Acclaimed as brilliantly written and superbly crafted, Jasmine grew out of a short story of the same title in The Middleman and Other Stories (1988), which won Mukherjee the prestigious National Book Critics Circle Award. In Jasmine, the author successfully employs a number of narrative strategies, such as the use of a first-person point of view (unlike the omniscient perspective of her previous novels), singular and plural narrative voices, flashbacks, introspective asides, and cross-cutting, which allow the reader to roam in time, within a chapter, even within a paragraph, from one continent to another. Mukherjee also experiments with the form of the novel by creating a female Bildungsroman in the picaresque mode.
Thematically, Jasmine is central to Mukherjee’s mission as a writer. “My material,” as she has stated, “is the rapid and dramatic transformation of the United States since the early 1970s. . . . My duty is to give voice to continents, but also to redefine the nature of American and what makes an American.” Jasmine is basically a story of transformation. Like Mukherjee’s first two novels, The Tiger’s Daughter (1972) and Wife (1975), and her first collection of short stories, Darkness (1985), it deals primarily with the South Asian immigrant experience. Whereas these earlier works dramatize cultural disorientation and alienation, however, Jasmine celebrates the process of assimilation and Americanization prefigured in The Middleman and Other Stories. Her novel The Holder of the World (1993) traverses the continents.
In addition to her novels and two collections of short fiction, Mukherjee has written a travel memoir, Days and Nights in Calcutta (1977; coauthored with her husband Clark Blaise); a documentary, The Sorrow and the Terror: The Haunting Legacy of the Air India Tragedy (1987, in collaboration with Blaise); a political treatise, Kautilya’s Concept of Diplomacy (1976); and a number of essays, articles, and reviews. Her work has appeared in several newspapers, magazines, and anthologies. Her immigrant narratives, chronicling the saga of “new Americans,” are contributing to the literature of American multiculturalism and have won for her a distinctive place among first-generation North American writers of Indian origin.
The Non_Hyphenated American Jasmine
"My affiliation with readers should be on the basis of what they want to read, not in terms of my ethnicity or my race." Mukherjee
Although she is a diasporic and a third world writer, Bharati Mukherjee claims an American identity and not a hyphenated Indian-American one. She has always shown her total allegiance to the host culture. She has expressed that straightly, explicitly and implicitly. From the different interviews she has held, Mukherjee seems not to miss a chance to express her total refusal of the concept of hyphenation. Indeed, she refuses to be considered a hyphenated American. Rather, she prefers being a full American subject. In a televised interview with Bill Moyers she commented, 'I feel very American...I knew the moment I landed as a student in 1961...that this is where I belonged. It was an instant kind of love' Moyers, Bill. In that, respect Mukherjee considered herself an American writer. She introduced that with her striking sentence in the 1988 article in the New York Times Book Review when she claimed: 'I'm one of you now' Sugnet, Charles. Such a position, which is chosen and defended by the (Asian) American writer, is highly reflected in her works as well, especially in the novel which is under study, namely; Jasmine. Indeed, the protagonist's desire towards change, progress, and evolution reflects but Mukherjee's desire herself.
The tendency towards integration and assimilation in the American host culture can be clearly depicted in Mukherjee's book Jasmine. In the novel, this has been expressed first through the protagonist's willingness to change from her being an Indian subject to a full American one, and her determination to fulfill that. Second, this has been shown through the portrayal of the United States of America as the land of opportunities and endless chances under what is known as 'the American dream'.
In her novel Mukherjee endows her protagonist with the needed force and power to survive and challenge all that can disturb her path towards change and evolution either in her birth country, India, or in the host culture, America. This eagerness towards change, as a matter of fact, has taken different forms in the novel. The protagonist Jasmine for instance, is depicted with the image of someone who has an unusual force, which elevates her in different occasions even to the realm of a goddess. With that same sense of determination to keep going in her journey toward assimilation within the new world's culture, Jasmine refuses any form of restriction that would inhibit her. Since the past represents for her a limitation that would block her progress, the protagonist chooses to completely ignore its call that breaks through from time to time, reminding her of her ethnic Indian culture. However, Jasmine chooses to focus on her present and her coming future to the extent of totally absorbing the American culture. Jasmine then is immersed within the host culture not only by mastering its language, but also by internalizing its different modes of thinking and living styles.
