Effects of Globalization in “Sexy”

Jhumpa Lahiri’s “Sexy” reminded me of other contemporary works from immigrant second generation authors, such as Amy Tan and Sandra Cisneros, because it focuses on an ethnic sub-culture within America.  However, “Sexy” differs from those less recent works because it shows Indian-American culture from the perspective of a somewhat ignorant and naïve young woman.  More importantly, “Sexy” distinguishes itself from other second generational works because it underlines the idea of an increasingly globalized world and its impact on individuals.

In works by authors like Tan and Cisneros, the writers convey what it is like to be an immigrant in the United States.  However, in “Sexy” Lahiri doesn’t focus so much on cultural difference but shows that the world has now become much more globalized.  It seems to place cultural issues in the past and shows people of other cultures fitting comfortably in American culture.  Lahiri shows that through globalization we are more able to see and learn about other cultures, but because of the same tools (telephone, planes, etc.) that allow globalization, we’ve become disconnected from others.

Lahiri makes many references to this globalized world through symbols and through her characters.  First of all, Miranda’s affair with Dev represents her desire to see outside of her limited scope and culture.  Dev’s exoticness and knowledge of the world excites and intrigues Miranda.  Furthermore, Dev’s favorite place, the Mapparium, is a symbol of globalization.  When Lahiri writes, “In the middle of the room was a transparent bridge, so that they felt as if they were standing in the center of the world,” she alludes to the fact that in this day in age, no part of the world seems too far from reach.

Lahiri uses the character of Rohin as a parallel and a foil to Dev to highlight the theme of globalization and its effects on human relationships.  Like Dev, Rohin is fixated on knowledge about the world.  Rohin stares at maps, memorizes world capitals, repeatedly draws airplanes, and falls asleep on Miranda’s bed.  In all these ways, he is like Dev, but Rohin affects Miranda in a completely different way when he says, “You’re sexy.”   While Dev represented the disconnect and breakdown of basic human relationships (like marriage)  in respect to globalization, Rohin seems to show through his innocence, the possibility of a globalized world that is still capable of upholding close personal relationships.  And ultimately, Miranda’s interaction with Rohin is a connection that brings her back to reality.

Through “Sexy,” Lahiri shows that despite globalization and an increasingly disconnected world, our reality still lies in human connections.

4 Comments on “Effects of Globalization in “Sexy””

  1. Joe Dixon says:

    I very much agree with your post and I also think Lahiri used Rohin’s apparent lack of knowledge about personal space as another example of your views on his role in the story. Through his breaching of Miranda’s personal space and private life he shows that there is still a sense of close personal relationships in our ever globalizing world.

  2. Taylor Pershing says:

    I think this is an excellent reading of the story, and I believe that the idea of globalization as a disconnector and unifier of our lives still holds weight ten years after the story was written. Of course, the technology in the story is firmly in the background– it’s interesting to think what this story would have looked like if it had been written after the new millennium, when technology has become even more ever-present in our lives.

  3. Brian Croxall says:

    I’ll echo Joe and Taylor and say that this is a very nice reading of the story, Candice. It would be fun to see you go to town and do a standard, close reading of the whole thing.

    Since we’re getting all “English-y” here, I’d ask if Rohin can only be read as symbolic of the positive effects of globalization. After all, globalization is one of the reasons that he will never see Miranda again. He does have an effect in her life and for the reader (and ultimately for Miranda), it is positive. But Miranda does not experience it as such in the short term.

    And then to go a bit further, I’d ask you to think about how both of these Bengali (not Indian) “men” relate to globalization vis a vis their obvious material wealth. I think there’s an argument to be made that Dev’s conspicuous display of money is as appealing to Miranda as his exoticism.