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The Third and Final


Continent
Shraddha K, Sharmin S, Rehan P, Anya S
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Summary
 The story is told in first person, by a Bengali man. When he
was young, his father died, which drove his mother to
become mentally unstable and his brother to work to support
the family. The story begins as the narrator describes how
he left India in 1964 and life in London. When he is receiving
education in London, and living in a house with many other
Bengali men like him, he is offered a job at the processing
department of a library at MIT. Simultaneously, his marriage
is arranged by his family to a woman names Mala, in
Calcutta. He travels to India, gets married and then to
America without his wife.
 The narrator finds accommodations with a 103 year old
woman named Mrs. Croft, a self supporting widow, who
fascinates the narrator with her advanced age and still,
fierceness. The narrator lives with Mrs. Croft for six weeks
until his bride can get a visa and come to America. At the
end of 6 weeks, the narrator moves out when his wife arrives
in America.
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Contd.

 Since their marriage was arranged, his wife remains a stranger to


him till he takes her to Mrs. Croft’s house. At Mrs. Crofts house, he
sees her laugh for the first time, and feels feelings for her, and from
there on, there relationship begins to develop further, and him and
his bride begin to grow familiar to each other’s company. A few
months later, the narrator comes across Mrs. Crofts death in the
obituary and is troubled deeply. His wife consoles him as he begins
to realize that Mrs. Croft is the first person he has held in high
regard and the first death he mourned in America.

 Subsequently, the narrator describes the years that came,


mentioning a son who attends Harvard. The narrator points out Mrs.
Croft's house to his son every time they pass it and goggles, in awe
of how far he has come across three continents.
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Characters

 There are 4 main characters in the story 2 of which are


round and 2 flat. the characters are described a few in
a lot of detail and a few not so much in detail
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Mrs. Croft

 She is a round character. In the story she is described as an


old woman of an astonishing age of 103 she has a daughter.
Still lives all alone. Mrs. Croft at first seems like a panicked old
lady as she keeps on tell the narrator to look the doors. But if
you look beneath the surface you will see that Mrs. Croft
would be very bereave to live alone and with some one she
barely knows. Imagine if he was a deranged psycho.

 Character traits: brave, old fashion mind set, fragile, cranky,

 She plays a very important role in the story as which out her
there would be no conflict. He death was what could have
brought tears into the eyes of the reader.
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Mala (Narrators wife)

 Mala known to be the narrators wife is a flat character


even thought she plays and partially important role in the
story. This is so because she is not present in most of the
story but merely mentioned briefly a couple of time. She
the becomes a essential part of the story when she moves
to the unite states of America to unite with her husband
you could say that she evolved form a flat to a round
character. As the first impression you get if on of her not
playing such an important role but then you find out that
she is one of the key people who play a role in the settling
down of the narrator in a a foreign country.
 Character traits: sentimental, attached, dependant
(subject to circumstances) obedient. Low self esteem as
she has been rejected so many times
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Narrator

 The narrator is a round character. You could use this as a


pun as most of the story revolves around his life. He is a
characters who takes a while to adapted to his
surroundings. It could be a choice or something else. This
is shown though is choice of foods. And when he stays at
the Y.M.C.A. He is a man of patience as he doesn’t
pressure his wife into change herself to fit into her new
home. he is prompt as he gives the rent on time every
Friday.

 Character traits: Friendly, organized (I mean he works in


a library)
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Themes
 Cultural differences

 One of the principle themes that are highlighted in this


story is the difference between cultures around the
world. As the narrator moves from continent to
continent, the author displays how things work
differently in each place, from India to London to
Massachusetts, and how the narrator has to adapt to
the new way of living. The narrator explains and
describes the setting in the different locations, the way
people are and the way of life during the course of the
story, which epitomizes difference between cultures
around the world.
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 Examples of things that display cultural difference in the story:
 “I learned that Americans drove on the right side of the road,
not the left, they called a lift an elevator and an engaged
phone busy. The pace in North America is different from
Britain…” (Pg 381, last paragraph)
 “…converting ounces to grams and comparing prices to things
in England.” (Pg 382)
 “Even the simple chore of buying milk was new to me; in
London we’d have bottles delivered each morning to our door.”
(Pg 382)
 “The free end of her sari did not drag on the floor, but was
draped in a sign of bridal modesty over her head, just as it has
draped my mother until the day my father died. Her thin brown
arms were stacked with gold bracelets, a small red circle was
painted on her forehead, and the edges of her feet were tinted
with a decorative red dye.” (Pg 391)
 Conversation between husband and Mala about what she ate
on the plane (Pg 391)
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 Generation gap

