Bharati Mukherjee’s novelJasmineis a story of an Indian woman, beginning with her birth and early life in a little town in India, over the emigration to the USA and finally to herself and what it means to become an American. The eponymous narrator inJasmine,also known as Jyoti, Jase or Jane, passes through one situation and country to another and so is her inner self reborn several times towards a higher level, until she finally seems to have found a place to rest. Throughout the novel, Jasmine experiences numerous situations that bring violence with them. She is not always the subject of these situations, but they are always connected with her. It is not only physical violence experienced, but also mental violence that influences Jasmines further way of life and forces her to be reborn as a different person. The rough pictures that Mukherjee draws of violent moments reflect the psychological pain that comes with the changes of culture and life that Jasmine experiences. The paper will deal with these moments and analyze them according to their meaning for Jasmine. 2 Violence in Bharati Mukherjee’sJasmine
Born as Jyoti in Hasnapur, a little town in India, Jasmine is told by an astrologer that she will be a widow at the age of 17. She doesn’t believe it, but the man hits her and she falls on the ground, bits her tongue and gets a scar on the forehead. “It’s my third eye […] now I’m a sage” (Mukherjee 5) is what she tells her sisters. The pain she feels and the scar will always remind her of that moment in her life, when she tried to run away from her fate. When Jasmine runs to her sisters at the river, she swims a while in it and suddenly sees a rotten dog’s body. The stench she smells and the pictures follow her for the rest of her life. Later in her life she still remembers the stench whenever she drinks a glass of water: “I know what I don’t want to become” (ibid. 5).
Some instances happen in life suddenly change the perception towards life and reality. I also experienced such an incident in my life that entirely changed my view and thinking towards US Natives. Then, I realized the difference between native and foreign and the importance of the native land. Fear, mentality, pressure and psychological impact can be seen easily on the face of foreigners like me. ...
Jasmine’s father dies when she is a teenager. He gets killed by a bull after stepping out of a bus. Her mother shaves her head afterwards as a sign that she has given up her own life. Jasmine knows a story of a woman who burned herself on her husband’s grave after his death, so what her mother has done is not the worst case. But having experienced this sort of mental violence, see the father dead and the mother resigned, Jasmine stays strong and takes over the role of the mother in the house. At that point in the novel, Jasmine already takes over a new role in her life and leaves the old behind. She is no longer only a daughter, but she has to take responsibility for the rest of the family. The child is gone and she is reborn as a young woman.
As that young woman, Jasmine is getting ready to find a husband for herself. She meets a friend of her two brothers and later on, they get married and move to a bigger city. Prakash is planning to move over to America, for his former professor lives there and could help him. Jasmine’s past comes back to her mind when her husband is killed through a bomb attack in a shop shortly before his departure to America. She is just seventeen at that moment. The bomb, the work of some radicals, was supposed to hit her and other women in that shop for being “whores” (ibid. 93), meaning “too modern”. That cruel act of violence changes something in Jasmine. First of all, she goes back to her mother’s home and they live isolated as two widows for a while. But Jasmine wants to do more with her life. She gets her brothers’ help to get documents for a journey to America. She takes her husband’s clothes with her and intends to burn herself with them at the university he wanted to study at. Jasmine, given that name by her husband when she still was named Jyoti, already has changed into the more modern woman her name represents.
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She already has turned from Jyoti, the girl from Hasnapur, to Jasmine, the woman who immigrates to America. Jasmine’s first encounter with a man in America, after her long journey through three continents, is that with a rapist, “Half-Face”, who brings her into a motel the first night and rapes her. He treats her like cattle, like something he owns. Jasmine intends to kill herself afterwards, but instead she cuts her tongue and stabs her rapist to death. This violent act is both of physical and mental pain, but it again changes her into another person. Later in the novel, Jasmine says she had a man for every person she was, and Kali1was for “Half-Face”. So Jasmine leaves the old Jasmine behind and now begins the life of an illegal immigrant and murderess: “[…] for the second time in three months, I was in a room with aslainman […] I was walking death.
Death incarnate” (ibid. 119).
It is like she peels one of her skins off and appears as a new person, trying to overcome her past and start again. After several steps and places to stay at, Jasmine gets a job as a care-giver in New York. The child’s father, Taylor, is a man who embodies what it is like to be an American for her. Again, Jasmine is reborn, this time she feels like an American: “I became an American in an apartment on Claremont Avenue [New York]” (ibid. 165).
That rebirth is again combined with a new name, for Taylor calls her Jase instead of Jasmine. Her new life breaks in two at a day in the park with Taylor and the child, when Jasmine thinks to recognize the man who has killed her husband in a “hot-dog man” (ibid. 188).
Jase feels that her journey is not yet ended, because she still cannot come to rest and so she decides to move to Iowa.