Interpreter of Maladies

Themes and Colors
Knowledge and Fantasy Theme Icon
Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Language and Communication  Theme Icon
Guilt and Responsibility Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Interpreter of Maladies, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

On the surface, Jumpha Lahiri’s “Interpreter of Maladies” is a simple story about a family on vacation in India. As the lonely tour guide Mr. Kapasi drives Mr. Das and Mrs. Das and their three children to visit a temple, however, Lahiri’s tale becomes one of poignant estrangement. By telling the story largely from the perspective of Mr. Kapasi, a stranger to the Das family, Lahiri is able to highlight the ways in which…

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 “The Interpreter of Maladies” is set in India, and the story’s main characters are all of Indian origin. While both the Das family and Mr. Kapasi share a certain cultural heritage, however, their experiences of the world are very different. The members of the Das family have all been born and raised in America, whereas Mr. Kapasi has lived and worked his entire life in India. Lahiri emphasizes the subsequent gulf between the affluent, very…

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The importance of language in “The Interpreter of Maladies” is alluded to in the story’s title itself. Language is central to Mr. Kapasi’s second job as an interpreter of patient ailments in a doctor’s office, where he must rely on his linguistic prowess to communicate effectively between people who do not understand one another. The power—and limits—of language is further present in the interactions between Mr. Kapasi and the Das family, as well…

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Both Mr. Das and Mrs. Das neglect their duties as parents and partners. Most obviously, Mrs. Das has a secret affair—the guilt over which is eating away at her, and the revelation of which would threaten to tear her family apart. Mr. Das also displays a distinct aversion toward his role as a husband and father, failing to discipline or keep an eye on his children. The fact that Mr. Kapasi thinks Mr. and Mrs…

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