Thursday, April 14, 2011

A Heroic Transformation

As we have discussed in class, Jasmine’s transformation and struggles with her identity seem to be the most prominent themes in Mukherjee’s novel. Yet as I was reading the second half of the book I couldn’t help but wonder who was responsible for Jasmine’s transformation and if she had any control over the changes in her life.
Reading the second half of Mukherjee’s novel I was struck by one of Jasmine’s first encounters with America. Jasmine explains, “Battered truck full of produce kept pulling out. More trucks, filled with laborers, turned in” (128). While reading this I couldn’t understand why the author would choose to show Jasmine this inferior side of America. She had come to America for opportunity and to escape her past yet one of her first experiences with ‘the promise land’ seems to be very disappointing. After reading the next line I understood what Mukherjee was trying to do. She wrote “It was as though I had never left India” (128). I felt that this quote was very significant in the novel because it seems that Mukherjee is trying to show us that our homelands can be very similar, even though they appear to be very different. I would never have thought to compare India to any part of the United States, yet after reading this description about the immigrant workforce I started to understand and recognize the similarities. While America is an affluent place filled with opportunity, we still share the same homeland crisis’s other countries do. Though this commonality is disappointing, it still shows us that our homelands are all connected through the issues we face every day.

What is interesting about this novel is that once Jasmine meets Lillian Gordon, she learns that she must leave these thoughts of her homeland in the past in order to move on with her life. Lillian advises, “Let the past make you wary, by all means. But do not let it deform you” (131). I feel that this quote resonates greatly with our discussion about Jasmine’s transformation. We talked about how if you truly wanted to change into a whole new person, would you have to erase your past from your life? I think in Jasmine’s case, she wants this transformation so bad that she does in fact try to erase her past. Repeatedly throughout the novel Jasmine explains that she wants to rid herself of thoughts about India or anything relating to India. And as a result to this we see her embracing the American lifestyle, wherein she begins to transform into “Jazzy”, her new American Identity. She describes her transformation as “I felt at times like a stone hurtling through diaphanous mist, unable to grab hold, unable to slow myself, yet unwilling to abandon the ride I’m on. Down and down I go, where I’ll stop, God only knows” (139). This feeling of falling is a great description of how Jasmine feels about America. The fact that she feels out of control in this new world, yet refuses to give up on it shows her perseverance as a character. Her determination portrays her in an almost heroic way, which is a big transformation for the meek woman she used to be back in India.

I am not sure by the end of the novel if Jasmine has found a new homeland. She leaves her family life with Bud in order to explore more of America, so it seems that she has not found one place to settle. I found that this ambition and need for change greatly connected to Liz’s need for change in Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Eat, Pray, Love. Both these women travel in order to find some purpose and opportunity in their lives. They both feel a sense of emptiness and loneliness throughout their journey and I think that that is really important to recognize. Those emotions show how they do not have a set homeland in their lives to make them feel happy and content. Instead they constantly travel and transform as characters in order to find some peace in the madness that is their life’s journey. I think both Gilbert and Mukherjee bring up the interesting point that not all people are not born into their homelands, some have to search for them.

I think one of the most interesting and surprising things I learned this semester was how everyone is our class has different lifestyles, yet we all connected through this class. We have had countless discussions about homelands and changes, and many of us have had very different opinions and views on these subjects, yet I think through our discussions we found a connection to one another. I can honestly say that every time I have left this class I have had a slew of new thoughts and ideas to contemplate over until the next class. Everyone’s opinions and stories made me feel as though I was getting to know them better, which had me constantly changing my views on them. I have never connected with a class so strongly and I have never wanted to go to a class just so that I could hear what others had to say about my own thoughts and questions. I feel as though we created our own little community, our own homeland, if you will. And this has helped me to become a whole new person in the making.

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