 - Another theme that is emphasized on during the story


is the gap between generations. By creating characters
that have a large age difference between them,
through their conversations and reactions, Jhumpa
Lahiri shows the differences between the characters of
the younger generation and the older (Mrs. Croft and
the other characters). Jhumpa Lahiri has paid particular
attention to matters such as fashion, abidance of
societal norms, and technological advancements.
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 Examples of things that show a generation gap in the story:

 Mrs. Croft was most amazed at the fact that there was an American flag on
the moon, and she would keep repeating the fact over and over again in
her amazement. This was probably because in her generation, they would
never have in their wildest dreams imagined there to ever be a man on the
moon, and so the author shows technological advancement between the
generations.

 “And no lady visitors!” (Pg 385) Mrs Croft tells the narrator he is not
allowed to have lady visitors, because during her time, it was an extremely
inappropriate thing to do.

 “It is improper for a lady and gentleman who are not married to one
another to hold a private conversation without a chaperone!” (Pg 388)
Once again, according to Mrs Croft, a woman from an elder generation this
was wrong, but to the people from the younger generation, it seemed to
be acceptable.

 “She (Mrs. Croft) added that it was also improper for a lady of Helen’s
station to reveal her age, and to wear a dress so high above the ankle.”
(Pg 388)

 “For your information mother, its 1969. What would you do if you actually
left the house one day and saw a girl in a miniskirt?” “I’d have her
arrested!” (Pg 388) The last two examples show that according to the elder
generation, women needed to be well dressed and covered at all times,
and was very inappropriate to not do so.
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 Arranged marriage in comparison to love marriage
 - Another theme that is brought out in this story is the
difference between arranged marriages and love marriages.
In the story, the narrator’s marriage is arranged with Mala in
India. Since they do not know each other well enough and
have not actually fallen in love, Jhumpa Lahiri shows the
awkwardness between them, which is often there between
most arranged marriage couples, and majority of the time,
later grows into love, as it did in the story. However, it is
difference in the case of a love marriage. Additionally,
Jhumpa Lahiri shows that according to Indian custom, for a
man to accept a woman as his wife, she is expected to know
how to do a few basic things, for example in Mala’s case,
cook, knit, embroider, recite poems and more.
 Struggle for success
 In addition to the themes mentioned, Jhumpa Lahiri shows
us how many children work extremely hard, leave their
home, family and friends at a young age live abroad, in a
struggle for success, or as the author puts it “struggling to
educate and establish themselves abroad.”
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Author’s Style and Intention
 Jhumpa Lahiri uses the technique of flashback, and writes in the
point of view of a Bengali man, who narrates his journey as he
traveled through three different continents. She uses a very
straightforward style of writing, with a tint of humor. For example,
when Mala arrives in America she says she did not want to have
oxtail soup because she could not stand the thought of eating an
ox’s tail.
 Lahiri’s use of the language is very simple. Making this story
different from the others, the author does not create a major
conflict and ends the story with a resolution. Infact, she does not
add any suspense or excitement to the story. Although it seems
like a simple story of a simple man, there are a lot of themes in it
that can be uncovered through interpretation. The author
manages to keep it interesting, as she intends to, and does very
well, show the reader some aspects of different cultures, and
other themes (as mentioned earlier) as she tells the story of an
Indian man who lived in three different continents.
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Title

 The title of the story is extremely significant to the


story. It is a direct title, and the after the reader has
read the story, it is easy for him to understand its
meaning. The man travels through different continents,
spends fractions of his life in each and undergoes
several experiences in each too, but the ‘third and
final’ continent is where he creates a family, raises his
child and finally settles down in.
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IGCSE style questions

 Re-read the story “The Third and Final Continent”.


Explain how the author brings out the theme of cultural
differences around the world, using details from the
text.

Explore the ways in which the author shows the growth


of Mala’s relationship with her husband, referring to
details from the text.

