Men vs Women in Action and Reaction by Chitra Fernando and Interpreter of Maladies by Jumpa Lahiri

This post consists of a model essay type answer to the question given in G.C.E Advanced Level Examination. The question is:

Explore how men are portrayed in two short stories by female writers. Discuss whether this portrayal is sufficiently nuanced and credible in comparison to the female characters in the selected short stories.

Chitra Fernando is a Sri Lankan born writer and Jumpa Lahiri is an Indian writer. They both share close cultural relationship as both are Asian writers writing in English language. Both their short stories: Action and Reaction and Interpreter ofMaladies introduce two different types of male characters whose characteristics contrast the characteristics of the main female characters in the stories.

Mahinda, who is the narrator of the short story, Action and Reaction starts his character as a small child and when the story progresses, he too develops his character with experience and age. Meanwhile, the character of Mr. Kapasi in the short story, Interpreter of Maladies is a grown up adult who has many disappointments throughout his ordinary and marriage life. Both the main male characters are portrayed defining certain characteristics which sharply contrast with the female protagonists in the stories. Through a proper analogy of characters, one can assume that the male characters hold much credibility and honesty in appearance of the stories whereas the female characters Loku Nanda and Meena have their own hidden and duel personalities: One to showcase to the society and one is their real self, which is hidden.

However, in the short story Action and Reaction, male characters are showcased in a submissive shelf when compared to the female characters. Both Loku Nanda and Kusuma have introduced as more authoritative over almost all the male figures in the story. Even father, being the main figure of the family grabs examples from the life of Loku Nanda:

“Now try to be like Loku Nanda, Mahinda; she is an example to us all.”

That shows the paramount place Loku Nanda maintained in the family. Even Educated Mahinda too cannot argue against her logics:

“Mahinda, what do you know about these things; who is Freud, ah?”

She, who can read and understand the deeper philosophies in ‘Abhidhamma’, one of the most complex teaching of Lord Buddah is considered as more educated. And with her experience of life, Mahinda is far too behind. Similarly, Kusuma who took up power of Loku Nanda too acts against Mahinda at the latter part of the story when he questions about how she accumulated money for meritorious acts:

“Kusuma glared at me, ‘I have found money for it…No one should interfere…”

Against those giant personalities of women characters in the story, all the male figures have been submerged highlighting the authority of matured women in a family.

In comparison to that, the male characters are portrayed in the short story Interpreter of Maladies by Jumpa Lahiri criticizing their folly and ignorance and the less accountability they maintain in the life of marriage.

Both the male characters in the story, Mr. Kapasi and Raj are not able to decipher the real character of Meena. Mr. Kapasi is infatuated by the appearance and behaviour of Meena but in real, Meena expects an elderly counselling from him which he cannot understand. She consults Mr. Kapasi looking for a remedy for her ‘eight years’ pain:

“Eight years, Mr. Kapasi, I’ve been in pain eight years. I was hoping you could help me feel better…”

The critical and vague response given by him disappoints Meena and it further shows how self-centred Mr. Kapasi is and how unsuccessful he is as an interpreter and elderly person because he could not understand her mainly because he was deceived by the outer appearance of Meena.   

On the other hand, Raj lives in a happy world of his own believing that his wife too is happy and she has every reason to be happy. Though he thought so, his negligence and irresponsibility had put her life into a chaos making her a suffering soul throughout and towards her future life also. By her own words, she shows how unsupportive Raj as a husband:

“Raj didn’t mind, he looked forward to coming home from teaching and watching television and bouncing Ronny on his knees…”

He could not understand that Meena is having a tough time of adaptation and she is crushed by the weight of responsibilities. Further, he leaving her alone with one of his Punjab friends is a fine example of his irresponsibility as a male and a husband.

Through the short story Interpreter of Maladies, the universal woman figure who struggles alone in the family is portrayed through Meena. The female in the story expects male to understand her and relieve her pain. However, the writer showcases male figures as less understanding, careless and unsupportive characters who are driven by lust not frank emotions.

However, both stories are written from the female point of view as both the writers are female and both share mostly similar cultural backgrounds. Some can argue that It may sometimes be less credible as male characters are portrayed as submissive and critical ways. Therefore, this portrayal is sometime might be less sufficiently nuanced.

In conclusion, both female writers try to show the realistic picture of the system of family. As it is shown in the short stories, females become more powerful when they are mature and has many sources of power to grab on. When it comes to the story Interpreter of Maladies, Female tend to choose wrong decisions when they are not given due support and understanding.       

What is your perspective about the male characters find in the both short stories? Leave a comment below to share your valuable ideas with us. Please share the post if you find it useful to others. You can subscribe to our newsletter to receive notifications when we release a new post.

Post a Comment