Thursday, April 14, 2011

Behind the Nickname

Bharati Mukherjee’s Jasmine tells of a girl growing up and constantly changing her identity in the process. Jasmine (or Jyoti or Jane), she considers each change in identity a clean break from the first. At first, Jasmine did not realize how connected and important her past is. She felt that we “murder” our old self in order to start over and “rebirth” ourselves. The ideas of identity, past and homeland are all dealt by Mukherjee as his character constantly evolves and changes to her environment and each “new” homeland. But, still she is not settled. Externally, the men in her life in each stage of her life identify who she is for her. She receives a nickname along with the pressures to conform and become one with the new society she finds herself in.
As said in class, a nickname can be both freeing and confining. A nickname given to you is not something you ever really asked for and in a way, seeks to identify one aspect and how you relate to society through that aspect. But at the same time, Jasmine can easily identify the many aspects of her self by recalling each nickname she was given. In a way, she is the culmination of the nicknames and places she visited. Each identifies change and an aspect that Jasmine learned about her self.
Although Jasmine had all these many nicknames, she still felt that each was not connected and each place was a “new life.” As she struggles to find a homeland externally, the problem is her inability to find a peace within her self. There is a homeland of the self that constitutes who we believe we are and where we would like to be. Jasmine struggles to find that comfort zone and thus, is unable to connect with and grow with each man and homeland. She did not know what she wanted from her self and therefore, could not live a life more fulfilling and ultimately, fulfills the prophesy.
This point brings me to the most surprising thing I’ve learned this semester. I believe the most surprising thing learned is everything I’ve learned. Coming into this class, I had no idea what to expect. Now, I am extremely glad I have taken this class. Learning about the importance of homelands to not only myself, but all these characters as been eye opening. As each new character struggles with the ideas of homeland, whether internal or external, the world becomes seemingly smaller and more universal. Everyone struggles to find comfort and peace within their lives. Everyone farts. Everyone feels the desire to be connected to people, places and things.
As I’ve grown, I have realized an increasing desire to explore and understand the world that I live in. I’ve studied abroad and continue to take Italian which I hope is a step that will bring me closer to connecting with more people on different cultural levels. This class has surprisingly allowed me to see into other cultures and their minds without the expensive flight tickets and hotel rooms. I have realized what my homeland is and how important it is to me. Ultimately, I have come to understand that this world (not to sound like a hippie) is one homeland. Each country is simply a nickname, like ones that Jasmine dealt with, that identify one aspect. One has to delve personally into the meaning behind and the overall character in order to better understand the people, place and culture that that one name fails to speak of.

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