Friday, 20 May 2011

Jasmine as Existentialist

In Jasmine by Bharati Mukherjee, the main character (Jyoti, Jasmine, Jane) explores--both beautifully and painfully, throughout her journey--what it means to exist, whether or not we have control over that existence, and in what ways and to what extent we determine how we exist.

She tells us of her early childhood in India, "I was nothing, a speck in the solar system," reporting a sense of diminutiveness (4). Of Darrel in Iowa, she says, "He comes from a place where the language you speak is what you are," suggesting a relationship between speaking and being (11). Later, she notes, "Bud was wounded in the war between my fate and my will," implicating her decisive role in refusing to simply accept destiny or to simply deny it (12).

"We are just shells of the same Absolute," Jasmine says (15). I wonder about this. Is she acknowledging that we all share one humanity, that life is fragile and fleeting, or that we are just containers of one, same substance that is both everything and nothing? This women--young, abused, and underprivileged--reckons boldly with the universe and its laws. She wonders what it means for her to live, whether or not her life has meaning, and whether or not she control over her own direction.

I finished this post last week, but it was sucked into the vortex somehow, so I'll leave the rest of these lines from the novel without integration for now and hope to return to this thread soon...

"Out There, the darkness... In Here, safety. At least for now. Oh, the wonder! the wonder!" (21)

"In Baden, I am Jane. Almost" (26).

"We murder who we were so we can rebirth ourselves in the images of dreams" (29).

"I feel old, very old, millennia old, a bug-eyed viewer of beginnings and ends" (35).

"Dida said, 'All it means is that God doesn't think you're ready for salvation. Individual effort counts for nothing'" (57).

"Enlightenment meant seeing through the third eye and sensing designs in history's muddles" (60).

"Perhaps I don't count in God's design" (60).

"Love rushes through thick mud walls" (67).

"To want English was to want more than what you had been given at birth, it was to want the world" (68).

"I felt suspended between worlds... I shuttled between identities" (76,77).

"We could say or be anything we wanted. We'd be on the other side of the earth, our of God's sight" (85).

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