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    The Dual Citizenship of American-Indian: A Dilemma in Jhumpa Lahiri’s Narrative

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    The idea of living in two cultures was born in 1950, when two social scientists John and Ruth, were studying expatriate communities in India (Valentine and Brent pp. 12). Novelist Jhumpa Lahiri, in her narrative essay, “My Two Lives,” recounts the dilemma situation she was involved in when she was forced to recognize her dual citizenship of American-Indian. Lahiri is caught in a trap where she spends much of her time in the U.S while her parents are firmly citizens of India. In what looks like a dilemma to her she is forced to live “Two Lives.” In the piece, Lahiri begins building her credibility with personal facts and reputable sources, citing various attractive facts and successfully bringing in emotional appeals in the play to appeal to the readers (Lahiri pp. 63). She is also aware of the role that different styles play in any narrative and Lahiri does not hesitate on bringing this strategy into her narration. Using different appeals such as logos, pathos, and egos, the use of the logical flow of information and embodiment of various styles, therefore, forms the key areas that this analysis emphasizes on.

    Lahiri goes through numerous stages in her attempts to negotiate the “intense pressure to be two things, loyal to the old and fluent in the new.” Lahiri first set the stage by describing how she has lived in both cultures (Lahiri pp. 63). She provides a background story of how she has lived her life in both countries and how she has balanced operating in America where is currently is and Calcutta where her parents are. She then outlines various instances of her life that exposes her as a neither an American nor an Indiana. She draws a comparison of the experiences that she has encountered while living in both countries and brings in the parents as part of explaining her experiences. The journey of her stay and activities in both countries is much mixed that even her she accepts that it is hard to understand either she is an American or Indiana. She also gives her educational and career experiences and concludes her piece by admitting that even though she has stayed in America for long, the fact that her parents are Indiana makes her feel more aligned to that culture. However, she does not openly do this as she is quoted saying that she will continue spreading the notion of her being Indiana America meaning she does not choose one culture over the other.

    Lahiri begins his tribute to the audience by acknowledging that indeed the choice to live in two different countries was not a walk in the park (Lahiri pp. 62). She appeals to the audience through ethos by stating that the fact that she has lived in both the US and Calcutta denies her the voice to declare the country that she belongs. In doing so, she provides an ethical appeal to the reader by using ethos to gain approval from the reader. Her statement is important since to provide the user with the fact that Lahiri is not biased towards a particular culture but instead is showing appreciation to both cultures that she has strong roots too. She has stayed in the US for a long period while also her parents are based in Calcutta. It is therefore hard to choose between the two cultures. She, therefore, makes an ethos appeal to bring importance to her statement.

    Additionally, throughout her piece, Lahiri uses many strong sources that strengthen and make bold her credibility and appeal to ethos while also helping in building her argument. “At home I followed the customs of my parents, speaking Bengali and eating rice and deal with my fingers,” she says (Lahiri pp. 63). This statement reflects the ethos appeal that Lahiri is trying to show her readers. She uses the statement to make an ethical appeal where she uses her characters to make and gain approval of her readers. She knows that by following the traditions of her parents, the readers will see her as a good person who has respect for her tradition and culture. As a result, this statement is necessary since it gives the argument of Lahiri importance. Also, citing these examples boosts the credibility of Lahiri by showing that her arguments are worth justifying and have provided facts and statistics, as well as an expert opinion to justify her claim.

    Throughout the article, Lahiri subtly draws on the audience’s good conscience, attempting to promote the spirit of handwork amongst the audience. “I also entered a world my parents had little knowledge or control of the school, books, music, television, things that seeped in and became a fundamental aspect of who I am,” she argues (Lahiri pp. 63). Lahiri uses this statement to invoke the audience’s emotion with the aim of gaining their acceptance and approval of the idea. She tries to explain to them that she entered a world where she could not get help from her parents but could still succeed. This is likely to have an impact on her readers as they are likely to have the sympathy for Lahiri’s experience in a new culture. Although his approach is subtle, Lahiri attempts to change his audience’s values and perspective by showing that we can make it in any culture provided we are determined.

    Elsewhere, what seems to ground Lahiri piece is the structure of her information. There are major gaps in how consistent she is in her life experiences and events. She has a great narration of major events in her life, but she lacks consistent flow in these vents. For example, she does not tell us how it all happened till she found herself in the U.S. Likewise; she leaves the reader in great suspense as she does not elaborate on a timeframe of how the event happened. For example, there is a mix up in the exact year she published her book. In the beginning, she said she published her book in 2000 while in the middle of her story she mentions 1999 (Lahiri pp. 63). Therefore, while is true begin logically narrating her piece, she succumbs to the consistency of the flow and the order that she uses in the latter stages of her work may bring confusion in the reader’s understanding of the text.

    Conclusively, Lahiri’s “My Two Lives,” remains an undeniable classic narrative that leaves a lasting impression on every reader. She makes an effective argument, ably supporting most of her arguments on various instances. She does a great job by deploying various rhetorical strategies such as the ability to seek for the readers appeal through pathos and egos. Throughout, she depended majorly on logos and egos to offer wide appeal to his arguments. Partially, she organized her work in a way that would appeal to the reader: heart, mind, and conscience. In general, her ability to deploy combative appeal, good style, and a flowing structure makes her work a good piece.

    Work Cited

    1. Lu, Chunlei, et al. ‘Living in Two Cultures: Chinese Canadians’ Perspectives on Health.’ Journal of immigrant and minority health 19.2 (2017): 423-429.
    2. Lihara, Jhumpa. ‘My Two Lives: Latino immigrants in the Wisconsin.’ (1967).
    3. Yaghoubi Jami, Parvaneh, et al. ‘An investigation of the divergences and convergences of trait empathy across two cultures.’ Journal of Moral Education (2018): 1-16.

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    The Dual Citizenship of American-Indian: A Dilemma in Jhumpa Lahiri’s Narrative. (2022, Dec 01). Retrieved from https://artscolumbia.org/the-dual-citizenship-of-american-indian-a-dilemma-in-jhumpa-lahiris-narrative/

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