Stylistic Analysis: Jhumpa Lahiri “Interpreter of Maladies”

Jhumpa Lahiri is an author who creates characters that evoke a form of powerful pathos from the reader. In her book of a collection of short stories, Interpreter of Maladies, Lahiri presents a beautifully crafted story titled A Temporary Matter, in which the reader is allowed an insight into a couple’s troubled marriage. These two characters are able to reveal their most intimate secrets to each other during a power outage, and as the secrets are revealed, so is the fate of their relationship.  In order to evoke this strong sense of pathos for the reader to experience, Lahiri employs the use of several writing techniques that complements her unique and influential writing style.

Jhumpa Lahiri’s text is abundant with writing techniques that are explored in Chris Holcomb and Jimmie Killingsworth’s book titled Performing Prose. The following paragraph is an excerpt from A Temporary Matter that displays the writing techniques that Lahiri utilizes to evoke a sense of pathos from her audience:

“Each time he thought of that moment, the last moment he saw Shoba pregnant, it was the cab he remembered most, a station wagon, painted red with blue lettering. It was cavernous compared to their own car. Although Shukumar was six feet tall, with hands too big ever to rest comfortably in the pocket of his jeans, he felt dwarfed in the back seat. As the cab sped down Beacon Street, he imagined a day when he and Shoba might need to buy a station wagon of their own, to cart their children back and forth from music lessons and dentist appointments. He imagined himself gripping the wheel, as Shoba turned around to hand the children juice boxes. Once, these images of parenthood had troubled Shukumar, adding to his anxiety that he was still a student at thirty-five. But that early autumn morning, the trees still heavy with bronze leaves, he welcomed the image for the first time.”(pg.3)

Jhumpa Lahiri develops what is termed as a “middle style” of writing in this story. This style of writing is used to entertain the reader with a more complex style of writing through the use of figurative writing tools such as metaphors and imagery.  Lahiri utilizes the imagery of the cab as a symbolic metaphor for Shukumar’s feelings as he allows the reader an insight into his intimate feelings and thoughts of his wife and future family. The description of the cab being “cavernous”, but causing Shukumar to feel “dwarfed”  is Lahiri utilizing the cab as a metaphor for Shukumar’s uneasiness with the situation of leaving his pregnant wife. This metaphor alludes that his impending family is a looming overbearing presence in his mind. This helps to suggest the significance of this memory to the readers and how it affects the relationship between him and his wife. The metaphor of this car ride scene is an example of how Lahiri utilizes figurative language to display her “middle style” writing as a way to creatively entertain and evoke a sense of pathos from her audience.

Imagery is one of the most important literary techniques that Jhumpa Lahiri utilizes in her writing. Lahiri’s emphasizes on imagery because imagery allows for a connection to a readers pathos unlike any other writing technique. The description of the setting and the physical actions of the character speaks volumes about the character and the situation. In the excerpt paragraph Lahiri has powerfully employed Shukumar’s feelings through the use of imagery. The description of the cab, the last sight of his pregnant wife, the heavy autumn leaves. All of these images collide beautifully into on descriptive paragraph that relies on imagery to allude to the characters feeling.  Shukumar expresses the initial anxiety of being a father and the imagery of his future life, and this progresses to not only accepting the image of his future life, but welcoming it. Through the use of powerfully employed imagery, the reader is able to follow on this journey of emotion that an expectant father is feeling. With this emotion evoked the imagery of this beautiful life that is eluded to later become the catastrophic event that alters the fate of Shukumar and his marriage. The powerful imagery that is used throughout Lahiri’s story intertwines with the entirety of her story and the reader is lead on a journey of emotion, with the writing technique of imagery as the guide.

Every author utilizing writing techniques is an important part to developing a personal writing style. Jhumpa Lahiri’s writing style is one to be admired. Lahiri’s creates pathos for readers through the use of a middle style for and utilizing metaphor and imagery in this passage not form an emotional connection from the reader to the character. It is through the symbolic metaphors and descriptive imagery that the reader is not only entertained by Lahiri’s words, but engulfed in the emotion and the drama that these two characters Shukumar and Shoba experience in the short story A Temporary Matter.

Changes Made:

  • I revised some grammatical, word choice, and typo errors that were present in the peice.
  • I re-evaluated the style and determined that Lahiri was using more of a “middle style” and thus changed my argument to focus on how a middle style is used.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. insertcleversaying
    Apr 25, 2012 @ 19:21:19


    I liked your piece. You analyzed the passage well and you proved your thesis effectively, that the author’s style helps to convey important aspects of the story and evoke emotion in the reader, showing just how effective a well-developed style can be. You also incorporated the ideas from the text book well into your analysis.



  2. guitarsophist
    May 01, 2012 @ 09:26:58

    The reader is of course curious about the tragic event. Can you give a hint without giving the whole story away?

    In the passage you quote, I would say that “cavernous” invokes a metaphor, which corresponds with “dwarfed.” The cab itself appears to function as a metonym for family life. What do you think of the repetition of the word “moment” i the first sentence, and the short sentence that follows it?

    Picky stuff:

    “Jhumpa Lahiri creates in her collection of short stories, characters that evoke a form of powerful pathos from the reader.” Why the comma after “stories”? It is never a good idea to put a single comma between the subject and the verb. Why not move “characters” after “creates”?


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