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“It’s Complicated”: Relationships in “Interpreter of Maladies”

By Marcus Permatteo, IV Form

In the short story “Interpreter of Maladies” by Jhumpa Lahiri, both Mrs. Das and Mr. Kapasi have complicated relationships with their families. Each has a spouse and several children, yet show unfaithful qualities toward their families. Due to these unfaithful traits, their love for their families is questionable. As the characters reveal their feelings in the story, however, it is clear that Mr. Kapasi loves his family more than Mrs. Das because he makes continuous attempts to save his marriage, he is faithful to his wife, and he continues to love his children. Mrs. Das does none of these things. Mr. Kapasi tried to save his relationship with his wife, while Mrs. Das did not. Neither Mr. Kapasi nor Mrs. Das have loving relationships with their spouses. However, it is clear that Mr. Kapasi tried for a long time to make things work

with his wife. He works hard to provide financial support for her and the rest of his family: “The newer, bigger house, and the good schools, and tutors, and fine shoes, and the television, and countless other ways he tried to console his wife and keep her from crying in her sleep”(19). He works very hard to try to cheer up his wife after the death of their first son, but he is unsuccessful. As he and his wife grow more and more distant, he eventually realizes that she does not love him anymore: “… And a cup of tea that his wife would serve him in silence”(24). In a healthy relationship, spouses might talk about their day over tea, but since his wife serves him in silence, it means that she does not care about his day or about him. Mrs. Kapasi’s love for her husband began to fade and so Mr. Kapasi’s did as well.

Mrs. Das does not love her husband, either. Unlike Mr. Kapasi, however, she is the one in the relationship who stopped loving her spouse. She did so after only two years of marriage, “so that she was left home all day with the baby, surrounded by toys that made her trip when she walked or wince when sat, always cross and tired” (26). Mrs. Das gives up on her marriage because she selfishly does not want to be responsible for her son. She is unhappy because her husbands’ attention has been diverted from her to the baby. Mr. Kapasi makes a concentrated effort to save his marriage, while Mrs. Das does not, thus showing that Mr. Kapasi loves his wife more than Mrs. Das loves her husband.

81tXWj1CkBL._SL1500_Mr. Kapasi loves his family more than Mrs. Das because he is faithful to his wife, while she is not, “Raj’s. He’s not Raj’s son” (25). Her husband still does not know that one of the children he is raising as his son is not actually his. He believes that his wife still loves him and that nothing is wrong in their relationship. However, Mr. Kapasi is not perfect either: “Perhaps, when Mr. Das was taking a picture, he would take her hand” (24). Although Mr. Kapasi is planning on having a relationship with Mrs. Das it is not to the same extreme as her, “he would hear from her in approximately six weeks time” (23). Mr. Kapasi is looking for a more intellectual relationship, thinking that they might become pen pals. Also, Mrs. Kapasi does not love Mr. Kapasi, so it would not affect her as much if she found out. Mrs. Das betrays her husband to a far greater extreme than Mr. Kapasi, therefore proving that Mr. Kapasi loves his family more.

Lastly, Mr. Kapasi also loves his children more than she does. Mr. Kapasi quit his job as a teacher to pay for his son’s medical bills. Mr. Kapasi works very hard at two jobs so he can provide for his family and loves his children very much. He sacrificed his ambitions to be a scholar of foreign languages so that he could try to keep his son alive. Mrs. Das, conversely, does not show her children the love they need: “’Leave me alone,’ Mrs. Das said, blowing on her nail and turning her body slightly. ‘You’re making me mess up’” (16). Mrs. Das demonstrates her apathy towards her children here by only focusing on herself. Mrs. Das does not value her daughter’s happiness over her nail polish and eventually gives her some just to keep her quiet. Mr. Kapasi is willing to sacrifice his career for his children, while Mrs. Das only cares about herself, proving that Mr. Kapasi cares more about his family.

Although both characters are in similar positions, Mrs. Das instigated her own unhappiness while Mr. Kapasi’s was brought on him. Mr. Kapasi tried to fix his relationship, remained faithful to his wife, and loves his children. Mr. Kapasi loves his family and they are a greater priority to him than his own self. In Mrs. Das’ case, she loves her family but she values herself far more.

Marcus Permatteo is a IV Form day student from Southborough MA, and he is a member of the Burnett House. He enjoys spending time with friends and playing basketball.

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