Critical Evaluation

Considered a postcolonialist writer, Bharati Mukherjee has been both applauded and criticized for her stance on the necessary process of acculturation and the creation of identity for immigrants. Dispossessed, exiled, or self-proclaimed immigrants seek a new life or self-reinvention by moving to a new country—especially the United States.

Mukherjee has received several prestigious literary awards, including the National Book Critics Circle Award (1988), and, in addition to novels, has produced articles and book-length nonfiction. She seems to be at the center of a whirlwind of controversy involving the role of immigrant literature in multiculturalism, but she exists as a truly unique and individual writer who eschews ethnic stereotypes and political agendas.

In Jasmine, Mukherjee’s title character transforms herself and is in turn transformed by her experiences and by the perceptions of others. She is a chameleon who defies categorization. This groundbreaking novel presents through its protagonist a dynamic attempt to create and mold identity in a process of change and in a refusal to be defined within the limits of a particular culture. For example, all of Jasmine’s incarnations expand and explore her transformation as a woman and as an American: Jyoti is told she must accept a fate she denies; her name, Jasmine, rebels against traditional Indian values; Jazzy is a self-imposed, upbeat American girl; and Jase is the vision of an American woman who determines her own life, making unconventional and disturbing choices. With each new identity, Jasmine moves closer to self-actualization and complexity. She simultaneously merges with her current environment (or culture) and affects it.

At times, Jasmine as narrator has an ironic vision that informs the text with knowledge of her isolation and alienation, but at other times, she is a vulnerable human being who seeks to make sense of a world in which, for example, a terrorist bomb kills...

(The entire section is 810 words.)