Bharati Mukherjee Long Fiction Analysis
Bharati Mukherjee has spent many years as a writer and commentator on social issues that involve her native India, immigrants, and the developing “face” of the United States—designating herself first and foremost as an American writer. She has carefully distinguished between herself as an immigrant writer and what is termed an “expatriate writer”; the latter may still be involved in “nostalgia” for a home country instead of redefining him- or herself in an innovative and mutating cultural sense. In fact, some critics have described Mukherjee as both a postcolonialist writer and a feminist writer, but these two “agendas” are not her prime focus, although in redefining their identities in new environments, her protagonists and characters may be shedding “old thought” perceptions of themselves endemic to colonial or gender-oppressive societies. Mukherjee’s writing goes beyond these two narrowly defined categories, and her ideas always entail the identity and individuality of transmigrating people and their interactions with old and new worlds.
Furthermore, in her later novels, Mukherjee abandons linear progression and traditional points of view to interweave tales that span centuries, continents, and personal histories. In her long fiction, Mukherjee has progressed from the omnisciently narrated novel (The Tiger’s Daughter) that, the author has admitted, attempted to imitate British models such as Jane Austen to the intense stream-of-consciousness and first-person personas in Wife and Jasmine, respectively. This progression of narrative style has been accompanied by greater emphasis on her characters’ abilities to negotiate (or attempt to negotiate) the very necessary transformations that form the central focus of her fiction; as she states in her introduction to the short-story collection Darkness, “We are a series of fluid identitiesculture never stops.”
Thus, despite violence, racism, and destruction of psychic “selves,” the underlying message of Mukherjee’s fiction is hope—for a new America, a transformative one, that allows its citizens to create and re-create themselves in myriad ways. Such an attitude characteristically informs her female protagonists, who often take on multiple identities (Jasmine, The Holder of the World, Desirable Daughters, Leave It to Me) and liberate themselves metaphorically through separation, expatriation, divorce, and even murder.
Mukherjee’s themes, therefore, deal with the forging of identity—both personal and national. For the author, this forging is insistently constant and self-altering, and this state of flux must be accepted, even embraced. This flux and complexity are increasingly mirrored in Mukherjee’s long fiction, as the works become progressively more layered and more complex—intermixing time frames and personalities from strikingly different cultures. Mukherjee herself seems to have expanded and extended her narrative goals even further—her two novels Desirable Daughters and The Tree Bride are in fact a continuing story, the latter a sequel and perhaps the middle of a trilogy that circumscribes an even larger reality, amalgamating history, myth, tradition, and change.
Another aspect explored in...
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