1.1. A SUPER NATURAL POWER:
Out of the different choices offered to the immigrant or the expatriate subject, Mukherjee has chosen to fully integrate and assimilate her protagonist Jasmine within the realm of the host culture, which reflects, indeed, Mukherjee's preferences and tendencies herself. Such a choice can explain the nature of the protagonist's identity, which is fluid, open and ready for change. Indeed, from the very first chapter of the novel Mukherjee sends hints and flashes that signal and foreshadows the presumable change of the protagonist, first introduced as Jyoti. As a matter of fact, the writer finishes the first chapter with the metaphor of a dead dog in the river of Punjab which has been directly linked to the metaphor of a glass of water, but now in the American Baden, Elsa country, Iowa. Indeed, in the words of Jyoti
I swam to where the river was a sun gold haze. I kicked and paddled in a rage. Suddenly my fingers scraped the soft waterlogged carcass of a small dog. The body was rotten, the eyes had been eaten .The moment I touched it, the body broke in two, as though the water had been its glue .A stench leaked out of the broken body, and then both pieces quickly sank. (5)
Those lines are so expressive, to the extent that they can resume everything coming in the novel. First, coming across the carcass of the dead dog was done 'suddenly' .This sudden and abrupt event reflects the same fate waiting for Jyoti .The latter accepted all the events that happened to her, and that were the least expected to occur. After finishing reading the whole novel, the reader will come to notice that the very first step taken by Jasmine toward change and the catalytical events behind that were a matter of fate. Then, the expression 'suddenly' epitomizes this whole idea. Second, the hideous description of the dead body, that was 'rotten" with 'eaten eyes', cannot reflect but the ugly aspect and face of transformation and metamorphosis. This dead body in reality is a symbol for the dead Indian aspects within the protagonist who decided to abandon her cultural heritage and beliefs for the sake of being accepted in America. However, by no means it can be denied that such a process of evolvement can be done without the least feeling of guilt and regret. Indeed, being stuck between two poles, two forces pulling them back and forth, they could explain the split in the personalities and identities of those immigrants and expatriates living in America. Mukherjee emphasizes well this idea when she mentions that once the body was touched, it directly 'broke in two' .Mukherjee adds to the last idea that 'the water had been [the glue]' for this body not to be split into pieces. This represents an excellent metaphor to Jyoti's journey from Asia to The new world that was done through the sea on a boat. As such, the sea becomes the glue sticking two continents to each others. It is also the glue linking the protagonist's past to its present situation to ensure for her a balanced identity .This is essential ,or 'both pieces', in the case of this novel ,her Indian self on the one hand, and her new American self on the other , will 'quickly sank' in the words of Mukherjee .
What seems to be interesting is Mukherjee's choice to link those already mentioned lines that take place in India, directly to the last paragraph of the first chapter that takes place now on the American continent. Indeed, Jasmine adds: 'That stench stays with me .I 'm twenty four now, I live in Baden , Elsa country ,Iowa , but every time I lift a glass of water to my lips , fleetingly I smell it .I know what I don't want to become'(5). This unprecedented and sudden jump from the Indian context to the American one seems to be Mukherjee's choice to stress the fluency of the journey and the process of transformation of Jasmine. However, within the same quote the sense and sent of nostalgia taints this process to the extent that each time Jasmine lifts a glass of water which reminds her of the Indian river, the past crosses her mind again. But this happens 'fleetingly' as quickly as the flash of light reminding her of what she '[does] not want to become'. It seems then, that Jasmine, as well as the writer Mukherjee are clearly set about the need and the obligation to continue moving forward towards change. This change means Jasmine's assimilation and full recognition within the American sphere. This, in fact, has been achieved during the protagonist's journey in America where the latter has been transformed to the extent that she has become aware that '[her] transformation has been genetic' (222).
