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Short Story Summary and Analysis: This Blessed House
This Blessed House” by Jhumpa Lahiri is a short story which is included in her collection of short stories entitled, Interpreter of Maladies. The story follows a small period of time in the lives of the newlyweds Sanjeev and Tanima. Having very different personalities, they are finding it difficult to adjust to married life. Their problems climax when Tanima begins to find Christian relics everywhere in the house.
In the short story “This Blessed House”, Jhumpa Lahiri effectively reveals that in order to have a fulfilling life you must find your identity and accept others for who they are through her illustration of a young Asian couple’s clash of differing personalities in which she presents feelings of alienation, regret, confusion and the fear of being alone into the final step of acceptance and compromise that is essential for a successful relationship.
The newly married Hindu couple, Sanjeev and Twinkle, start their new lives together but conflict starts when the couple finds a menagerie of Christian Paraphernalia hidden throughout their house. Lahiri uses the Christian Paraphernalia to highlight the differences in the couple and eventually bring them closer. This story is told in the third person, the author is unidentified but it is the male perspective. This makes the emotions and struggles of Sanjeev apparent but leaves you to wonder somewhat at Twinkles real emotions and any compromises she made toward the relationship. Twinkle loves the objects they find and wants to display them in their home. Sanjeev does not understand this after all they are Hindu and he does not see any kind of beauty in the objects. This conflict makes Sanjeev look deeper into their relationship and he finds that Twinkle is not what he expected. They are both striving to balance their Indian backgrounds and American lifestyles but have very different ways to do this. I think that Sanjeev thought that because they were both Hindu and had Indian parents that they would have more things in common, but he finds out they are very different. She is childish to his serious, artistic to his analytical, messy to his clean and laid back to his ambitious. Although these differences should have been noticed before the marriage Sanjeev realizes that his new feelings of love may have blinded him to the differences. You can tell how strong his initial feelings of love and attachment were by how he kept her cigarette butts from her last visit until she came again. Now he does not know if he really loves Twinkle or if he even knows what love is. He thinks back to all of the women from India that his mother had tried to match him with and wonders if they would have been a better choice for him. Before the marriage his mother would remind him every time they spoke “You need a wife to look after and love.” and he wonders if this along with the loneliness and alienation he felt because everyone he knew was married made him see himself in love with Twinkle when he really was not. He cannot remember what it was about Twinkle that inspired the feelings of love. These are emotions that everyone feels at some time when we make a decision that did not turn out exactly as we had planned. Instead of looking for the things we like and build from there we wonder how and why we could have made such a mistake. If it were told from the female perspective I think that it would show that Twinkle has feelings of doubt and has accommodated her life to Sanjeev’s in some ways or else this relationship could not work out if only one person was doing the compromising. The party at their house is the climax of their differences. The party is very important to Sanjeev because he had always been invited to parties where everyone was married and he had felt alienated and out of place, now he wants to have this party to feel acceptance within the group. Twinkle will not take the Christian Paraphernalia off the mantle which causes much anxiety in Sanjeev, after all “What will people think?”. Throughout the party Sanjeev is disinterested and feels left out. He is worried about what everyone is thinking about his wife and their life together. He is annoyed by the excitement that everyone at the party has for Twinkle’s “treasure hunt” and does not participate in it. I think that he is surprised that everyone loves his wife and comments to him how great she is. It makes him remember how he first saw her and what it was about her that made him marry her. In the end he carries the newest treasure they find to the mantle which I think symbolizes his final acceptance of her and their life together. The line I think is most telling is when he realizes that “Most of all he hated it [silver bust of Christ] because he knew that Twinkle loved it.” It helps Sanjeev to hate the objects that Twinkle adores and not hate that part of Twinkle that adores the objects because once you allow yourself to hate a part of someone it is easier to hate more and more of them.
Marriage is a struggle of personalities and emotions that many people cannot keep together. I think the biggest problem is that most people have an ideal that is not realistic and they cannot break out of that ideal and create a real and lasting relationship. “This Blessed House” is a story about finding your way through life and creating your own identity. Sanjeev had an ideal about what a marriage and a wife should be but he was able to rearrange his thinking and create his own life and marriage based on what he found his wife and marriage to actually be like. People have a tendency to attach identities onto other based on what they think but if you are Hindu you can like Christian Icons and two people with a common religion or cultural background may not have common personalities or interests. You should never limit yourself to what other people think you should do and you should be open to others even if they are not what you thought they should be. Lahiri leaves the ending somewhat open but on a note that makes you feel like Sanjeev will be accepting of Twinkle’s open-minded and artistic nature and will compromise his ideals of the perfect life for the sake of preserving their marriage. It would be a better world if everyone had a similar attitude and were more inclined to compromise.