The most important and meaningful quotes at the end of the short story "The Third and Final Continent" by Jhumpa Lahiri are best analyzed in context. This story tells of the travels of a young Bengali man, the narrator, who leaves his homeland of India and travels first to London and then to Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he has accepted a job as a librarian at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Soon after obtaining a room in a private house, the narrator learns that his landlady is 103 years old. This impresses him, and he attempts to look out for her as best he can. Since his new bride is to soon join him in Cambridge, he has to move out of the old lady's house into an apartment that can accommodate a married couple. However, soon after his wife arrives, when they are still strangers to each other, he takes her to visit the old woman. The visit pleases the narrator's former landlady, and she declares that his wife is "a perfect lady."
The most important quotes at the end of "The Third and Final Continent" summarize some of the story's most important themes and lessons. First of all, there is this quote at the close of the couple's visit to the old landlady:
I like to think of that moment in Mrs. Croft's parlor as the moment when the distance between Mala and me began to lessen. Although we were not yet fully in love, I like to think of the months that followed as a honeymoon of sorts.
In this quote, the narrator shares the significance of taking his wife Mara to visit Mrs. Croft. His relationship with his landlady was important to him when he first arrived in America, and sharing this aspect of his life with Mara causes him to be able to open up and share other intimacies with her.
Another important quote is when the narrator comes across the obituary announcing the death of Mrs. Croft:
When I learned of her death I was stricken, so much so that when Mala looked up from her knitting she found me staring at the wall, unable to speak. Mrs. Croft's was the first death I mourned in America, for hers was the first life I had admired; she had left this world at last, ancient and alone, never to return.
Mrs. Croft's death affects the narrator so much because she is the first person in America with whom he develops a degree of intimacy. The closeness that he shares with his former landlady helps to bind him to and center him in his new adopted country.
Finally, the closing lines of the story serve as a summing up of the story's significance:
I am not the only man to seek his fortune far from home, and certainly I am not the first. Still, there are times that I am bewildered by each mile I have traveled, each meal I have eaten, each person I have known, each room in which I have slept. As ordinary as it all appears, there are times when it is beyond my imagination.
Lahiri here emphasizes the importance of the seemingly small details she has shared in the life of the narrator. His appears to be a commonplace life in that many others have shared similar destinies, but in fact his story is a unique adventure that is highly significant to him, his loved ones, his friends, and even the acquaintances he has met on the way.