Such a transformation, as a matter of fact, has been compared to the transformation of her adopted son Du, which was "Hyphenated" (222). Here Mukherjee seems ironic, depicting Du's change as a hyphenated one where she contends: 'My transformation was genetic; Du's was hyphenated. We were so full of wonder at how fast he became American, but he's a hybrid, like the fantasy appliances he wants to build. His high 'school paper did a story on him titled: 'Du (Yogi) Ripplemeyer, a Vietnamese-American''' (222). Those three draughts, in fact, are but Mukherjee's unspoken comment and irony toward the concept of hyphenation and hybridity, towards which she seems to reject and refuse. Indeed, in the words of Carmen Wickramagamage:
Jasmine, in fact, suggests there are at least two options available for the immigrants who have decided to make America their permanent abode. They can choose the hyphenated existence which makes some concessions to the new cultural environment, while retaining their allegiance to their primary ethnic community'the option of the Vadheras and later of her adopted Vietnamese son, Du'or they can choose the unhyphenated American identity that she selects when she decides that no cultural verity or sentimental attachment to the "homeland" is too sacred to discard if it hinders her ability to respond meaningfully to the demands of the new cultural location she finds herself in.(188,189)
Wickramagamage's comment on the book Jasmine relates directly to three main theoretical key concepts that pertain to Post colonialism and Diaspora. According to the latter the diasporic subject who seeks acceptance in the host culture, has two alternatives in relation to identity construction. On the hand he mentions the concept of hyphenation which entails that the immigrant is at once an ethnic entity and an American subject. Such an idea calls the concept of acculturation, which is the exchange of cultural features when two groups come into contact .This means the adoption of a minority cultural group to the prevailing majority cultural group's customs and attitudes, while managing to stay distinct. He opposes, on the other hand, acculturation to the concept of assimilation that represents the protagonist and the writer's stand point. Although similar, Acculturation and assimilation are not interchangeable. Indeed, in the process of assimilation the minority group integrates within the prevailing culture to the extent of being completely absorbed by the dominant one, which implies the loss of the characteristics of the absorbed group, such as language, customs, ethnicity and self-identity. Thus, the common point between both positions is their tendency to be directed towards the host dominant culture which entails the superiority of the latter as a result. However, what Wickramagamage seems to miss is Homi Bhabha's third space who argues that Nationalities, ethnicities, and identities are dialogic, indeterminate, and characterized by hybridity .In The Commitment to Theory, he defined hybridity as what is 'new', neither the one not the other, which emerges from a Third Space. Then, Bhabha's position stands against the idea of the dichotomy that exists between the colonizer and the colonized, between imperial force and immigrants, in short between 'us' and 'them'. Bhabha calls for the destruction of those binaries that limit the identification of any subject. He privileges an identification that emerges in the interstices, in-between and beyond the categories of race, gender, nation, or class 'so that the articulations of difference create new solidarities' Bhabha location of culture (6). According to Ann Marie Alfonso-Forero ,in her thesis 'Translating Postcolonial Pasts: Immigration and Identity in the Fiction of Bharati Mukherjee, Elizabeth Nunez, and Jhumpa Lahiri', This resonates with Anzald??a's Borderlands/La Frontera, which is a metaphor for a theoretical space where identities like cultures are dynamic and always in flux avoiding, as such, any sort of unevenness. Out of all these theoretical affiliations, Mukherjee keeps stressing her standing point, and her position, where she shows her preference for total and complete transformation like the one undergone by the protagonist Jasmine in this novel.
From the very beginning of the novel signs of change were clear enough to be detected. The latter idea can be grasped from Jasmine's optimistic tendency to turn all that is negative to a positive experience. This tendency is recurrent throughout the whole novel .The first instance that can be detected is in the first chapter where Jyoti the protagonist was doomed to have a permanent scar on her forehead caused by the astrologer , 'an old fakir' that foreshadowed the little girl's doomed fate under 'the banyan tree' in the small village of Hasnapur. Contrary to what was expected, Jyoti was not intimidated by the ugliness of that scar .However, she considered it as a sign of knowledge. 'I broke away from their solicitous grip. 'It's not a scar,' I shouted, 'It's my third eye.' In the stories that our mother recited, the holiest sages developed an extra eye right in the middle of their foreheads. Through that eye, they peered out into invisible worlds. 'Now I'm a sage' (5).
