The Third and Final Continent

by Jhumpa Lahiri

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The Third and Final Continent Summary

The Third and Final Continent” is a short story about a Bengali man who moves to London in 1964 and then to Boston a few years later.

  • The narrator initially feel like a stranger in a strange land, but he soon befriends his elderly landlady, Mrs. Croft.
  • Mrs. Croft comes to think of the narrator as a “gentleman.” When his new wife joins him from India, Mrs. Croft approves of her, too.
  • Soon after, Mrs. Croft dies, and the narrator is left with fond memories of their time together.


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Last Updated on October 25, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 506

The narrator of this short story is a Bengali man in his early thirties who leaves India for Britain in 1964, traveling on board a cargo ship. He spends several years in London living with other young Bengali men and begins a career as a college librarian. In 1969, when he is thirty-six, he is offered a job in a library at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology at the same time as he is due to return to Calcutta and participate in an arranged marriage. He books a flight to Calcutta, gets married, and spends a few nights with his bride, Mala. Then he flies alone to Boston, the intention being for his new wife to join him later.

In Boston, he first stays at the YMCA, but then sees an advertisement for lodgings in a private house. Going to investigate, he finds that the room is being let by an elderly lady called Mrs. Croft. At first, he finds her behavior odd—she comments on the recent moon landing and insists that the narrator repeat that it is “splendid,” which embarrasses him. But she offers him the room, and he takes it.

Within a few weeks, the two have reached an understanding. Mrs. Croft is touched by the narrator’s gesture of handing her the eight dollars for the rent directly, rather than leaving it on the mantelpiece. One day, Mrs. Croft’s daughter, Helen, arrives and reveals that her mother thinks the narrator is “a gentleman,” an unusual compliment from her.

Helen reveals, at this juncture, that Mrs. Croft is 103 years old. This startles the narrator—immediately he feels more protective of her and offers to help her as much as he can, although Helen reminds him that her mother is fiercely independent. The two establish a rapport.

When Mala arrives in the United States a few weeks later, the narrator is disappointed that Mrs. Croft does not express sorrow that he must move out. At first, living with his new wife is uncomfortable. However, one evening, he takes her to see Mrs. Croft.

Mrs. Croft appears to have had a bad fall and is now lying down in the parlor. She is pleased to see him, but the narrator worries how she will react to his wife in her sari. Mrs. Croft delights both him and his wife, however, by declaring her a “lady,” and her approval sparks a genuine connection between the newlyweds for the first time. Over the course of the next few months, the narrator and his wife embark on a “honeymoon of sorts,” walking around the city, meeting people, taking photos, talking, and making love.

Mrs. Croft dies some time later, to the narrator’s great sadness, and Mala comforts him in his grief. Today, the narrator and Mala remain happily married, with American citizenship, a house of their own, and a son studying at Harvard. But the narrator still remembers Mrs. Croft, and he has told his son all about those six weeks of his life which were so influential.

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