Discussion of Jhumpa Lahiri's "The Third and Final Continent"

  Post your answer in the comments below. Make sure to include the number of the question you're answering and either cut and paste the question or answer in complete sentences so that we know which question you're answering.


A-13, B-1, C-2, D-3, E-4, F-5, G-6, H-7, I-8, J-9, K-10, L-11, M-12

If you have further thoughts or questions about the story, please feel to also post these below. 

13 Questions To Ask of Every Story: 

1.          What makes this story “literary”? 

 

2.          Why is this story considered one of the best stories of the past hundred years? If it’s an old story, why has it endured?

 

3.          Why do you think this story was considered one of the best / most iconic stories at the time of its publication? What made it a “successful” story?

 

4.          Plot: What is the “rich ground situation” (conflict) of the story? What happens to complicate this ground situation?

 

5.          Plot: What is the climax of this story? How does the moment irrevocably change everything?

 

6.          Character: In what ways does the writer show character?

 

7.          Character: In what ways does the character drive the action of the story?

 

8.          Point of view: Why do you think the writer chose this particular point of view for the story? How does the point of view function to establish distance or make us feel a certain way?

 

9.          Setting: How does the setting work within the story? What are the key places, and in how does the writer describe them?

 

10.      Pick three of the best lines in the story. Why are they good lines?

 

11.      Do a little bit of research on this author. Is this story a good example of his/her work? Is there anything else you learned that could add to our understanding of the story?

 

12.      What do you think the reader is supposed to take from the story? What can we, as writers, learn from studying it? 


13.    How is this story similar to others we've read? How is it different?

Comments

  1. 8. Point of view: Why do you think the writer chose this particular point of view for the story? How does the point of view function to establish distance or make us feel a certain way?

    The narrator in "The Third and Final Continet" never gives his name, but we still get to know him very well. He doesn't have a very dramatic personality, he is very responsible and practical. I think that the author chose him for the story because it make the personality of Mrs.Croft more entertaining. The dynamic between them was heartwarming and fun to read. Mrs.Croft is very loud and outspoken and it made the narrator come out of his shell like when she would make him yell "Splendid!" It also was what brought him and his wife together after she moved to America. Having the narrator interact with a character such as Mrs.Croft allowed us to see a different side of him and watch as he grew in his relationship with his wife and America.

    -Zoe

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  2. 7. Character: In what ways does the character drive the action of the story?

    Although "The Third and Final Continent" can be read as a story of an ordinary life, the way that the characters drive the story is rather complex. From my reading, it seems that much of the character is drawn on interactions between characters, and the revelations and thoughts that they have about one another. Much of the protagonist's character is shown through his interactions with Mrs. Croft and Mala (rather than through pure summary). The intellectual level of this story is focused on his journey of the three continents, but the gut level arguably arises through the discovery of deep relationships in unlikely ways. The relationship with Mala grows to be inseparable, and Mrs. Croft left a large imprint on his life. All of these factors are what drives the narrative throughout.

    - Elizabeth S.

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  3. 10. Pick three of the best lines in the story. Why are they good lines?
    A. "The noise was constantly distracting, at times suffocating. I felt it deep in my ribs, just as I had felt the furious drone of the engine on the S.S. Roma. But there was no ship's deck to escape to, no glittering ocean to thrill my soul, no breeze to cool my face, no one to talk to.
    B. "As vigorous as her voice was, and as imperious as she seemed, I knew that even a scratch or a cough could kill a person that old; each day she lived, I knew, was something of a miracle. Helen didn't seem concerned.
    C. "My son always expresses his astonishment, not at Mrs. Croft's age but at how little I payed rent, a fact nearly as inconceivable to him as a flag on the moon was to a woman born in 1866."
    I find these 3 lines to be the best lines because they showed us who the narrator was. At the start of the story with line A he seems to be a lonely person who doesn't like his new surroundings. He compares his experience in the YMCA with him being on a ship. The narrator makes the ship sound a lot more pleasant than living in the YMCA with the description of the waves, clean air, and people to talk to. We also see more of the narrator's mindset with how he views Mrs. Croft's age seeing that she is a frail woman, but he is also impressed with her persisting. From line B we also see that the narrator is a caring person with how he is concerned with her well being. Even in other parts of the story handing the money to her so she wouldn't have to get up, or offering to warm her soup. I liked line C as well because it ties into the narrator and his relationship with Mrs. Croft. Comparing the cheap rent to an old woman hearing that people landed on the moon.

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  4. 2. Why is this story considered one of the best stories of the past hundred years? If it's an old story, why has it endured?

    I believe this story is considered one of the best stories of the past hundred years because it encapsulates the human experience and what it means to be an immigrant so well. The connection the main character has with Mrs. Croft is so memorable and touching to read. It shows a man growing up in a world that is unfamiliar to him and the way that he grows and learns. Even though it is not something that I have personally gone through the character is so relatable and it feels like an honest representation of being human.