Through the whole novel Jasmine uses her supernatural power to foreshadow, or at least anticipate, what is to come in the future in the course of her life. She stresses this idea and her uniqueness in having such a power when she affirms: 'Bud flashes anxiety at me ['] His lips scuttle across my forehead; they warm the cold pale star of my scar. My third eye glows, a spotlight trained on lives to come. This isn't a vision to share with Bud' (21) .She adds later on: 'How do I explain my third eye to men who only see an inch long pale, puckered scar'? (60)
What is to be understood out of her reaction towards the happenings in her life and the way she visualizes things, is a strong desire and will to ignite a vigorous power that would help her to survive, so that what does not kill her makes her stronger. Indeed, the instances when Jasmine transforms a negative experience she has lived to another positive are numerous in the novel. What should be noticed is the fact that such a power is inherent in the protagonist since such a process started in India before even she has moved to America. Describing 'the Khalsa Lions', a rebel group in India, and their terrorist attacks, she succeeds in finding something positive out of those attacks. As a matter of facts she says: 'The good thing about the Khalsa Lions using that lot was that I could stop back afterward and gather up firewood from their discards.['] the moment my fist closed over the head of the staff , I felt a buzz of power' (54).
This determination and this eagerness gave her the power even to consider herself a goddess that has supernatural powers and who can see beyond reality: "The truth is, I am young enough to bear children into the next century. But. I feel old, very old, millennia old, a bug 'eyed viewer of beginnings and ends. In the old Hindu books they say that in the eye of the creator, mountains rise and fall like waves on the ocean"(35). She seems to be always reminding herself of the fact that she is a goddess. This may be her way to get her power and potential back when she feels weak and in need. 'I know how I felt. A goddess couldn't have been surer' (71).
This sense of power and potential to survive the different hardships that may cross Jasmine's path and to change her doomed fate, do not stop at the personal level. However, she seems to be strong enough and so potent to the extent that she can influence the fate of those close to her and who may cross their fates to hers. She says commenting her mother 'mataji''s advice:
What is the sacrifice of a little bliss now for guaranteed lifetime'? Just because you're clever in school doesn't mean you can ignore your fate in the stars, she reminded me. I'd already had my warning, which I succeeded in blocking ('Believe an old fool'? 'What does he know? Ha!') Every time the memory of the banyan tree and the old man came over me in the night. (76)
In her words: 'Fates are so intertwined in the modern world, how can a god keep them straight? A year after that, we had added Du to our life, and Bud was confined to a wheel chair' (15). Bud was shot by a fire gun which caused him a permanent paralysis on a wheel chair. Jasmine seems to be aware of the capacity she has in transforming other's fate. She even says it plainly ,contemplating that force she has in influencing the others, in this case Bud : 'He wouldn't be interested in the forecast of an old fakir under a banyan tree .Bud was wounded in the war between my fate and my will .I think sometimes I saved his life by not marrying him. I feel so potent, a goddess' (12). Jasmine makes this statement totally convinced of the destructive force she has on those who love her.
This comes out of an early experience she has lived earlier in India. Indeed, Prakash her first husband in India was doomed to be killed bombarded by a terrorist group. The latter has done nothing wrong, but being with Jasmine at that moment who was the one supposed to be the target of the attack .She realized that saying: 'I failed you. I didn't get there soon enough. The bomb was meant for me, prostitute, whore. I let myself fall to the floor. Voices girdle me. "'The girl's alive. This is fate. This is a miracle!"' (94). The astrologer's prediction from the very first lines of the novel was proved true: 'Lifetimes ago, under a banyan tree in the village of Hasnapur, an astrologer cupped his ears-his satellite dish to the stars 'and foretold my widowhood and exile' (3). It is clear then, that Mukherjee has endowed her protagonist with an unprecedented force that helped her bear the hardships of her home country India and the challenges that faced her in America. It is with the same power that Mukherjee's protagonist was able to take any obstacle out of her path towards her immersion in The New World. Her Indian past and her agonized memories seem to be the first obstacle she has to omit from her way.
