.
The photographer daughter of Lillian Gordon, Kate puts Jasmine in touch with her friends Taylor and Wylie Hayes.
The kind Quaker lady rescues Jasmine from a road just east of Fowlers Key,...
(The entire section is 1635 words.)