Jhumpa Lahiri's Unaccustomed Earth and the Reading of Nathaniel Hawthorne

Israa Hashim Taher

Abstract


Born in England, to Bengali parents, and raised in America, Jhumpa Lahiri (1967) has been variously labeled as Indian-American, post-modern, post-colonial, and Indian writer. Naming Lahiri has been a long and intricate process. However, the identity she chooses for herself is something different. She wants herself to be simply recognized as an American writer. In her first novel, The Namesake (2003), the  protagonist, reflecting the dilemma of his creator, suffers the confusing experience of having an appropriate name.  Lahiri  resorts to Russian literature to establish an identity for her protagonist. In her second collection of short stories,  Unaccustomed Earth (2008), Lahiri uses the American writer Nathaniel Hawthorne not just to suggest the title, and epigraph for the collection, but more importantly to "establish her belonging in an American literary canon," as Ambreen Hai suggests in "Re-Rooting Families: The Alter/Natal as the Central Dynamic of Jhumpa Lahiri's Unaccustomed Earth." I want to push this argument further by suggesting that Lahiri attempts to gain her formal entry into the main stream American literature by re-writing Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter (1850)in reverse order in "Hema and Kaushik", the second part of  Unaccustomed Earth.

Keywords: Lahiri, Hawthorne, India, Scarlet Letter, identity, America  


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References


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