The Effects of Colonialism in Jhumpa Lahiri's Interpreter of Maladies

Jackie Large '05, and Erin Quinn '04, English 365, Northwestern University

Although Lahiri depicts many of her "in-diaspora" protagonists as American-born and raised, she also comments on the effects of Western colonialism on Indians and Indians in diaspora. The following questions look at the subtle, though ultimately noticeable, Western cultures have on colonies, former colonies, and the people with homeland roots in those places.

"When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine"

Lilia, a first-generation American student, notes that "we learned American history, of course, and American geography. That year, and every year, it seemed, we began by studying the Revolutionary War" (27). And when Lilia tries to read about India in her school library, the following exchange occurs with her teacher: "'Is this book part of your report, Lilia?' 'No Miss Kenyon.' 'Then I see no reason to consult it,' she said, replacing it in the slim gap on the shelf. 'Do you?" (33). How does this Americanization of history by American teachers foster and further colonialism? What other instances in Interpreter of Maladies underline this generalization of history to privilege Americans?


What does the character of Rohin say about Lahiri's own view of colonialism and its effects on first-generation American children born to Indian families?

Postcolonial India OV Diasporas literature

Last modified 7 December 2002