I thought that, in the first half of Jasmine, many important themes like the ones I discuss in my presentation were presented. Each plays a part in Jasmine’s formation of her idea of her homeland. I thought that Jasmine seemed to abandon a piece of herself in India, and thought it was interesting to see the transition between her ideal view of America, her horrific journey West, and finally her life once she reached the states. I decided to focus more on her life in India because it is the starting point for her construction of homeland, and I felt it was important to establish the foundation for her beliefs and opinions, so that after her journey to America, we can discuss the beginning and end of this process.
The theme of fate is one that weighs heavily on Jasmine’s mind throughout the first half of the novel. She constantly refers to her fate, or assignment, and even cites it as the main reason she is traveling to America after her husband’s death. This idea of fate is often times one that doesn’t translate well into the ideals of American society. A fatalistic view of the world is very different from the idea of the American dream, where hard work and lots of effort can change a person’s path in life.
Another important theme has to do with Jasmine’s ever changing identity. Throughout the book, she discusses her body as a shell granted by God, and she seamlessly transitions between the identities of Jyoti, Jasmine, and eventually Jane. I thought that this was interesting given that she believed that her fate was, in a sense, sealed. Changing identities seems to be a way to change one’s being, and at the same time, leave behind one’s “assignment”.
The final theme I discussed is the role of women in both Indian and American society. Clearly they are very different worlds, but the treatment of women shows some similarities between East and West. For instance, in Hasnapur, she is likened to mindless cattle, after marriage to Prakash, she is nearly forced to completely abandon her past to find a “real life”, and on her first day in America she is brutally raped. These less than admirable happenings show a real parallel in the places and people she encounters throughout her journey.
Most important is the connection between East and West that each of these themes depict. While the two sides of the world seem diametrically opposed at first glance, Mukherjee is clearly trying to establish parallels in both societies. This becomes the most important theme in the novel and one that is sure to develop into cohesive ideal, which in turn will help Jasmine establish a clearer sense of her own homeland.
This Semester has been an extremely interesting study in different styles of writing and the overall themes that tie them together. While we have read books from all over the world and covering all sorts of topics, the most surprising thing i learned from each one was the many similarities that tie the East and the West together. While the societies discussed in each book are vastly different and unique in their own ways, the human element of each book shows that people from the other side of the world still struggle with the same questions and problems that beset people living in a place like America. It shows that no matter how different the culture, there can always be similarities found in humans, no matter what race nation or creed.