Interpreter of Maladies Style and Technique

Jhumpa Lahiri

Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

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.

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.