Summary (Masterplots II: American Fiction Series, Revised Edition)
Jasmine is a novel of emigration and assimilation, both on physical and psychological levels. In this novel, Bharati Mukherjee fictionalizes the process of Americanization by tracing a young Indian woman’s experiences of trauma and triumph in her attempt to forge a new identity for herself.
The story is told from the first-person point of view by the female protagonist, who undergoes multiple identity transformations in her quest for self-empowerment and happiness. Mukherjee uses the cinematic techniques of flashback and cross-cutting to fuse Jasmine’s past and present. The novel is steeped in violence.
The book begins with the twenty-four-year-old narrator, Jane Ripplemeyer, living as the common-law wife of Bud Ripplemeyer, a fifty-four-year-old invalid banker in Baden, Elsa County, Iowa. Through flashbacks, she recalls her story from childhood in Hasnapur, a village in Jullundhar District, Punjab, India, where she was born as Jyoti, the unwanted fifth daughter in a poor, displaced Hindu family. When she was seven, an astrologer predicted that she was doomed to widowhood and exile. Determined to fight her destiny, Jyoti begins to empower herself through learning English, for “to want English was to want more than you had been given at birth, it was to want the world.”
Her first notable transformation begins when, at fourteen, she marries Prakash Vijh, an engineering student and a modern city man who does not...
(The entire section is 752 words.)
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Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
An astrologer predicts that the young Jyoti (Jasmine’s given Indian name) will be widowed and will live among foreigners. Horrified and unbelieving, the seven-year-old girl rejects her foretold future and then falls, injuring her forehead with a bundle of firewood she is carrying. The injury leaves a portentous star-shaped scar on her forehead.
Jyoti spends her youth in the village of Hasnapur, Punjab, India. When she is fifteen years old, she marries Prakash Vijh, and they form a partnership of love and mutual goals that focuses on a move to the United States. In America, they can expand and even supersede the limits of their traditional background—all in hope of beginning a repair business for computers, televisions, and other technological icons of the modern age.
Jyoti (which means “light”) is rechristened by her husband as Jasmine—emblematic of his nonfeudal, modern perception of Indian women. Meanwhile, Prakash obtains admission to the Florida International Institute of Technology, and the two await visas to the United States. As they wait, against the backdrop of escalating religious tensions between Muslims and Hindus decades after the partition of British India into India and Pakistan, Jasmine and Prakash find themselves the victims of a bombing. Prakash is killed sacrificing himself by shielding his wife and saving her life.
Jasmine, combining a determination to honor her husband in a traditional way (burn his...
(The entire section is 772 words.)
Summary (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
Jasmine, a vivacious, starry-eyed, young Indian woman from Trinidad who believes that Trinidad is too small for a girl with ambition, has herself smuggled into the United States to find a well-employed husband and forge a new life. She enters Detroit from the Canadian border while hidden in the back of a mattress truck. With her daddy’s admonition that opportunity comes only once resounding in her ears, she challenges herself to use her wits and to refashion her destiny.
Being an illegal alien, Jasmine spends her first few months working as a chambermaid and bookkeeper, in exchange for meager board and lodging, at the Plantation Motel in Southfield, run by the Daboos, a family of Trinidadian Indians who helped her get there. Conscious of her social status as a physician’s daughter in Port-of-Spain, she feels superior to the Daboos, thinking of them as country bumpkins who were nobodies back home. She decides to leave them soon.
The central action of the story begins when Loretta and Viola, the Daboo girls, prevail on Jasmine to go with them to Ann Arbor to the big bash of the West Indian Students’ Association. The music, the dance, and the company of boys who talked with confidence about their futures in the United States stir her desires and ambition, and she decides not to return to the life of drudgery at the Plantation Motel. Instead, she thinks of trying her luck in pursuing higher studies in Ann Arbor, which seems to her the magic...
(The entire section is 543 words.)
Summary (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Soon after garnering the 1988 National Book Critics Circle Award for her second collection of short stories, titled The Middleman, and Other Stories, Mukherjee published her exciting and accomplished novel Jasmine. In fact, the novel grew out of one of the Middleman stories, also titled “Jasmine,” whose protagonist persisted in the author’s imagination, demanding to be reincarnated or born again in a lengthier genre. Jasmine is a novel about survival; it is also an account of an immigrant minority woman’s metamorphosis, self-invention, and self-empowerment. Inasmuch as the protagonist is a woman, the novel holds great interest for feminists. Insofar as she is an Indian, and much of the book dwells upon her experience in the United States, the novel adds another episode to the epic of the Asian diaspora to America.
In this tightly crafted book, which uses time shifts extensively, all the major themes and motifs are established in the opening chapter. Its first sentence begins with the phrase “Lifetimes ago,” which immediately introduces the structuring theme of metamorphosis or reincarnation, and indeed, the protagonist is known by different names (signifying different identities and different lives) at different stages in the novel. The first chapter also introduces the main conflict in the novel by describing an astrologer’s prophecy of Jasmine’s exile and widowhood and Jasmine’s violent resistance to...
(The entire section is 1320 words.)
Jasmine, the title character and narrator of Bharati Mukherjee's novel, was born approximately 1965 in a rural Indian village called Hasnpur. She tells her story as a twenty-four-year-old pregnant widow, living in Iowa with her crippled lover, Bud Ripplemeyer. It takes two months in Iowa to relate the most recently developing events. But during that time, Jasmine also relates biographical events that span the distance between her Punjabi birth and her American adult life. These past biographical events inform the action set in Iowa. Her odyssey encompasses five distinct settings, two murders, at least one rape, a maiming, a suicide, and three love affairs. Throughout the course of the novel, the title character's identity, along with her name, changes and changes again: from Jyoti to Jasmine to Jazzy to Jassy to Jase to Jane. In chronological order, Jasmine moves from Hasnpur, Punjab, to Fowlers Key, Florida (near Tampa), to Flushing, New York, to Manhattan, to Baden, Iowa, and finally is off to California as the novel ends.
The novel's opening phrase, ‘‘Lifetimes ago...’’ sets in motion the major motif, or theme, the recreation of one's self. Jasmine is seven years old. Under a banyan tree in Hasnpur, an astrologer forecasts her eventual widowhood and exile. Given the traditional Hindu belief in the accuracy of such astrological forecasts, this is a grave moment in the young girl's life. It...
(The entire section is 1976 words.)