“Jasmine’s postcolonial, ethnic characters are post-American, carving out new
spaces for themselves from among a constellation of available cultural
narratives, never remaining bound by any one, and always fluidly negotiating
the boundaries of their past, present, and futures…” John K. Hoppe
The “American dream” means different things to different people. For many who were born in the U.S. it means a home in the suburbs with a two-car garage, a good job, and money enough for nice vacations and to send the kids to college. To Jasmine in Mukherjee’s novel, just getting away from her life as an Indian widow with nothing but destitution was the realization of one kind of dream. It was a dream to fly free of the pathos and grimness of her shattered life. But there were much bigger dreams on the horizon, which have whet the appetites of millions of readers. To wit, when Jasmine became in a remarkably short time an American woman who displayed confidence, charm, beauty, sexuality, and who pursued bold and even brazen new dreams, she became a literary heroine in a very real sense. This new woman, the reader discovers, is gifted, focused, and fascinating because somehow she constantly reinvents herself.
Thesis of the paper:
Who could blame seventeen-year-old Jasmine for wishing to leave India at the time she did? There were violent clashes between the militant Sikhs and Hindus, her husband had been killed, and she had her whole life in front of her. But was her motivation also based on a desire to not only flee the misery but abandon her culture altogether? Did she have a wild streak in her and needed to manifest it somewhere – American being the most obvious place? And was it her passion based on “becoming American” in order to engage in activities and values that were forbidden in India? Several scholarly critiques of the novel provide answers to these and other questions.
Body of the paper: