The Hegemony of the Past in Bharati Mukherjee’s Jasmine (1989)

Document Type : Original Article

Author

English Department Faculty of Arts and Humanities of Sousse Tunisia

10.22034/jhi.2022.139938

Abstract

xperiencing alienation and displacement exiled writers have a specific relationship to the past. “Haunted by a sense of loss, some urge to reclaim to look back” (Rushdie 10), these exiled souls who lead a liminal existence between a lost past and a foreign present cannot but inscribe the past in their fictions. Indeed for them, the inscription of the past is a prerequisite for the restoration of their damaged selves and histories. Perceiving things from their shaky “fractured perceptions” (12), while overwhelmed by nostalgia and homesickness, these “wounded creatures” (Rushdie 12) end up creating idealized versions of homes and pasts or ie: “imaginary homelands” (10) and glorified pasts. Rushdie’s theory can be applicable to many exiled writers but certainly not to Baharati Mukherjee. Mukherjee is one of the most prominent Indian American writers who is known by her controversial hypothesis of ‘past erosion’. Rejecting hyphenization and heralding assimilation Mukherjee declares herself “an American citizen without hyphens” (33). Such audacious pronouncement that has distinguished her from her peers and incurred her some hostile reactions as well. Nevertheless, Mukherjee’s fiction betrays her strong attachment to her past. Hence, this paper seeks to demonstrate that Mukherjee’s most praised assimilation novel Jasmine (1989) that tells the story of Punjabi Joyti’s  ‘American dream’ coming true is  one of the most past troubled narratives. It proceeds with dwelling on Mukherjee’s theory of “past erosion” then moves to scrutinize the omnipresence of the past in the novel focusing on the protagonist’s struggle with past memories.

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