1.2.AN ERASED PAST :
Convinced with the need to completely, and fully integrate within the American culture, Mukherjee erased and removed all what can draw her back to her Indianness. In the novel Jasmine tried to move away from her past, the epitome of her Indian culture since 'memories are a sign of disloyalty' (231). In fact, once settled in the new world, and once she started her journey toward change, the protagonist decided to flee her doomed past. She makes it openly: 'I wanted to distance myself from everything Indian, everything Jyoti-like.' (145). since for her, 'to bunker oneself inside nostalgia, to sheathe the heart in a bulletproof vest, was to be a coward.'(185)
Such a claim came just after crossing Professorji, who is the professor of her husband in America, and his Indian family. Completely different to what would be expected, Jasmine did not feel at home living with an Indian family that is trying to preserve and keep up to its roots . Jasmine felt like a 'prisoner doing unreal time' (148). Even if she was not aware of that in the beginning, just after the encounter with Professrji's family Jasmine realized the need to desert her Indianness as soon as possible. Describing what she felt she says: 'In Flushing I felt immured. An imaginary brick wall topped with barbed wire cut me off from the past and kept me from breaking into the future (148). As such, the past for her is only a heavy weight that would attach her back and that's why she decided 'traveling light (121).
'Nothing was rooted anymore .Everything was in motion' (151), such was Jasmine's motto in America. This may be coming from Jasmine's desire to flee that painful past and the different painful memories she has experienced in India or that would be just a protection strategy from any hit of nostalgia that would bring her back to her roots. In fact according to Hafizi:
Jasmine's narrative is structured in such a way that the past is constantly present in the text but without affect, without any capacity to invoke emotions. The narrated past is filled with memory, but a memory devoid of any capacity to invoke mourning. There is memory, but a castrated, domesticated one, an aufgehoben memory. [...] This sublated memory becomes capital in the hands of Jasmine, a capital that can be used in the process of constructing identities. (69, 70)
Jasmine, then, is not only fleeing her past and all that it carries of memories, but she is learning to live with such past by devoiding it of its power and effects. Jasmine's past in America is no more than an 'aufgehoben' one. The latter is a German word which means to nullify, to suppress, and to delay. According to Hafizi, the past in Mukherjee's book is delayed and neglected by the protagonist, an act done consciously, in the course of constructing new identity in a new culture, fleeing by that any feeling of remorse or guilt that the detachment from the past may cause. This past, however, is by no means forgotten. Indeed, the question that sparkles here is how we can control something which is originally uncontrollable since it is unconscious. It is no surprise then that the past occurs in different instances through the novel. This betrays an instance of exaggeration held by Mukherjee herself to suppress the past and to deprive it from the importance that it may have on the still fragile diasporic subject. However, in the new world it is not only the desire of the diasporic subject ,and in this case jasmine, to flee his or her past ,but it is mainly the host culture 's tendency to rip those ethnic minority groups from their past.
In the novel, the different American characters that Jasmine encountered emphasized the need for the latter to be detached from her Indian past. The first advice came from Lillian Gordon, who represents the first character that crossed the path of Jasmine and who did dramatically help her .Mrs. Gordon 'had a low tolerance for reminiscence, bitterness or nostalgia' (131). Therefore, her advice to jasmine was to: 'let the past make you wary, by all means. But do not let it deform you' (131). In the case of Lillian Gordon, the obligation to flee the past takes the form of an advice .However, for Jasmine's Husbands her past would be even a sign of betrayal. In the case of Bud she explains: 'I have triumphed. But how can I explain such small odd triumphs to Bud? He's always uneasy with tales of Hasnapur, just like Mother Ripplemeyer. It's as though Hasnapur is an old husband or lover' (231).
Since 'even memories are a sign of disloyalty' (231), Jasmine's decision was to 'rip [her] self free of the past' (208), and to show her full readiness to join and assimilate within the American culture. Indeed, Jasmine's integration within the American culture led her to completely absorb the American culture with its different sets of thinking, and its different modes of living, but especially the English language as one of its main features.
1.3.LANGUAGE AS A TOOL FOR SUCCESSFUL ASSIMILATION:
Responding to the need to assimilate within the American culture as a means of survival, Jasmine has undergone a number of transformations where some are of an immediate nature. Actually, one of the basic means and tools to get into the new host culture is by learning its language. According to the Oxford Dictionary, language is 'the method of human communication, either spoken or written, consisting of the use of words in a structured and conventional way, A system of communication used by a particular country or community'. In the case of Mukherjee's novel, English is the main language spoken in America. That is why for her: 'to want English was to want more than you had been given at birth, it was to want the world' (68).
