Interpreter of Maladies
Jhumpa Lahiri has used a lot of symbols in the story “Interpreter of Maladies”. Each symbol enhances the meaning of the story and further develops the plot. She has used Konark Sun temple as a symbol to refine the main plot where Mr. Kapasi is attracted to Mrs. Das and Mrs. Das is hiding a secret from her family.
“The wheels are supposed to symbolize the wheel of life. They depict the cycle of creation, preservation, and achievement of realization. Each wheel is divided into eight thick and thin spokes, dividing the day into eight equal parts.”
Mrs. Das has gone through the cycle of creation, preservation and realization. She went through cycle of creation when she had a brief affair with her husband’s friend. She went through preservation when she did not tell her husband that he is not the father of Bobby and kept that as a secret. She kept the secret for eight years and then confided in Mr. Kapasi. During the trip, she is going through the cycle of realization. She realizes that her indifferent relationship with her husband and children is out of guilt that she is keeping a secret from them.
This also represents Mr. Kapasi’s journey with the Das family. First there is a creation of romantic interest in Mrs. Das then he preserves the secret that Bobby is not Mr. Das’ son and finally realizes that there is a huge cultural difference between him and the Das family. He realizes this when Mrs. Das casually tells her secret to him. He is a complete stranger to Das family and he wonders why anybody would tell such a secret to him.
The erotic images on the Sun Temple also represent the sexuality Mr. Kapasi is missing from his loveless marriage and his futile effort for romance with Mrs. Das.
“This Surya had a tired expression, weary after a hard day of work, sitting astride a horse with folded legs. Even his horse’s eyes were drowsy”. Like this fatigued God, Mr. Kapasi and Mrs. Das are also living a fatigued life. He sees indifference in the marriage of Mrs. Das and also in his own. His wife is not appreciative of the interpretation work he is doing. Like the Surya, both are feeling exhausted in their own personal life.