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Native American Literature, Essay Example

Pages: 1

Words: 323

Essay

Part I

The homeless narrator is above all efficient, as his own confession indicates: “I suppose I’m effective.” (401) This indicates a general pragmatism in his movements, adjusting to life on the streets so as to cope with basic needs, such as the usage of a bathroom. Jackson Jackson’s self-description of “disappearing piece by piece” is thus indicative of his gradual deterioration as a human being, losing specific aspects of his general humanity. The closing lines contrast radically with this deterioration: the nostalgia for happy times shows the impossibility to return to these same times in life.

Part II

Whereas Lahiri’s story seems to be at first glance about cultural differences, my closer reading of the story would suggest that this is not at all what is at stake: rather, Lahiri wants to communicate the superficiality of cultural differences. Hence, consider the end of the story when he writes: “Unlike Mala, I was used to it all by then: used to cornflaes and milk, used to Helen’s visits, used to sitting on the bench with Mrs. Croft. The only thing I was not used to was Mala.” (426) Here, love and a deeper personal relationship remains complex, and this has nothing to do with the surface of cultural difference, remaining a universal complexity. By contrasting the love story of the narrative with the cultural differences expressed in the narrative, what Lahiri effectively communicates is the triviality of the latter in comparison to the significance of the former. There is a temporality present in all cultural differences: these may disappear with time. Yet love is problematic precisely because it speaks to the a-temporal, the brave commitment to a relationship that is ideally eternal, unbound to time. Certainly, at the end Lahiri notes that “there are times I am bewildered by each mile I traveled” (430), yet the triviality of the cultural assimilation is evinced in the more dominant theme of the difficult love in regards to Mala.

 

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