The Third and Final Continent Summary
by Jhumpa Lahiri

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The Third and Final Continent Summary

The narrator of this short story is a Bengali man in his early thirties who leaves India for Britain in 1964. He spends several years in London living with other Bengalis and begins a career as a librarian. Then, he is offered a job in Boston at the same time as he is due to return to Calcutta and participate in an arranged marriage. He books flights to Calcutta, gets married first and spends a few nights with his bride, Mala. Then he flies alone to Boston, the intention being for his 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 moon landing and insists that the narrator repeat that it's "splendid." 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 money 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 report.

When Mala arrives in the USA a few weeks later, the narrator is disappointed to hear no sadness from Mrs. Croft 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, it transpires, has 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.

Mrs. Croft dies some time later, to the narrator's great sadness. Today, he is a happily married man with a son of his own studying at Harvard, but he still remembers her, and has told his son all about those six weeks of his life which were so influential.

Summary

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“The Third and Final Continent” is the story of how a young immigrant adjusts to his new home and new bride. The heroine of the work is an eccentric, elderly widow, who manages to help the young man feel less lonely. She shows him qualities in his wife that he had not noticed and provides him with a model for his future life.

The narrator’s account starts with his departure from his native India and continues with a summary of his five-year stay in London. After obtaining a job at a library at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he returns to Calcutta, marries, then flies to the United States, leaving his bride behind, with the understanding that she will join him six weeks later. In the meantime, he intends to stay in a room at the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) in Cambridge, Massachusetts. However, when he happens across an advertisement for a room in a much quieter area, he decides to look it over and ends up renting it.

At first, he is puzzled by the eccentric behavior of Mrs. Croft, his elderly, widowed landlady. Every evening, she announces that there is an American flag on the moon, pronounces the fact “splendid,” and insists that her roomer repeat the word loudly enough so that she can hear it. This becomes a ritual. So...

(The entire section is 996 words.)