Through imagery, characterization and symbolism, Lahiri’s narrative ultimately portrays the protagonist as an “Interpreter of Maladies,” his own malaise. Mr. Kapasi, the protagonist acts as two disparate interpreters. He translates for people conversing in different languages at his job in the doctor’s office and throughout the story he interprets actions and characteristics from the Das family and analyzes them. Mr. Kapasi realizes his own malaise through his deluded thoughts. Mr. Kapasi bemusement with the Das family started with his initial visual perception of them. The family was young, wore bright colored clothing and translucent visors (Lahiri 258). The Das family clothing resembled foreigners but physical features resembled those of Kapasi’s homeland. Through his eyes, readers learn that the Das family was a contrast from the ordinary tourists he worked with. Perceived by Mr. Kapasi, Mr. Das appeared as a magnification of his own child. He wore a blue visor, shorts, sneakers, a t-shirt and his voice had a tentative shrill like an adolescent teenager (258). From just visual perception, Mr. Kapasi creates a deluded idea about Mr. Das. Lahiri illustrates to readers that Mr. Kapasi didn’t just look at Mrs. Das but observed her. Kapasi’s observations of Mrs. Das were bodily. He noted her petite plump body dressed in a red and white skirt that stopped above her knees, the close fitting of her blouse, and the chest level decorated applique on her shirt (259). Kapasi demonstrates a sensual interest in Mrs. Das just from looking at her.
From the first moment of interaction between the Das family and Mr. Kapasi notices negative attributes. The protagonist learns how self-absorbed and selfish Mrs.Das is before the car even started for the tour. This character discovery is observed in the excerpt
Before starting the ignition, Mr. Kapasi reached back to make sure the cranklike locks on the inside of each of the back doors were secured. As soon as the car began to move the little girl began to play with the lock on her side, clicking it with some effort forward and backward, but Mrs. Das said nothing to stop her. She sat a bit slouched at one end of the back seat, not offering her puffed rice to anyone.
Mrs. Das doesn’t display any concern in her children safety which gives Mr. Kapasi a valid reason to analyze the family as a group of siblings. He found it hard to believe that Mr. and Mrs. Das were responsible for anything other than themselves (260). Mrs. Das self-absorptive character exposes her lack of interest in Mr. Kapasi, her family and the trip; therefore it comes as a surprise when Mrs. Das showed a keen interest in Mr. Kapasi’s job as a language interpreter. As Mr. Kapasi gives a brief explanation about the job which he believes is minor, Mrs. Das compliments him by saying his job is “so romantic” (261). Mr. Kapasi armed with a misconstruing mind is affected by the words of Mrs. Das and his mind begins exaggerate the expression. Kapasi presumes Mrs. Das to be displaying a flirtatious behavior by taking her shades off in the car ride so her eyes could meet his. He even viewed her offering of a piece of gum as a coquettish gesture. Mrs. Das continues to ask Mr. Kapasi’s to describe details in his job and scenarios as if she wanted to imagine them while complimenting him. At this point, Mr. Kapasi is flattered by Mrs. Das and her interest in his work. He begins to make a comparison to his wife who has no interest or excitement regarding his job as an interpreter (262). Unfortunate for Mr.Kapasi, he misinterprets Mrs. Das amusement of his career as an amusement of him as a person which begins the growth of his malaise. Mr. Kapasi crowds his mind with various thoughts from the brief misconstrued conversation. He thought about if Mr. and Mrs. Das were a bad match like he and his wife. He even began to