A Mouthful of Silence and The Place of Nostalgia in Diaspora Writing: Home and Belonging in the short fiction of Bharati Mukherjee and Jhumpa Lahiri

  • Reshma Ruia

Student thesis: Phd

Abstract

A Mouthful of Silence is a novel set in Manchester. It is about a middle-aged Indian man,PK Monghia, who is full of regrets and bitterness about getting old and the steadydecline of his business. He still has an appetite for love and happiness, but feels trappedin his marriage to Geeta. Their only child, Sammy, is a disappointment too. Born afterseveral miscarriages, he is the focus of excessive maternal devotion on the part of Geetaand an object of contempt in the eyes of PK, who wanted a sporty son, a reflection of hisown golden youth.A new woman enters the barren landscape of PK's emotional life. She is EstherSolomon, rich, beautiful, vivacious. She is all that his life is not. She also happens to bethe wife of a competitor, Cedric Solomon, who is successful and powerful and aconstant reminder of what PK might have been. PK and Esther are drawn to each otherand embark on a love affair that distracts PK and fills him with guilt that he pushes asidetime and again.PK begins neglecting his business and his family, and he fails to notice his son'sgrowing friendship and obsession with a more street-wise girl, Alice. Sammy graduallychanges from a molly-coddled boy into a surly, uncommunicative teenager with secrets.Geeta meanwhile watches the slow unravelling of her family life, and PK is never quitesure whether she has discovered his affair. Events unfold that compel PK to makechoices. He is forced to confront his ambiguous morality and to question the nature andmeaning of love in all its guises.My thesis, The Place of Nostalgia in Diaspora Writing: Home and Belonging in theShort Fiction of Bharati Mukherjee and Jhumpa Lahiri, explores the main theoreticalapproaches surrounding diaspora and the concepts of home, belonging and nostalgia. Itis my aim to extrapolate from the theoretical framework and apply their relevance andlimitations to the study of the diasporic condition. My primary focus will be on theIndian diaspora within the United States and its portrayal in Bharati Mukherjee andJhumpa Lahiri's short fiction. More specifically, I wish to look closely at how nostalgiais both employed as a method and represented as a theme in creating and/or shaping thesense of belonging and home within their fictional narratives. Finally, I will place theirwork within the larger context of diaspora literature and analyse the overall diasporicliterary response to established and often problematic understandings of nostalgia, homeand belonging.
Date of Award1 Aug 2012
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorAnastasia Valassopoulos (Supervisor) & Maria Hyland (Supervisor)

Keywords

  • Nostalgia, Diaspora, Home, Belonging, Bharati Mukherjee, Jhumpa Lahiri

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