From the very first step towards change Jasmine was advised to quit her mother tongue language and use the host country's language instead. In the words of Wickramagamage, 'Her city-bred husband, [Prakash] insists that she call him by his name and learn English, a language that he sees as their passport to the world outside Punjab and India'(187). Once she reached America, 'at the bus station she [Lillian Gordon, the first one to host the protagonist in her house] gave [Jasmine] her final tips. "'Now remember, if you walk and talk American, they'll think you were born here. Most Americans can't imagine anything else"' (135). It is clear then, that there is an insistence on the importance of practicing and mastering the English language, since according to some Americans the language you speak reflects how you are.
This can be further explained in the words of Jasmine who contends: 'Darrel said 'I was hoping you'd come up with a prettier name. Something in Indian.' He started blushing. I want to say to Darrel, 'You mean in Hindi, not Indian, there's no such thing as Indian.' but he'll be crushed and won't say anything for the rest of the night. He comes from a place where the language you speak is what you are' (11). In that respect, Jasmine started learning and absorbing the language like a child: all became my language, which I learned like a child, from the first words up. The squatting fields of Hasnapur receded fast' (174). It is clear then, that becoming an American is directly linked to mastering the English language.
This idea is further illustrated through the metaphor of Du , Jasmine's adopted son, when his teacher informed Jasmine: 'Yogi's in a hurry to become all American isn't he? I said, 'yes. He doesn't carry a dictionary around anymore' (28). As such, it is obvious that the transformation Du was undergoing to become an American was directly linked to the fact of not holding a dictionary anymore which epitomizes the mastery of the host country's language.
This tendency to speak a sole, unique language seems to be a desire to bring the different ethnicities and races close together. America as a country characterized by the coexistence of a multiplicity of races needs a language that represents a code of communication to diminish the distance that is separating them apart. Actually, As soon as Jasmine and Bud's adopted son Du started to speak in Vietnamese, Jasmine felt that he is a strange and an alien individual: 'He looks a million miles away. This is the first time I've heard him speak Vietnamese. His first month here he didn't speak when he couldn't find the right English phrases' (220). Language then, is playing a crucial role in bringing the different ethnic groups, coexisting in the American continent, either close together, or in bringing them apart .By using the language of mainstream culture, the immigrant or the expatriate subject would at least guarantee to be understood by others. This represents, in its turn, the first step towards integration and recognition within the American culture with all what she offers of tempting chances and opportunities.
The more Jasmine moves geographically into the heart of the American country, the more it becomes clear that she is not ready to abandon the sole chance towards freedom and self-fulfillment. However, she would have never been able to reach that stage of development and change without the very nature of the new world. In fact, America with her open and welcoming nature to the differences of the multiple ethnic groups hosted there facilitated Jasmine's smooth metamorphosis from one identity to another, through one place to the next one.
1.4.THE PROMISE OF THE AMERICAN DREAM
America, the way it is portrayed by Mukherjee, in her novel Jasmine seems to be the land of opportunities and infinite chances. Such portrayal recalls the concept of what has been known for so long as 'The American Dream'. This phrase connotes, according to the Webster's New World College Dictionary 'the U.S. ideal according to which equality of opportunity permits any American to aspire to high attainment and material success'. It applied at first to the hopes of immigrants. However, it seems that over time such a phrase started to signal new ideals and new aspiration like insuring the equality of opportunity to all the subjects living under the American territory.
There are several competing ideas about the American Dream and for whom it is intended. The latter idea relates especially to the different ethnic groups of immigrants and the multiple races coexisting in America especially that many among them have fled extremely difficult circumstances in their native countries. This Tempting nature of the American dream has so long attracted a number of immigrants who sought a better life there.
