Study Guide

Interpreter of Maladies Community

By Jhumpa Lahiri

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Who exactly makes up a community anyway? It turns out that, in Interpreter of Maladies, the answer changes depending on where you are in the world. If you're in India, there's a good chance that the answer is your large group of neighbors. And if you're in America, you're either a singleton or your community is limited to your family. (Here's an interesting take on that.) That doesn't mean that Americans are lonelier than the Bengalis/Indians in this book, though. In fact, being in a community doesn't seem to affect a character's ability to feel lost and alone; it might even make the feeling worse.

Questions About Community

  1. How can being alone and being in a community feel the same?
  2. Why does a community need a scapegoat?
  3. How do communities change as the stories move from country to country?

Chew on This

In Lahiri's India, you can't escape your community because people are everywhere.

The idea of needing "personal space" would make no sense in some cultures.

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