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Analysis Of Identity In Jasmine

2780 words - 11 pages

The novel Jasmine by Bharati Mukherjee is an incredible story about the transformation and life experiences of a Panjabi girl from India. The life of Jyoti is told from her point of view when she is twenty-four years old, and pregnant with the baby of Bud Ripplemeyer, a crippled banker who is more than twice Jyoti’s age. During the span of two months in Iowa, Jyoti narrates her biographical experiences in Punjab and in America as she strives to become independent. Jasmine illustrates that when one’s relationships go through changes, it will impact one’s identity.
Born in Hasnapur in India, Jyoti is said to be the most beautiful and clever person in her family. Unlike her sisters and other girls, Jyoti excels in school and continues her education until the 8th grade despite her father’s disapproval. Education represents a way for Jasmine to separate from many girls her age including her sisters and to shape her identity. In other words, this allows her to break from the semi-feudal rural society in which she lives. Her life, like most Indian women in that time period, is controlled and dominated by her father and brothers, "Village girls are like cattle, whichever way you lead them, that is the way they will go" (46). Jyoti’s opinions are often considered unnecessary. The role of women in villages was only to be a mother and to manage household affairs.
The first of many glimpses of Jyoti’s varying identities occurs during her marriage to Prakash. The first time Prakash talks to Jyoti, he says, “She is a woman of fine sympathies…” (74). He sees her as a delicate, obedient woman who follows her family’s wishes and societies restriction on women. Jyoti describes Prakash as “A modern man…For Prakash, love was letting go. Independence, self-relience: I learned the litany by heart.” (76). After meeting Prakash, Jyoti was instantly fascinated as she never met anyone like him before. His individuality and strong presence was what attracted her to him. When recounting how Praksash wanted her to call him by his first name, Jyoti said, “In Hasnapur wives used only pronouns to address their husbands. The first months, eager and obedient as I was, I still had a hard time calling him Prakash” (77). The conflict she has trying to call him by his name shows the difference between how she lived in Hasnapur before Prakash and how she is after she marrieshim. Prakash also insists on calling Jyoti, Jasmine. Prakash plays an important role in Jasmine's life because he is the first person who helped Jasmine become more conscious of the modern world and the opportunities it holds. Prakash is a modern man as it is revealed, “My husband, Prakash Vijh, was a modern man, a city man” (76). He is determined to live in a modern way that is the reason why he does “trash some traditions” (76). He expects Jyoti to change her ways, “He wanted to break down the Jyoti I’d been in Hasnapur and make me a new kind of city woman. To break off the past, he gave me a new name:...

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