Style and Technique

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Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 321

The most significant stylistic technique in this story is the tightly controlled point of view, third person and limited to Kapasi. Though Kapasi has some knowledge of Western culture, it comes from sources such as the television show Dallas. Consequently, his view of the bicultural Dases is skewed, and a dramatic irony develops: Though Mrs. Das’s actions and language suggest she has no romantic interest in Kapasi, he cannot perceive this fact, and his fantasy about an intimate romance with her seems ludicrous and obsessive. At the moment of epiphany, Mrs. Das and her family remain a cipher.

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The use of Indian tourist sites as settings for the action underscores the bicultural themes, highlighting the “Americanness” of the Das family—an Indian American family encountering their heritage for the first time.

The tone of the narration, complex and subtle, implies a negative criticism of the characters. When describing the Dases, the narrator focuses on subtle negative aspects of them: the father’s fixation on his camera, his wife’s apparent boredom with her family and the tour itself, and the children’s irritating behavior. Though the narrator richly details the bicultural Dases, the presentation of them accents their negative qualities. The narrator’s tone toward Kapasi is only slightly better. He is a more rounded character than the members of the Das family, but his foolish obsession with Mrs. Das is subtly criticized by the narrator’s tone, creating a dramatic ironic tension between Kapasi’s fantasy about a love affair with Mrs. Das and the real impossibility of that romance ever developing.

Sensual images run throughout the story, supporting Kapasi’s self-deception that he may have a romance with Mrs. Das. The carvings on the temple of naked bodies making love and the recurring images describing Mrs. Das’s sensuous attire juxtaposed with the frumpy images of Kapasi’s wife serve to create sexual tension in Kapasi’s mind.

Analysis

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Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 2146

The fact that Jhumpa Lahiri was hailed as “one of the twenty best young writers in America today” in The New Yorker’s 1999 “Future of American Fiction” issue but was neither included nor even mentioned in the highly touted collections published by Granta, Penguin, or The New Yorker just two years earlier to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Indian independence demonstrates the speed with which the Indian literary scene is expanding. Although benefiting from the enormous interest in Indian writing generated by the publication of Salman Rushdie’sMidnight’s Children in 1981, Lahiri neither relies on the ethnic exotica nor cultivates the florid faux Indian style that have become hallmarks of the decidedly lesser Rushdies who have found favor with American publishers and book buyers. In this, Lahiri’s achievement is striking but as unassuming as her style, which is not only surprisingly accomplished and assured, but marked by a Chekhovian subtlety, restraint and clarity well suited to her major themes of cultural disorientation and “the dilemma, the difficulty and often the impossibility of communicating emotional pain to others, as well as expressing it to ourselves.”

Lahiri’s almost self-effacing strengths are especially evident in the collection’s opening story, “A Temporary Matter.” The title specifically refers to the disruption of electrical service for however many evenings needed to repair a damaged line. “It’s good of them to warn us,’ Shoba conceded after reading the notice aloud, more for her own benefit than Shukumar’s.” Shoba works as a proofreader and keeps fit by working out at a gym. Her husband, Shukumar, “still a student at...

(The entire section contains 2467 words.)

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