Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Shifting Identity in Jasmine

    We have discussed in class the idea of a person changing their personality, tastes, and character to reflect their relationship, their location, or their state of mind. We saw in Eat, Pray, Love, that Liz Gilbert changed herself when she moved from her marriage into her relationship with David, and it took her a trip around the world and back to find who her true self was. Even then, as we discussed, Gilbert falls immediately into another relationship which made us question whether her journey had been truly successful or not. In Sons for the Return Home, the boy becomes more and more involved with papalgi culture because of his girlfriend. He becomes a part of her world in order to be closer to her, which only cause more confusion for him later. It was interesting to see in Jasmine that the main character, as she moves from place to place and encounters hardships throughout her life. Jasmine is also "Jyoti", "Jazzy", "Jassy", "Jase", and "Jane"; as she moves further away from her homeland and Indian culture, her names become more and more westernized. The change of name also represents her changing identity; she begins as a traditional Indian girl, who wants to break free of the restraints of her society by marrying a progressive man, which she does. She learns English and becomes "Jasmine" to her new husband, stating "I shuttled between identities" (Mukherjee 77). This statement also relates to when she is widowed and she is torn between the dream of a new life in the US and what her family in India expects of her. She late becomes Jase when she meets Taylor and Jane with Bud; this seems to be similar to the way Gilbert changed to fit with the men in her life rather than changing to fit herself.
     Her journey in the novel ends with Jasmine leaving for California, which suggests that she will continue to move and "shuttle" both physically and metaphorically. Her identity is in constant flux in this novel; she adapts to her new surroundings and takes on attributes of those who surround her while deciding which aspects of her past to keep and which to get rid of. Jasmine is like a quilt, made of all of the people she has been. She says herself, "Then there is nothing I can do. Time will tell if I am a tornado, rubble-maker, arising from nowhere and disappearing into a cloud. I am out the door ahead of Taylor, greedy with wants and reckless from hope" (Mukherjee 241). The woman she is at the end of the novel, is a blend of all of her past selves, but she is also moving on to continue to search for her one true identity, or home. She cries for all the people she has been and all of the people she has been that she has let go of to create her present self.
     In terms of home, this novel gives us a perspective on the post-colonial world that we have not seen before: a woman from India, desperate to leave and find a new life in America. It is interesting to see the shift from previous novels that we have read. Jasmine is a unique heroine, who will stop at nothing to find herself, and when she does, find the place where she truly belongs. The place where, she can shed all of her former selves, and be truly free to be herself.

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