Alienation, Ambivalence and Identity

Jhumpa Lahiri’s In Other Words

in Critical Survey
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Jhumpa Lahiri’s latest book, In Other Words, is an autobiographical text that highlights the author’s journey to a new land and language. She grows up in America, communicates in Bengali with her parents during her early childhood and uses English in school; a sense of ambivalence about language dawns in her at this time. Her parents insist that Bengali be a dominant language in her life, but she falls in love with English, which later becomes her own language and the medium of her literary writing. During her doctoral studies, she feels an impulse to learn Italian and desperately strives to speak and write in that language. In Other Words, originally written in Italian, is the ultimate outcome of her aspirations to learn Italian. As the author switches from one language to another, from Bengali to English, and then from English to Italian, she forms an ambivalent sense of separation and proximity. This article seeks to explore Lahiri’s love for language, her sense of alienation and belonging, loss and achievement, and her search for identity and metamorphosis.