Ruth Prawer Jhabvala Short Fiction Analysis
Ruth Prawer Jhabvala’s lack of ties to any one place may account for her objectivity as a writer. However, her detachment does not prevent her from empathizing with her characters, nor does her rootlessness make her less conscious of the importance of place. Jhabvala’s experiences may have made her more capable of understanding how feelings of isolation affect individuals, whether they are Indian women, restricted by too many traditions, or Manhattanites, burdened by too many options.
Jhabvala’s early stories reflect the delight that, in her story “Myself in India,” she describes as a Westerner’s initial reaction to India. Like Jane Austen, to whom she was compared by critics, Jhabvala here emphasizes the comic elements in family life, though she does satirize self-deception, snobbery, or pretentiousness. In these lighthearted stories, Jhabvala’s characters emerge from their adventures relatively unscathed. For example, the narrator of “My First Marriage,” from Like Birds, Like Fishes, and Other Stories, regards her seduction and abandonment as incidents that merely make her more interesting.
In the 1970’s, Jhabvala’s short fiction became more pessimistic. Some of her characters seek to escape from the world by following spiritual leaders, as does the protagonist in the title story of An Experience of India; others, like the minister in “Rose Petals,” from the same collection, have hopes of improving...
(The entire section is 1190 words.)
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