Form and Content
Wife is a tightly constructed novel that is divided into three parts. Primarily an immigrant narrative, it chronicles the cultural disorientation, alienation, and mental deterioration of a young Hindu wife who emigrates to the United States with her husband. Bharati Mukherjee uses third-person limited omniscience to tell the story from the wife’s point of view and, at the same time, to develop a counterperspective on the ideological gender role models for the reader. The novel is steeped in violence.
Part 1 is set in Calcutta. In this section, the author explores, with undermining humor, the social, cultural, economic, and sexual context of the protagonist’s premarital state of mind. Born into a middle-class Bengali family, in which a girl of twenty is considered past marriageable age, Dimple Dasgupta is worried about her marriage prospects because of her dark skin, “sitar-shaped body,” and “rudimentary breasts.” Nevertheless, haunted by erotic fantasies fed by film and beauty magazines, she entertains the vision of her marriage to a neurosurgeon as a portal to romance, freedom, love, and happiness. Her romantic vision collapses when her father arranges her match with Amit Basu, an engineer who is about to emigrate to the United States. She sadly thinks of herself as “someone going into exile.”
Dimple’s first night after marriage comes to her as a rude awakening when her husband ignores her wishes completely in matters of...
(The entire section is 605 words.)