Study Guide

Narrator of "The Third and Final Continent" in Interpreter of Maladies

By Jhumpa Lahiri

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Narrator of "The Third and Final Continent"

Mr. Responsible

We may not know exactly who our unnamed first-person narrator is in the final story, but that doesn't mean we don't know him. That's because, even though he doesn't share his name with us, he doesn't hold back on the details of his life.

Not that his life is all that exciting. He's just not a huge, dramatic personality. He's hardworking, brave (he does, after all, live in two foreign countries on his own), and practical. At his wedding, instead of getting to know his bride, he just "[reads] his guidebook by flashlight and anticipate[s] [his] journey" (TFC 181) to America.

So he's not Mr. Fun. He is, however, Mr. Responsible, just the polite and thoughtful kind of guy you'd want for a tenant. He always turns in his rent on time. What's more, he tries to look after the aging Mrs. Croft too: "At times I came downstairs before going to sleep, to make sure she was sitting upright on the bench, or was safe in her bedroom. On Fridays I made sure to put the rent in her hands" (TFC 96).

Mama's Boy

Our narrator was so devoted to his mother that, on his wedding night, instead of comforting his wife, he can't help thinking about his mother, who—in her last days—slept in the room next to his.

We don't blame him because these are his final memories of his mother: "Before we cremated her I had cleaned each of her fingernails with a hairpin, and then, because my brother could not bear it, I had assumed the role of eldest son, and had touched the flame to her temple, to release her tormented soul to heaven" (TFC 39).

Mr. Ordinary

Clearly, he's a little haunted by his mom's death, but our narrator seems incredibly well-adjusted once he's living with his wife Mala in the States and raising their son.

Here he is, older, wiser, and with a son in Harvard (if that's not a symbol of success, we don't know what is): "But I remind myself that he [his son] has a father who is still living, a mother who is happy and strong" (TFC 151). (We, for one, like that, from his perspective, a sign of a good life is a wife who's "happy and strong.")

Another point for him: he's totally honest about the kind of guy he is—ordinary and humble, yet open to the wonders of his life. Like this: "Still, there are times I am bewildered by each mile I have traveled, each meal I have eaten, each person I have known, each room in which I have slept. As ordinary as it all appears, there are times when it is beyond my imagination" (TFC 151).

Is your heart melting yet?

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