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Rachel Blitzer

on 19 December 2014

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Transcript of Clothes

While "Clothes" does not have many literary allusions, the story does reference popular places in American society, such as 7-Eleven and the amusement park Great America.

These allusions are important because, while they are everyday places to visit in our country’s society, they are strange and foreign to Sumita. They inspire her to have new dreams and goals for herself once she leaves India and comes to the United States.

Author Background
Excited, optimistic -> depressed -> introspective/ self-assured

3 Major Literary Elements
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni was born in 1956 in Calcutta, India. At the age of nineteen she decided to leave for America to attain a higher education.
With symbolism being the major literary device in Clothes, imagery becomes a major literary device as well. Without the imagery of clothes, the symbolism would not be so relevant and apparent throughout the work. Another important form of imagery is in the description of the 7-eleven. Through this image, american society is embodied.

Point of View
Sumita’s point of view changes drastically as she moves from India to America. Sumita grows as a person, learning the ways of American culture and molding herself based off of it. Finally, deciding to stay in America to become a teacher, her Indian point of view is overcome by an american perspective.

Sumita encounter’s both internal and external conflicts which sway her to make her decision to both move to America and stay in America. Sumita struggles internally with finding her true identity, she moves to India in hopes of finding this. She struggles externally with her husband, knowing little about marriage and love, but also having to assimilate to american culture to be with him. The final and most traumatic conflict is Somesh versus the gunman at the 7-eleven when the gunman shoots him and he is killed.

The social context behind “Clothes” consists of times when women were seen as inferior to men and thought of as less education. At this time Indian immigrants also arrived in America to gain greater knowledge, a degree, or envelope in an arranged marriage. Women from India also faced many hardships in the so-called real world of the United States.

Critical Lens
Divakaruni used to write poetry, but she developed into a writer of fiction after she graduated from UC Berkeley. In her pieces she explores cultural differences between her home country and America, as well as compares and contrasts old traditions and new.
Divakaruni reached out to women in need; she worked with Afghani women refugees and women from dysfunctional families. She also assisted in the construction of shelters for battered women. Today Divakaruni is president and the founder of Maitri, an organization in San Francisco that works for women in South Asia who are in abusive situations.
At the beginning of the novel, Sumita could not wait for her new life in America with her new husband, Somesh. As they begin their life together, Somesh engulfs her in american culture, giving her a new and exciting perspective on life
Unfortunately, when Somesh was working at 7-Eleven, he was robbed and shot. Sumita was left a widow
Sumita had to make a decision. Whether she should remain in America and live by the American culture or head home towards India. She decides to remain in America and to become a teacher.

Yellow =Optimism
Pink =Transition
Blue = Possibility
Orange = Joy
White = Widowhood
r = Chaos
Clash of Culture (Indian vs. American)
Feminist Lens
◦ Is it wrong for Sumita to disrespect her culture by not returning to India after her husband’s death, or is it an inspirational feminist action for her to stay in America?

◦As per Indian tradition, widows are supposed to wear white saris and live with their in-laws. Sumita’s in-laws encourage her to come with them back to India after Somesh dies, but Sumita decides to stay in America, educate herself, and find success. This can be seen as a feminist action, since her Indian culture expects her not to do much else with her life now that her role as a wife/mother is over. Sumita defies that culture and strives to make something of herself
"A person, age, word, or event that evokes a range of additional meaning beyond and usually more abstract that its literal significance" (Meyer 2194)
Sumita has an arranged marriage with Somesh and moves with him to America.
Somesh introduces to Sumita the American culture, giving her hope and optimism.
Somesh is shot and killed in the 7-eleven
She finds her identity, regardless of her tragic loss, and decides to become a teacher.
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