Analysis of Hell-Heaven by Jhumpa Lahiri

Topics: Love

Laura Anderson English 102-3 Dr. Spence September 14, 2011 Lost and Found Love They say it is better to have loved and lost, than to never have loved at all. But, what about a love that one must hide and keep secret? Or what about a love that you didn’t even know was there? In “Hell-Heaven” by Jhumpa Lahiri, Boudi, a Bengali-American woman is trapped in a loveless marriage. She discovers the loyalty, comfort, and fondness that goes with growing old with another person.

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Through great friendship and bond, heartbreak and lost love, Boudi discovers that there is more than handholding and giddiness in a marriage. According to Usha, Boudi’s daughter and the narrarator of the story, there was not a lot of love between her parents. Their marriage was an arrangement made in order to keep their parents happy. They had nothing in common, no emotional bond, and were complete strangers before they were married.

The only thing that Boudi was grateful for in their marriage was that she did not have to live in the country with her in-laws and their rules.

While walking around the streets in Cambridge one afternoon Boudi is approached by a fellow Bengali, who was new to America. He was invited back home with Boudi and Usha to have a proper Bengali meal, and from then on he was a member of the family. Adopted into the family as an older brother-like to Boudi and an uncle to Usha, Pranab Kaku offers an emotional bond that is not seen nor felt from Boudi’s husband.

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Boudi and Pranab Kaku had many things in common, came from the same neighborhood in Calcutta, and had even shopped in the same local stores.

Boudi began to look forward to his visits and would even change clothes, brush her hair, and make extra special meals. Often Pranab Kaku would take Usha and Boudi for rides and they would pack a picnic. They formed an emotional bond in which Boudi had never shared with another man before. These outings would be deemed inappropriate had Usha not been with, but it is clear that Boudi was in love with Pranab Kaku. Usha claims, “He wooed her as no other man had.. needing her…in a way my father never did. ” (P. 642).

Although Boudi never proclaims her love for Pranab Kaku until the end of the story, her love is evident when she has jealous tendencies when he starts bringing another woman around. Pranab Kaku starts bringing an American woman around and Boudi is very judgmental about her. She always insisted that the relationship was never going to last. She tells Usha, “In a few weeks, the fun will be over and she’ll leave him,” (P. 642). Boudi is very traditional in her Bengali ways, so while she knows she will never be with Pranab Kaku, she doesn’t want him ‘screwing’ up his life with an American woman.

She would rather see him with a proper Bengali woman. Pranab seeks approval for his girlfriend, but Boudi does not voice her opinion, except to her friends right before the two of them get married, “She will leave him…He is throwing his life away” (P. 645). Pranab Kaku slowly drifts away after staring his own family. Boudi and her family get the occasional update until Debra (Pranab Kaku’s wife) calls and tells Boudi of a divorce, and Pranab Kaku’s unfaithful tendencies.

It was then that Boudi has a realization of the love that her and her husband share. They had grown old together and when their house emptied and it was left to the two of them, their fondness of each other improved. They took care of each other when they were sick and had a mutual respect for each other. Boudi never had to worry about being taken care of or her family breaking up. She had eventually come to peace with broken heart after Pranab Kaku got married and found a new kind of love in her own marriage.

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Analysis of Hell-Heaven by Jhumpa Lahiri. (2019, Nov 27). Retrieved from

Analysis of Hell-Heaven by Jhumpa Lahiri
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