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WIFE CULTURAL ISSUES

Mukherjee, in her novel Wife, deals with cultural issues as one of the main themes. She takes us deep into the mind of Dimple as she makes a transition from being single to marrying a husband chosen by her father. It also depicts the transitional situation of living in the familiar surroundings of Calcutta to moving to the so-perceived violent city of New York. As the novel progresses, Dimple`s hidden unstable personality reveals itself leaving the reader shocked, yet filled with wonder and delight. The protagonist, `Dimple` is characterized as a young, naive Indian woman, who tries to reconcile the Bengali ideal of the perfect, passive wife with the demands of her new American life. In this story Dimple lacks the inner strength and resources it takes to cope in New York City as the young wife in an arranged marriage. Again in this novel, Mukherjee deals with the complications that come from being thrown between two worlds and the strength and courage it takes to survive and in the end live. This story reflects the author`s mental status in many of its parts. At the end of the story being suppressed by such men and attempts to be the ideal Bengali wife she becomes frustrated and out of fear and personal instability she ultimately murders her husband and eventually commits suicide.

The Indian born American novelist, Bharati Mukherjee is also known as short story writer, non-fiction writer as well as a successful journalist. Married to a Canadian writer she immigrated to Canada in 1968 and eventually a naturalized citizen in 1972. Bharati describes those 14 years of her life as the hardest one as she found herself discriminated against and treated as a member of the "visible minority." She has spoken in many interviews of her difficult life in Canada. This is the country that she sees as unfriendly to its immigrants and one that opposes the concept of cultural absorption. In spite of her tough life in Canada, which was challenging too she manages to write her first two novels, The Tiger`s Daughter and wife. At that time she was working up to professorial status at McGill University in Montreal. During those years she collected many of the sentiments found in her first collection of short stories Darkness. In many sections of this collection reflects her mood of cultural separation while living in Canada. Finally fed up with Canada, Mukherjee and her family moved to the United States in 1980, where she

was introduced herself as a permanent U.S. resident. In 1986 she was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts grant. After holding several posts at various colleges and universities, she ultimately settled in 1989 at the University of California-Berkeley. CULTURAL ISSUES IN WIFE: Additionally, the definition of culture itself is divided in its signification, since the term is open to a variety of interpretive strategies. Raymond Williams, for instance, imparts an anthropological sense to the term, when he observes that Culture was made into an entity, a positive body of achievements and habits, precisely to express a mode of living superior to that being brought about by the progress of civilization. But, as Gerald Graff and Bruce Robbins observe, the conflict between culture in the anthropological sense and culture in the normative sense leads to a third way of using the term, one that refers neither to a peoples organic way of life nor to the normative values preached by leading intellectuals but to a battleground of social conflicts and contradictions. However, if one were to view cultures as, in Graffs words, textual sites and processes, constitutively open to conflicting cultural currents and interpretations, and as themselves including travel both ethnographic and other, it is possible to develop respect for the lived experience of cultures in the plural, particular sense. It is this lived experience of cultures that forms the textual sites of Bharati Mukherjees explorations in her novel Wife. In her work, Mukherjee foregrounds the experience of a woman forced to confront her marginalization within her own (Indian) culture, while attempting to forge an identity within an alien (American) culture, both of which, however, are entrenched in patriarchal ideology. In delineating Dimple Dasguptas attempt at negotiating the cultural and ideological divides, Mukherjee provides for the contradictory interactions of culture, ideology, and identity.

The novel, Wife, is a perfect version of peripheral confusions regarding American culture and habitat and internal commotion to choose between personal deliverance on the one hand and matrimonial bondage on the other that Dimple suffers from. Dimple shows signs of dilemma of cultures which is a domino effect of her phobic condition in the end. Two incidents

from the novel, one, her enforced self-abortion and the other, and her atrocious assassination of her husband are emblematic expression of her turmoil flanked by the other and the self. In Wife, Mukherjee expresses and challenges the hardships of multicultural society of an immigrant. She sets the novel in the United States to reveal both the nations limitations in multiculturalism and the discrepancies between a policy of cultural difference and the American dream of Individualism and opportunity. In her portrayal of Dimple, a newlywed who emigrates from India to the United States, suffers under the disempowerment and pain caused by a different society. Mukherjee depicts a fixed American culture that negates individual identity in favor of communal identities located in foreign culture. In turn, it limits the liberty and success of its mythological promises. From the very beginning of the novel Wife, the sympathetic alienation and ultimate impossibility of the multicultural finds expression through definition, often a violent act that strips away nuance and actual possibility. Mukherjee presents us with a story of an immigrant who does not survive; so long forced to identify with either Indian or American culture. Dimple completely separates herself from any culture what so ever, relying only on individual initiative [for] thats what it came down to and her life had been devoted only to pleasing others, not herself. She pleases others by identifying with a group culture that ignores her personal need to change in America and identifies her only by her role---the Indian community sees Dimple as wife, and multicultural America separates her from itself as an immigrant. At the novels end, Dimple murders her husband, and Mukherjee leaves us with an image of Dimple talking to herself and to the knife that she used to stab him in elongated disintegration into insanity. No longer associated with any culture, least of all a successful, new, hybrid one, Dimple isolates herself completely. She exits as an unrealized transition, a middle ground between the fixed disparate cultural identities for her immigrant community and the hybrid culture of the ideal America.