Interpreter of Maladies

by

Jhumpa Lahiri

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Mr. Kapasi Character Analysis

A forty-six-year-old tour guide working in India, who accompanies the Das family on a sightseeing trip to the Sun Temple. Although written in the third person, “The Interpreter of Maladies” is largely filtered through his consciousness and point of view. Polite, responsible, and observant, Mr. Kapasi is intrigued by the foreignness of Mr. Das, Mrs. Das, and their three children. As a young man he had dreamed of working as an interpreter for diplomats and dignitaries, but life has not lived up to Mr. Kapasi’s expectations. Instead, in middle-age, he finds himself chaperoning tourists and working a second job as an interpreter of maladies in a doctor’s office to support his family. He is stuck in an unhappy marriage with a wife from whom he has grown estranged following the death of their son. Perhaps because of these dissatisfactions and disappointments, Mr. Kapasi is particularly drawn to the young and attractive Mrs. Das, and begins to fantasize about a romantic relationship with her. During the course of his outing with the family, he begins to believe that his attraction to her is reciprocated. By the end of the story, however, his hopes are once again dashed, as he realizes that Mrs. Das does not seek his love, but merely his professional help.

Mr. Kapasi Quotes in Interpreter of Maladies

The Interpreter of Maladies quotes below are all either spoken by Mr. Kapasi or refer to Mr. Kapasi. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Knowledge and Fantasy Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Mariner Books edition of Interpreter of Maladies published in 1999.
Interpreter of Maladies Quotes

The first thing Mr. Kapasi had noticed when he saw Mr. and Mrs. Das, standing with their children under the portico of the hotel, was that they were very young, perhaps not even thirty. In addition to Tina they had two boys, Ronny and Bobby, who appeared very close in age and had teeth covered in a network of flashing silver wires. The family looked Indian but dressed as foreigners did, the children in stiff, brightly colored clothing and caps with translucent visors.

Related Characters: Mr. Kapasi, Mrs. Das, Mr. Das, Bobby, Ronny, Tina
Page Number: 13
Explanation and Analysis:

Mr. Kapasi pulled over to the side of the road as Mr. Das took a picture of a barefoot man, his head wrapped in a dirty turban, seated on top of a cart of grain sacks pulled by a pair of bullocks. Both the man and the bullocks were emaciated.

Related Characters: Mr. Kapasi, Mr. Das
Related Symbols: The Camera
Page Number: 17
Explanation and Analysis:

For this reason it flattered Mr. Kapasi that Mrs. Das was so intrigued by his job. Unlike his wife, she had reminded him of its intellectual challenges. She had also used the word “romantic.” She did not behave in a romantic way toward her husband, and yet she had used the word to describe him. He wondered if Mr. and Mrs. Das were a bad match, just as he and his wife were.

Page Number: 19
Explanation and Analysis:

She would write to him, asking about his days interpreting at the doctor’s office, and he would respond eloquently, choosing only the most entertaining anecdotes, ones that would make her laugh out loud as she read them in her house in New Jersey. In time she would reveal the disappointment of her marriage, and he his. In this way their friendship would grow, and flourish.

Related Characters: Mr. Kapasi, Mrs. Das, The doctor
Page Number: 20
Explanation and Analysis:

They reached Konarak at two-thirty. The temple, made of sandstone, was a massive pyramid-like structure in the shape of a chariot. It was dedicated to the great master of life, the sun […] “It says the temple occupies about a hundred and seventy acres of land,” Mr. Das said, reading from his book.

Related Characters: Mr. Das (speaker), Mr. Kapasi, Mr. Das, Bobby, Ronny, The doctor
Related Symbols: The Sun Temple
Page Number: 21
Explanation and Analysis:

Bobby was conceived in the afternoon, on a sofa littered with rubber teething toys, after the friend learned that a London pharmaceutical company had hired him, while Ronny cried to be freed from his playpen. She made no protest when the friend touched the small of her back as she was about to make a pot of coffee, then pulled her against his crisp navy suit.

Related Symbols: Hanuman Monkeys
Page Number: 26
Explanation and Analysis:

“For God’s sake, stop calling me Mrs. Das. I’m twenty-eight. You probably have children my age.”

“Not quite.” It disturbed Mr. Kapasi to learn that she thought of him as a parent. The feeling he had had toward her, that had made him check his reflection in the rearview mirror as they drove, evaporated a little.

“I told you because of your talents.” She put the packet of puffed rice back into her bag without folding over the top.

“I don’t understand,” Mr. Kapasi said.

