Essay on A Real Durwan

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Safi Aziz
Ms. Finnegan
World Lit. H
Between the Lines

In some literature, upon occasion, the real magic of the message can only be expressed in an abstract, off hand way. In certain pieces, the richness of the idea is often passed between the lines through symbols. A “symbol” is a word, phrase, image, or the like having a complex of associated meanings and perceived as having inherent value separable from that which is symbolized. This is apparent in Jhumpa Lahiri’s, “A Real Darwan”. Boori Ma is an unofficial, unpaid “Durwan”, or doorman of a lower-middle class apartment building. She is quite elderly, and the word “feeble” can come to mind when talking of Boori Ma. In exchange for her services, the residents allow Boori Ma
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On the surface, the differentiation between social statuses is one of the more obvious reoccurring themes of this short story. A shocking example of this is at the rare occurrence of when Boori Ma actually enters the homes of those she is guarding. “Knowing not to sit on the furniture, she crouched, instead, in doorways and hallways and observed gestures and manners in the same way a person tends to watch traffic in a foreign city” (76). This is blatant division based on status. One way to look at it, Boori Ma isn’t human enough to be among the people let alone take part in conversation. In another light, she is tolerated by the tenants for the purpose of having something in their life, a reinforcing symbol of a class/caste system that characterized India for centuries. "Yes, I am low," says Boori, "but once I was high" (73). Though her repeated contradictions can be blamed on old age, the people adamantly deem her a liar perhaps due to the fear that radical change in social class is possible. But she doesn’t seem to care about that, over and over through out the story she says, “Believe me or don’t believe me,” (71). Nothing she says is for her benefit. The entire apartment building is a symbol of social division. The Dalal family, the most wealthy, live on the third and top floor, making them the highest. Boori Ma, however, spends most of her time on the roof and is not a part of the system; she does not sit on the furniture but
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