Unaccustomed Earth: The West and India in Jhumpa Lahiri’s Narrative

Daria Parisi


This article focuses on the representations of the West and of India in Jhumpa Lahiri’s fiction through the analysis of one of her more significant short stories, “Mrs. Sen’s”, appearing in her collection, Interpreter of Maladies (1999; Pulitzer Prize, 2000). In this short story, Lahiri uses most of the recurrent discursive strategies, themes, and motifs of her fiction, such as the use of the point of view of children, the female identity and loneliness, strangeness as a means to represent the human condition, and colours and food as cultural difference.

“Mrs. Sen’s” is the story of the meeting of two kinds of loneliness and two cultures, that of an American boy, Eliot and that of his Bengali babysitter, Mrs Sen. The analysis of the short story is inducive, in that it focuses on the images of the text as they gradually come to the reader’s imagination.

It emerges that the representations of India and the West, i.e. United States in this short story, are antithetically built through the opposition of colour/non-colour, noise/silence, full/empty, hot/cold, covered/naked, and smell/odourlessness. Through Eliot’s unmasking point of view, these antitheses will prove the “accustomed earth”, the United States, to be as strange to him as to Mrs Sen; while Mrs Sen’s India will appear a warmer and more comfortable place, although far beyond their reach.


Jhumpa Lahiri; Criticism; Short Stories; West; India

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.13125/2039-6597/302

NBN: http://nbn.depositolegale.it/urn%3Anbn%3Ait%3Aunica-17579

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