Related Characters: Mr. Kapasi (speaker), Mrs. Das (speaker), Mr. Das, Bobby
Page Number: 26-27
Explanation and Analysis:

When she whipped out the hairbrush, the slip of paper with Mr. Kapasi’s address on it fluttered away in the wind. No one but Mr. Kapasi noticed. He watched as it rose, carried higher and higher by the breeze, into the trees where the monkeys now sat, solemnly observing the scene below. Mr. Kapasi observed it too, knowing that this was the picture of the Das family he would preserve in his mind forever.

Related Characters: Mr. Kapasi, Mrs. Das, Mr. Das, Bobby, Ronny, Tina
Related Symbols: Hanuman Monkeys
Page Number: 29
Explanation and Analysis:
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Mr. Kapasi Character Timeline in Interpreter of Maladies

The timeline below shows where the character Mr. Kapasi appears in Interpreter of Maladies. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Interpreter of Maladies
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While stopped at a tea stall, Mr. Kapasi observes as Mr. Das and Mrs. Das bicker over who should accompany their young daughter,... (full context)
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The Das family is on its way to visit the Sun Temple in Konarak, India. Mr. Kapasi reflects that he would not normally stop so early on a tour, but Tina had... (full context)
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While Mr. Kapasi waits with Mr. Das and his sons for Mrs. Das and Tina to return from... (full context)
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Mr. Kapasi, who is 46 years old, makes small talk with Mr. Das as they wait. He... (full context)
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Tina returns from the restroom, and Mr. Das asks where “Mina” is; Mr. Kapasi is struck that he refers to Mrs. Das by her first name to his daughter.... (full context)
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Mr. Kapasi continues talking with Mr. Das, who tells him the family lives in New Jersey, and... (full context)
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...all become excited when they encounter monkeys perched in trees along the road down which Mr. Kapasi drives. One of the monkeys jumps into the middle of the road, forcing Mr. Kapasi... (full context)
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After Mr. Das is finished taking pictures, Mr. Kapasi once again starts the car and the group continues on its way. The middle child,... (full context)
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Giving in to his penchant for photo-taking, Mr. Das asks Mr. Kapasi to stop the car so he can take a picture with his camera of a... (full context)
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Mr. Das, while taking photos of the man on the cart, makes small talk with Mr. Kapasi, asking whether he finds his work as a tour guide tiresome. Mr. Kapasi responds that,... (full context)
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Mr. Kapasi had only taken the job in the doctor’s office to pay for the medical bills... (full context)
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The group stops for lunch at a roadside restaurant, and Mrs. Das invites Mr. Kapasi to join them at the table. The children leave to look at monkeys perched in... (full context)
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Mrs. Das then asks Mr. Kapasi for his address, so that she can send him copies of the picture. Mr. Kapasi... (full context)
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...are depictions of naked lovers. As he looks up at the images of naked women, Mr. Kapasi realizes that he has never seen his wife naked, even while making love. He admires... (full context)
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As Mr. Kapasi is admiring a statue, Mrs. Das walks up to him and asks him about it.... (full context)
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Back in the car with the Das family, Mr. Kapasi drives them towards their hotel. He dreads not seeing Mrs. Das, or hearing from her,... (full context)
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...because he would like to pose the entire family for photos (to be taken by Mr. Kapasi ) that he can send to friends for Christmas. Nonetheless, Mrs. Das refuses to leave... (full context)
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Mr. Kapasi, still in the car with Mrs. Das, tells her that he will join Mr. Das... (full context)
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Mrs. Das tells Mr. Kapasi that she has never told the secret of Bobby’s paternity to anyone—he is the first... (full context)
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Continuing to recount the story of her marriage, Mrs. Das tells Mr. Kapasi that while still a first-time mother, a friend of her husband had come to New... (full context)
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Mr. Kapasi asks Mrs. Das why she is telling him all this, and she scolds him for... (full context)
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Mrs. Das addresses Mr. Kapasi ’s confusion over why she is sharing this secret with him. She tells Mr. Kapasi... (full context)
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Mr. Kapasi considers what to do, thinking that he should advise Mrs. Das to be honest with... (full context)
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Mrs. Das is outraged by Mr. Kapasi ’s question. Her expression changes, and he can see that she deems him suddenly worthless.... (full context)
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...a photograph. Mr. Das wants all of them to pose for a family photograph, which Mr. Kapasi is to take. (full context)
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...in the face of the danger posed to his son. Mrs. Das turns instead to Mr. Kapasi for help, commanding him to do something. Mr. Kapasi shoos away the monkeys and carries... (full context)
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As Mr. Kapasi carries Bobby away from the monkeys, he has an impulse to tell the boy the... (full context)
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When Mr. Kapasi delivers Bobby to the family, they comfort him. Mr. Das cleans the boy’s T-shirt and... (full context)
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...her bag to brush Bobby’s hair. As she does so, the piece of paper with Mr. Kapasi ’s address scribbled on it slips out of the bag and is swept away by... (full context)