Character Development in Interpreter of Maladies

Most writers rely upon the crucial point, which the stories they create reach, in order to develop fully some characters. Through relating the interaction of characters with others, their dialogues and actions, the readers get a clear picture of their true nature. Without it, there is no other way the author can bring to life his/her characters. In his short story Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri reveals the character of Mr. Kapasi, the driver who also acts as a tour guide for the Das family, more through his interaction with Mrs. Das than with any other character. The paper, therefore, examines the manner in which Lahiri represents the character of Mr. Kapasi based on his relationships with Mrs. Das.

Through their interaction and communication, it is revealed how Mr. Kapasi sees himself and his love life. For instance, he considers his marital life as a failure and definitely yearns for more concerning his love life. In his efforts to do something about it, he develops a fantasy where he imagines to have an intimate relationship with Mrs. Das whom he supposes to have correlating problems. Through their interaction, it reveals that his wife alienates him and does not approve his second position where he works as an interpreter for a doctor. His wife seems to be much occupied by the death of their son, who appeared in the same hospital where Mr. Kapasi works as an interpreter. Mrs. Das also shares the same sentiments as the main character. She also languishes in a loveless marriage. In the initial stages, Mr. Kapasi imagines of the possible similarities between him and Mrs. Das, but only disappointment arises later when he learns the nature of that woman.

As an appreciation to the kindred spirit that Mrs. Das shows in referring his job to as ‘romantic’, he opts for intimacy between them as he thinks that only through this, he will be able to escape his loneliness. This interaction reveals his appreciative and sympathetic nature despite the fact that his attitude does not change when he learns that that woman appears to be not the person he has imagined in his fantasies. This comes after she reveals to him that she had had an extramarital affair with her husband’s friend from which she bore a son. After hearing her story of unfaithfulness, he asks her, “Is it really pain you feel, Mrs. Das, or is it guilt?” (Lahiri 161). This question further portrays the sympathy he feels for Mr. Das after he realizes how wicked the woman he once considered as good is.

After listening to the confession of Mrs. Das, Mr. Kapasi becomes aware that he magnified the extent of his problems with his wife. Through this revelation, he comes to the realization that there are far worse cases than his which could have made him feel worse than he feels now if they had happened to him. The wrong perception of the woman he once dreamt of shows that his wife appears to be right stating that Mr. Kapasi has no real experience when it comes to understanding people despite his ability to interpret some health and related problems for many people.

Without Mrs. Das in the short story Interpreter of Maladies, the character of Mr. Kapasi would not have come out explicitly. The other characters that he encounters and communicates with show no concern about him. In fact, they neglect him just as they do to each other. For instance, Mr. Das does not care about Mr. Kapasi since they do not interact intimately. That is why it is possible to conclude that the character of Mrs. Das is very important because she helps to reveal and show the true nature of Mr. Kapasi which would otherwise have remained undeveloped without her.


Lahiri, Jhumpa. Interpreter of Maladies: Stories. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1999. Print.

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