According to Hill and Torres, the American Dream is about being able to achieve success and prosperity through such qualities as determination, hard work, and courage. In Jasmine both the character of Jasmine and her husband Prakash epitomize perfectly this idea. Prakash's ultimate dream was to travel to America to be able to bring all what he has long aspired for into reality. He confesses that to his wife saying: 'Listen to me Jasmine. I want for us to go away and have a real life'(81). For him then, their life will start to have meaning only in the American continent. The couple lived for their dream to open a store someday: 'we lived for our fantasy. Vijh & Wife! Vijh & Vijh. Vijh & Sons' (89).
Stoll David defined the American Dream as the assumption that 'no matter how poor one starts, he/she can build a better life for himself/herself and his/her children'. This resumes the dream of the Vijh couple who are living in poverty in their home country and who are seeking a better future for their children than the one that awaits them. Such a dream, however, could not be realized but with their voyage to America. It is clear, that all the different stages of the couple's life are bound up to their passage to the New World.
Jasmine's attachment to the American Dream becomes even more apparent after the death of her husband. The latter was so determined to continue what her husband has started and to fulfill what they have dreamt to achieve. She decided to leave India and head toward America because in the words of Taylor, the one who hired her to baby-sit his son 'Duff' in New York, '[she] deserve[s] better' (6). Indeed, as soon as Jasmine landed down in America she foreshadowed what is to happen, out of a positive conviction, declaring: 'Good times are coming, best times are coming. Moreover.'(20) Actually, as an Indian, female subject, America represents for Jasmine a tunnel of light towards personal goal achievements, happiness and freedom.
Ronald R. Pollina explained that the American Dream is represented by two main components 'freedom and opportunity'. Both of these essential aspects of American life appear to be greatly lacking in India and make the United States an attractive solution to the problems of the Jasmines' native country .she has suffered for years, the subordination and humiliation in her mother country India. Indeed, Mukherjee revealed a painful truth about India where girls are according to them just curses who came in the form of punishment. Jasmine, bitterly contends
If I had been a boy, my birth in a bountiful year would have marked me as lucky, a child with a special destiny to fulfill. But daughters were curses [...] Gods with infinite memories visited girl children on women who needed to be punished for sins committed in other incarnations. My mother's past must have been heavy with wrongs. I was the fifth daughter, the seventh of nine children. (39)
Fleeing the hardships and the categorization imposed upon her in her birth land India, Jasmine became even more convinced about the need to leave such a place to another where she would be recognized as a full, complete human being. The latter affirms that saying: 'If we could just get away from India, then all fates would be canceled. We'd start with new fates, new starts .We could say or be anything we wanted. We'd be on the other side of the earth, out of God's sight'(85). The protagonist's desire to flee India then stems directly from her desire to have control over herself, and what she wants to be, or become.
In the novel Jasmine makes it clearly that she wants to be American. In fact, America offered Jasmine the chance to play the roles she wanted to play. 'Jane' is one of the roles played by the protagonist in Baden Iowa, America. The father of her baby 'Bud' has given her this name announcing her personification of a new role: 'Bud calls me Jane. Me Bud, you Jane .I didn't get it at first. He kids. Calamity Jane. Jane as in Jane Russel, not Jane as in Plain Jane. But Plain Jane is all I want to be. Plain Jane is a role, like any other. [']In Baden, I am Jane' (26). Jasmine now that is in America is able to be whatever she wants regardless of her race, ethnicity, or gender.
This welcoming nature of the new world was behind the protagonist decision to completely integrate and assimilate within this culture. Indeed, in this country, the human essence is what defines and differentiates between the different subjects up there. Reinforcing this idea Jasmine claims that: '[o]ut here, it's character that pays the bills or doesn't, because everything else is just about equal'(24). It is obvious then, that Mukherjee's position and her embrace of the American dream is reflected very well in her novel through its protagonist Jasmine 'depicting America as a place where the laws of physics are suspended ,where people can defy gravity , where magic is an unremarkable part of everyday life.' Wickramagamage affirms that: '[i]n that sense, Jasmine is no doubt [so] close to Mukherjee's vision of relocation as a positive experience'.(192) Such a position was portrayed vehemently and explicitly, raising a number of questions about the implication of Bharati Mukherjee's standing point; namely her preference of total assimilation and integration within the American culture.
Source: Essay UK - http://www.essay.uk.com/free-essays/english-language/non-hyphenated-american-jasmine.php
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