Many stories in Interpreter of Maladies, and the novel Buddha in the Attic, share a few common themes, such as travel, physical limitations, concepts of home, ideas of marriage and family, and metaphors of bodies. Focus on one of these themes (or more, if you think some of these are related), and write about how this theme unfolds and works in both books and what they say about our expectations and assumptions in our society.
To prepare to write the essay, ask yourself lots of questions about these stories:
There are many descriptions of women’s bodies, bodily functions, sicknesses of the bodies or movements (transportation) of bodies in both books. Do you find anything unusual in the way women are described? What do these descriptions say about the general attitude toward women? What do they say about women’s own attitude toward themselves, etc.?
There are many different descriptions of women and home—how is home defined or understood? What are the women’s roles in these homes? How do they make it more “homey” for themselves or how do they feel alienated from the places they call home? What do their relationship with their home say about their relationship with the world, etc.?
There are different kinds of marriages described in these stories. There are failed marriages and good marriages, and there are compromises. What do women expect from marriage? What do they want from marriage? Why do they get married?, etc..
There are a lot of moving around in these books—women being trafficked as brides, women migrated voluntarily, women just visiting places. In reverse, some women seem to be trapped in places, not going anywhere physically or psychologically. What does movement mean? What does it entail in the lives of these women? Why do we travel? Etc..
Your essay must contain a good introduction that not only introduces your topic—the theme you have chosen to write on, but also what you would like to say about this topic.
Your essay must include a strong conclusion that summarizes what you’ve discovered in your analysis of the works.
Organize your essay, so each paragraph contains only one major point and the supporting material, and arguments for this one argument. Always use the text: details of the stories, direct quotation, discussion of metaphors—light, darkness, character descriptions, food items, dresses, etc.– to support your arguments. For example, in our discussions, we mentioned that the electrical outage in Chapter one of Interpreter of Maladies is a metaphor of the state of the relationship between the couple–darkness of mood, a dark period in the relationship between the couple, lack of communication, avoidance, alienation etc.. Ask yourself questions such as, what does “driving” stand for in “Mrs. Sen.” What does being a driver mean, what does not being able to drive mean, etc..
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