    -Bailey

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  5. This story feels really rooted in connection and companionship. The framework of moving from India to the UK to the United States provides the framework for this very universal sense of feeling out of place, and seeking connection. Mrs. Croft and the narrator bond over both being out of place and alienated from a world that they are acclimated to, but are not from. The narrator is far from his home—both his family and the physical location—and Mrs. Croft lived through a century of incredible change that came so fast (and while she was hunched over a piano, trying to support her children) that she barely recognizes the world around her. I think there’s something so touching about their connection, and the narrator obviously feels it too, as he is deeply shaken by her death. I also think you could say that readers can take away a new perspective/understanding of a different cultural experience from this story, but I think that understanding of a different perspective or lived experience is one of the purposes of any story.
    I think as writers, we can learn about the power of small details and interactions, and how setting and context can create meaning. So much of the meaning and resonance in this piece comes from the setting in a new area, and the cultural details that fill in because of it. The narrator is sharply observant in the way that a person coming to a new, unfamiliar area is, and we’re able to see just how overwhelming this world is, and how perplexing (but comforting) the he finds the nightly routine with Mrs. Croft prior to Helen filling him in on some of her past, and her age.

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  6. 6. Character: In what ways does the writer show character?

    The author uses first person, which I think helped show every thought and feeling of the narrator. Through the narrator we are shown the other characters by their actions, whether that be Mrs. Croft repeating the same actions over and over, or talking about his roommates in the UK that ate with their hands. All of the characters feel very rounded because we see the small actions and things they say as little pieces of them. The small mannerisms and details are what form images and scenes in people's minds and I think that this author did that in a great way. And I think as readers we don't expect to to see too much of the characters in this book other than Mrs. Croft and Mala who both play big roles in his life. As the narrator learns about people, we do too and that aids in drawing us in as readers because we find things out when he does.
    -Taylor

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  7. 13. How is this story similar to others we've read? How is it different?

    While reading this story, I kept thinking about the Cisneros piece we read earlier, Women Hollering Creek. Mostly in the characterizations of displacement and relationships. These stories are pushed by how the characters see them. Their experiences fuel the world as they see it, something which can be eye-opening and interesting. Displacement comes from the character's Indian heritage and the American way of life. Something that seeks uniformity, but also has a paradox of wanting to be seen as diverse. Seen in also how we grow with the characters, learning more about them, and growing to understand them. They don't grow to fit in, but grow to adjust themselves to living in a place they aren't used too. Along with this, the idea of change doesn't not give into an obvious ending of death or something horrible occurring. There is only a sense that life...moves on. The finality makes the piece extremely enjoyable, especially in the matter of fact way it explains itself.

    As for differences that I've noticed, there is an interesting dynamic with the wife. Perhaps because she is experiencing something similar, and that it isn't pushing them apart. By all means, being together in America has brought them together. Friends by Grace Paley, amongst other sections. Was the biggest one for me because it's in-depth idea into separation in relationships. Perhaps showing two different lights to both experiences in the United States.

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  8. 9. Setting: How does the setting work within the story? What are the key places, and in how does the writer describe them?

    A: The setting felt very plain at first. I struggled to find an interesting avenue in which to explore setting, until the very end. That last page of the story ties every narrative element together beautifully, but because I was focused on setting I was most acutely struck by the way the ordinary was made extraordinary. The fairly typical places in which the protagonist lives take on a sort of mystical quality when viewed with retrospective wonder, in a way that I found to be very emotionally touching. Maybe I'm just an overly-sentimental person, but I really connected with the sentiment that the places you've been are integral to your life's tapestry.

    -Alec

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  9. Do a little bit of research on this author. Is this story a good example of his/her work? Is there anything else you learned that could add to our understanding of the story?

    Jhumpa Lahiri's literary focus is stories telling the sensitive problems that Indian immigrants face and the disconnect between their preexisting culture and values and the new ones that they have to adopt. Early in her writing career, she said, "I was not conscious that my subject was the Indian-American experience. What drew me to my craft was the desire to force the two worlds I occupied to mingle on the page as I was not brave enough, or mature enough, to allow in life.” In this way, her work is autobiographical, as she pulls from her own experiences and other people she knows that are a part of the Bengali community.

    -Sam

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  10. 4. Plot: What is the “rich ground situation” (conflict) of the story? What happens to complicate this ground situation?
    The "rich ground situation" is that this man from India is living with an elderly woman until his wife comes to America with him When his wife does arrive though, they are not close to each other ( given that their marriage was arranged). For example, she makes him rice for breakfast ( which is customary in India) but he takes cereal instead. This was just one of the many problems they were having until Mrs. Croft (the elderly woman our main character was staying with) talks to the both of them and unintentionally helps them become closer than they were before.
    -Michael

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