A Study of Alienation and Disharmony in Bharathi Mukherjee’s Jasmine

B. Sangamitra


Alienation is the unbearable rift between a human being and self. The state of exile is a sense of loss. The pain of separation and dislocation makes Barathi Mukerjee’s novel “jasmine” a quest for identity in an alien land. Jasmine the protagonist of the novel under goes several transformations during her journey of life in America. Her journey becomes a tale of moral courage, a search for self-awareness and self-assertion. Jasmine sways between the past and present attempting to come to terms with the two world’s one of nativity and the other as an immigrant. Caught between the cultures of the east and west, past and present, old and new jasmine experiences alienation and disharmony. Jasmine tries to establish a new cultural identity in exile and she ultimately cultivates new habits and expressions of life. Born in Calcutta and now a distinguished Professor at the University of California at Berkeley, Barathi Mukerjee was the first naturalized American citizen to win the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction. She is also the author of leave it to me, The holder of the world, Darkness, The Tiger’s Daughter, and Wife.

Bharati Mukherjee was born on July 27, 1940 in Calcutta, India. She was born into a wealthy family, which assisted her in her dream of becoming a writer. She lived in India, Europe, the United States, and Canada. Migrating to these countries that are so different from her place of birth enabled her to write very powerful novels on immigrant experiences. Mukherjee’s novels focus on exploring the migration and the feeling of alienation that is experienced by these immigrants. Her works have explored such themes as isolation, sexism, discrimination, the mistreatment of Indian women, and exploring identities.

The novel Jasmine follows the life of the title character from her birth in a rural village in India to her adulthood in the United States. Jasmine, which changes her name even as she recreates herself again.  The course of Jasmine's life unfolds in five vastly different locations across the globe, beginning in the Punjab, continuing across the Atlantic Ocean in Florida, New York, Iowa, and finally on the other side of the continent in California. Major themes explored in the novel include rebirth, identity, alienation, and free will.

The journey of Jasmine, as presented in the novel, touches the readers making them feel  for her. The journey of Jasmine appears to have a direct association to with the subject of alienation and in this process, offers an insight into the issue of disharmony. ‘Jasmine’ is based on the idea of the marriage of the East and the West, with a story that portrays a Hindu Indian woman whose husband is murdered. Being widowed at the age of seventeen, Jasmine leaves India for the United States. Through a series of events including her number of problems and getting raped, shatters her completely.

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