Imagine you are Mala. Describe your feelings as you


arrive in America till the day you meet visit Mrs Croft.
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The Third and Final
Continent
Setting
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On The Ship
 Not being very rich, he endured the hardship of
travel on the S.S Roma, an Italian cargo ship in a
third class cabin next to the ships engine.
 Hepatiently endured the whirring sound
continuously day in and day out as that was the
only style of transportation he could afford at
that time.
 Theescape route for the author was onto the
deck of the ship without the incessant noise of
the ships engine.
 Hepassed the time watching the glittering
ocean and cooling breeze on his face.
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In London

 The Finsbury Park apartment, in North London in which


the author lived shows us the poverty in which he
struggled to achieve his aim.
 He shared his house with 3 to 4 Bengalis in a room and
took turns in cooking pots of egg curry.
 The state of financial economy is clearly evident by the
fact that they could not even afford a table cloth, but
used newspaper instead.
 They lacked cutlery, using their hands to eat.
 They wore drawstring pyjamas, drank tea and watched
cricket. They even played Mukesh
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In America {The Third and Final
Continent}
 The protagonist came first to a cheap accommodation, the YMCA,
which was walking distance from his work place.

 The room was simple with a Spartan cot, desk and a wooden cross,
hanging on the wall.

 A simple bare window overlooked Massachusetts Avenue which was


a crowded major road in stark contrast to the quite setting of the
room.

 The next day he bought a plastic bowl and spoon, unable to afford
glassware and proper stainless steel cutlery.

 He also bought cornflakes and a small carton of milk.

 The sizes clearly indicate that he was being careful with spending
his money.
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In America {The Third and Final
Continent} Continuation
 For his interview with Mrs. Craft, a hundred and three year
old lady, he wore a coat and a tie, in spite of the heat, to
look formal enough to present himself as a decent young
gentleman.
 Mrs. Craft was particular about locking the front door. Her
safety was paramount.
 She even needed to use a wooden cane, but it was so
dusty that it seemed she hardly used it.
 She was clearly enamoured of the landing on the Moon by
Neil Armstrong.
+ The House
 The house was surrounded by a chain – link fence, which was light brown
coloured with a dark brown border.
 It was a stand alone house, covered with wooden shingles and fresh
forsythia bushes on each side.
 Next to the bench on which she sat was a small round table whose legs
were completely hidden by the lace tablecloth.
 On it were carefully positioned a lamp, a transistor radio, a leather change
purse with a silver clasp and a telephone. There was a parlour with many
bookcases and shabby claw – footed style of carved furniture.
 In the corner was a grand piano which had its top down and on it were
piles of paper. The piano stool had been moved elsewhere, and old Mrs.
Craft sat on it.
 The house had a narrow carpeted staircase leading to an upper floor where
there were 5 doors, 2 on either side of an equally narrow hallway & one at
the opposite end.
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His Room

 His room contained a twin bed under a sloping


ceiling, a brown oval rug, a basin with an exposed
pipe and a chest of drawers.
 Theother doors were that of the closet, toilet and
bathtub.
 Thewalls were covered with grey & ivory striped
paper. The window was open and pastel net
curtains
 Theview was of a small back yard with few fruit
trees and an empty clothes line.
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Massachusetts Avenue

 An Indian woman, one evening, was walking on


Massachusetts Avenue.
 She wore a sari as she pushed a pram along the sidewalk.
 Her loose end nearly brushed the footpath.
 A white American woman was walking her dog, passed by.
 The dog leapt up and seized the end of the sari. The author
realised that now it would be his duty to take care of his
newly wedded wife.
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The Furnished Apartment and Mala

 It had a double bed and a private kitchen and bath.


 As a welcome gesture, he had cooked egg curry. The wife
arrived tired and hungry.
 She had not eaten a thing as the menu carried oxtail soup, the
thought of which had disgusted her.
 Mala had knitted 2 bright blue sweaters for the author. One was
a v neck, the other with cable – knit all over.
 Both, however were tight in the armholes, indicating that he had
gained height in the 6 weeks of their separation.
 She had also remembered to bring 2 new pairs of drawstring
pyjamas and Darjeeling tea.
+ In The End
 Together, husband & wife explored the city and socialised with all other
Bengalis.

 They found a man named Bill sold fresh fish on Prospect Street, a store in
Harvard Square called Cardulla’s sold bay leaves and cloves, both essential
ingredients for tasty Bengali food

 In the evening they walked in the Charles River in Boston to watch the
sailboats go pass and eat ice cream cones in Harvard Yard.

 Having bought an instamatic camera, they documented their life together


and decided to grow old in America & collect `social security’.

 The author and Mala lived in a town about 20 miles from Boston on a tree –
lined street in a house they had bought with a garden that grew tomatoes.

 They had transformed themselves from Bengali Indians to American Citizens,


but since their roots lay in Calcutta they visited every few years to bring back
drawstring pyjamas and Darjeeling Tea!

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