Thursday, April 14, 2011

Nothing Lasts Forever

I don’t know if I would say this is the most surprising thing I have learned during the semester. I think this is something we all know deep down inside but don’t believe or are too afraid to admit this to ourselves. For me, this is the most inspirational realization resulting from class discussions…in order to find a home outside of ourselves; we need to find a home inside of ourselves. We deserve the chance to be “selfish” and do what is best for us, so then we can take the knowledge and passion we gain from our internal reflections and spread our acceptance to the world around us.

There is a reason I have been thinking about my word since the summer. I’m still in the process of finding my internal home. I don’t like to think about myself, and I have learned that whether if it is through meditation or travel, I need to start thinking of myself—a sentence which would seem extremely selfish, if I wasn’t planning on bettering the world by bettering myself.

In order to be men and women for others, we need to be men and women for ourselves.

The path of self discovery relates directly to the experience of Jasmine in Bharati Mukherjee’s Jasmine. By the end of the novel, Jasmine can be seen as committing an extremely selfish act. Jasmine leaves behind her disabled husband Bud who is dependent on her care for survival. Jasmine leaves behind the family she created with her husband, taking her unborn child with her. Jasmine leaves behind Jane, one of her own identities. The question arises “Is it right for Jasmine to ‘re-position the stars’” (240)? According to Mukherjee, Jasmine’s decision to find a new identity is a “frontier” that is pushing indoors through uncaulked windows” (240). Jasmine’s choice is one that will allow for a development of the self, so that Jasmine is not confined to the role of care-taker and to “old-world dutifulness” (240).

At one point in the novel Jasmine states “truth is, we’re underfurnished, in a meager house” (226). Though Jasmine is referring to the physical home she and Bud live in, Jasmine herself is “underfurnished” (226) and confined to the four walls of a life others want her to lead. Jasmine is a search for identity and throughout the novel others define Jasmine, not allowing Jasmine to define herself. Each husband Jasmine has had called her a different name, changing her identity and controlling the women Jasemine was and the women Jsamine could become. Prakash called her Jyoti, Bud called her Jane, and Taylor called her Jase. Jasmine was never able to find her own name; she was never able to find a home within herself.

The only option for Jasmine is to leave the life she was living. Jasmine states “Taylor didn’t want to change me. He didn’t want to scour and sanitize the foreignness…I changed because I wanted to” (185). Jasmine wanted to free herself from the restrictions that her “foreignness” (185) placed on her. She wanted to find an identity that extended beyond cooking “gobi aloo” (19), she wanted to experience the “ordinariness” (131) of life that being viewed as an outsider robbed her of. The only way to experience life was for Jasmine to act in an apparently selfish fashion and abandon the selves her husbands forced onto her.

Jasmine states, “in America, nothing lasts. I can say that now and it doesn’t shock me, but I think it was the hardest lesson of all for me to learn. We arrive so eager to learn, to adjust, to participate, only to find the monuments are plastic, agreements are annulled. Nothing is forever, nothing is so terrible, or so wonderful, that it won’t disintegrate” (181), and the internal self cannot escape this decay, which is why individuals need to constantly reflect on the person they have become. People are constantly changing. In order to better the world, individuals need to first fix their disintegrating selves by reflecting internally.

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