The Characters

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 545

Jasmine is a complex, resourceful, and dynamic character who undergoes dramatic changes throughout the novel. A young, daring woman from India, she represents Bharati Mukherjee’s concept of “the new breed” of Americans from non-European countries who are imperceptibly changing the face of America. Endowed by nature with good looks and a good mind, she uses them both to her fullest advantage to seek happiness and self-fulfillment. With her remarkable willpower, she fights an undesirable fate as she resists the hold of a feudal and patriarchal family. Her marriage to Prakash allows her to break the mold of the traditional female role in Indian society and strengthens her hopes for a bright future. When Prakash decides to go to school in America, she sees this as a possible way to subvert the fate predicted by the astrologer. Even her husband’s death does not deter her from realizing her American Dream. Her arduous voyage to America shows her stubborn will to survive and her determination to re-create her destiny. She goes through several rebirths to become all-American. Her adaptability and readiness to reinvent herself aid her assimilation into American society.

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Prakash Vijh, Jyoti’s husband, impresses the reader with his modern outlook and revolutionary ideas. He liberates Jyoti from her feudal past and transforms her into a new kind of modern woman, capable of independent thought. He renames her Jasmine and stirs her mind with new possibilities. Jyoti rightly thinks of him as her Pygmalion.

Lillian Gordon, an old white Quaker woman who provides sanctuary to refugees and illegal aliens, represents the best in the American spirit of compassion, tolerance, and philanthropy. She facilitates Jasmine’s assimilation into mainstream America.

Professor Devinder Vadhera, an Indian expatriate living in New York, embodies the conflict between assimilation and cultural preservation. As Prakash’s former teacher, he serves as Jasmine’s American connection. Yet Jasmine rejects the stifling aloofness of his Indian world to merge into the great American melting pot.

Kate Gordon-Feldstein, Lillian’s daughter and the author of a book on migrant workers, is the first person to applaud Jasmine’s expression of will. By helping her to find a job with the Hayeses, Kate opens up new possibilities for Jasmine to fulfill her dream.

Taylor Hayes, an academic who falls in love with Jasmine and calls her “Jase,” teaches her how to take charge of her life and harmonize her Hindu concept of destiny with her American expression of will. Most important, he does not fear her foreignness and accepts her as she is. Under Taylor’s loving tutelage, as Jasmine puts it, “I bloomed from a diffident alien with forged documents into adventurous Jase.” It is Taylor who eventually leads her to “the promise of America.”

Bud Ripplemeyer, the disabled banker, offers Jasmine a haven of economic security and the prospect of motherhood, but he cannot offer her “adventure, risk, transformation,” for which she craves. Though he wins Jasmine’s deep affection and admiration, he fails to satisfy her emotional needs.

Du Thien, the Vietnamese boy adopted by Bud and Jasmine, plays an important part in Jasmine’s emotional life. He constantly reminds her that she is living in exile among strangers. She regards Du as the son she and Prakash might have had.

Characters Discussed

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 778

Jasmine Vijh

Jasmine Vijh, later called Jane Ripplemeyer, the narrator. She was born in Hasnapur, India, and given the name Jyoti. She is the fifth daughter of her parents and the seventh of nine children; as such, she is somewhat unwanted. An astrologer predicts that she is doomed to widowhood and exile. Jasmine is determined...

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