How do the symbols aid the development of the plot; please support the answer with three, specific references to the short story.

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susan3smith eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Jhumpa Lahiri's "Interpreter of Maladies" is a nuanced story highlighting the culture clash between the American-raised Das family and their Indian tour guide Mr. Kapasi.  These culture differences are revealed through several symbols in the story:

(1) Mr. Das camera--Mr. Das sees the world through his camera lens.  He represents the typical American tourist who distances himself from interacting with the people and the culture by taking pictures.  He is callous and insensitive in taking a picture of a starving peasant. But the camera also separates him from his family.  His position behind the camera keeps him from noticing his wife's selfishness and unhappiness and instead of protecting his children from the monkeys, Mr. Das accidentally takes a picture of his son.  The camera, in other words, marks Das a failure as a father, husband, and tourist.

(2) The setting is ironically symbolic. The Das and Kapasi look at the Sun Temple's friezes of erotic women.  These friezes serve to represent for Kapasi the sexuality he is missing in his loveless marriage and his obviously futile hope for romance with Mrs. Das.   The monastery at the story's end symbolizes Kapasi's disillusionment and loss of interest in Mrs. Das, and his fate of living a life without sex or passion.

(3) The monkeys at the end of the story that produce such havoc because they are fed symbolize the over-indulgences of the American Mr. and Mrs. Das, whose considerable wealth and non-existent discipline result in uncontrolled children.


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Interpreter of Maladies

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