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In Interpreter Of Maladies, Mrs. Sen's regression of behaviors is evident through:
1) Her tendency to place Eliot in the role of mature confidant.
When the fish vendor calls to inform Mrs. Sen that he will set aside a particular fish for Mrs. Sen until the end of the day, she is excited. She has Eliot put on his shoes and his jacket in anticipation that Mr. Sen will be able to drive them to the fish market. However, when Mr. Sen appears to be engaged or unable to fulfill her request, Mrs. Sen confides to Eliot her disappointment.
"Tell me, Eliot. Is it too much to ask?"
Before he can answer such a loaded question, Mrs. Sen leads Eliot into the bedroom where she proceeds to open her bureau and closet. She shows Eliot all her saris, "of every imaginable texture and shade," and asks another loaded question.
"When have I ever worn this one? And this? And this?"
She is frustrated at her lonely and seemingly meaningless life, a life she thinks is bereft of joy or purpose. In addition, she is frustrated that her Indian friends and relatives probably have no inkling that she is suffering.
"They think I live the life of a queen, Eliot... They think I press buttons and the house is clean. They think I live in a palace."
While her bewilderment and frustration is understandable, her decision to engage an eleven-year-old boy in the role of confidant may be an indication that her struggles have left her incapable of facing her personal problems objectively.
2) The husband-wife relationship seems to descend to the level of a parent-child power struggle.
Because of her difficulty in assimilating into American society, Mrs. Sen has trouble interpreting her husband's protectiveness in anything less than a negative light.
Mr. Sen: "You are going to drive home today.
Mrs. Sen: "Not today."
Mr. Sen: "Yes, today."
Mr. Sen: "Switch lanes, I tell you... Are you listening to me?"
Mrs. Sen: "No more... I hate it. I hate driving. I won't go on."
On another occasion, she refuses Mr. Sen's offer to practice her driving, using the excuse that Eliot is in the car, a factor that does not seem to bother her later on.
As she is still a student driver, Mr. Sen has admonished her against driving on the main road without him. Driven to distraction by her need to preserve some semblance of the rituals which have always been a part of her Indian identity, she sets out with Eliot on a mission to purchase some fish. When she gets into an accident due to her inexperience, her grief is compounded by her embarrassment and her sense of impotence. Conflict may be Mrs. Sen's only way to preserve what she considers some semblance of autonomy in a foreign culture.
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