Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Third and Final Continent Discussed

For those of you who have not completed Interpreter of Maladies, do not read any further. Though all the stories in the book were quite fascinating and interesting to read, I couldn’t help but enjoy the very last one, “The Third and Final Continent,” the most.

It is a story about a man coming to the United States for the first time. He is recently married but has to leave his wife behind in India; only for a while at least.

He takes refuge with an older woman, Mrs. Croft, who he would later find out is one hundred and three. She is fascinated by the fact that the U.S. has successfully placed a flag on the moon. She sits by her old piano every day and invites him to sit next to her.

Mrs. Croft is also very proper. She won’t let him have lady visitors, even though he is married. When he has a conversation with her daughter Helen, she criticizes them both for talking with out a chaperone, seeing as they are both single. She fails to realize he is married and Helen is old enough to be his mother.

When her daughter asks her what she would do if she saw a woman with a mini-skirt, Mrs. Croft replies that she would have her arrested.

I spent a great deal of time trying to figure out the significance of Mrs. Croft and her properness to the story. I have come to the conclusion that Mrs. Croft was a way for the main character to practice living with his future wife.

. The main character had been distant from his culture for many years. He had lived in London and during the story, The United States. He had adjusted to the more relaxed life styles. He tells the reader at the beginning about his leisurely life living with other Bengalis in London, and how he regarded his marriage with neither objection nor enthusiasm, it was just expected of him.

His wife, Mala, however, lived her entire life in Indian. She was raised to be proper and regard her husband with respect. When she first gets off the plane, she refuses to take off her sari at the airport. She is dressed very formally and appears to follow her country’s customs. She is the product of an old world.

He has trouble getting used to her at first. He states that after the first week living with her, he had not become accustomed to her. It appears that he has trouble adjusting to her old customs. It isn’t until they take a visit to Mrs. Croft that she starts to grow on him. I believe this is because he finally realizes how similar they are.

Mrs. Croft was also a product of an older world. Granted, it was in the United States, but the difference between when she grew up and the time she was living during the story was great. Almost as if she was living in a different place. Since she is both incredibly fascinated by the fact that the U.S. had landed a person on the moon, but also distressed over the changing culture of the world around her, she was adjusting to a new and different world with values that were outdated; just like the main character’s wife tries to do. In this way, Mrs. Croft is very similar to Mala.

I think the main character realizes the similarity by the end of the visit. He worries what Mrs. Croft will think of his wife. He wonders what she will think of Mala’s strange customs. However, un-expectantly, she calls her a perfect lady. He suddenly laughs and for the first time and his wife and he smile at each other.

The protagonist says that from that moment the distance between his wife and himself became closer. If they grew closer together, he had to have seen something in his wife that he hadn’t seen before. When Mrs. Croft gave approval to Mala, it was an indication that she and Mala were not so different because Mrs. Croft was strict on who she decided to like. This could have given the protagonist the idea that his wife was similar to the woman he had been living with for so many months, and thus the distance for himself probably wore off.

1 comment:

Mari said...

I think you bring up an interesting idea of how the main character’s relationship with Mrs. Croft mirrors his relationship with Mala. Initially, I had not interpreted it the way in which you had but after reading your blog, I can understand this interpretation of these relationships. I’m not sure if I completely agree that his relationship with Mrs. Croft is supposed to be a way to practice living with his wife but I do see similarities between the two relationships. Instead I believe that the main character learns the impact that perception has on assumptions of other people’s characters. There was a major change in perception that the main character had for both women. When he first arrives at Mrs. Croft’s apartment he does not understand her unusual habits or the way in which he forces him to say “splendid.” But do you notice that once he knows how old Mrs. Croft really is he sympathizes with her. He begins to worry about her and care about her well being. His attitude towards her changes and he is more aware of how amazing her life is rather than the fact that she is a kooky old woman. This is very similar to his relationship with Mala. As far as he is initially concerned, he has no interest in Mala because he is unable to see her as anything else but a woman he does not know. He seems to dislike the way in which she is with him because she has to be therefore he does take the time to understand her or see her any other way. But once she laughs at Mrs. Croft’s house his perception of her changes because he sees a softer, happier side of her and we are taken to a future time when they are happy together and have a son.