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Independence is one topic that is very important in Jasmine. The main character, Jyoti has to always deal with independence all her life. From the time she is in India to the time she is in the United States, she has never strived for independence; it always seems to come to her.
As a young girl in Hasnapur, India Jyoti was born into a poor Hindi family that lost everything during the partition, and as a result has been left with a mud hut and farmland in the Punjabi countryside of Northern India. Jyoti is raised in a poor home where she is taught to cook, clean and look up to the males in her society. As a young girl Jyoti is not influenced to be independent. Like every girl in the village she is expected to receive a little bit of education and then go back to her home and get ready to be married off.
Fortunately a teacher named Masterji saw talent in Jyoti and begged her father to let her continue with her education. When Jasmine agrees to continue her education and says she wants to be a doctor and open her own clinic, her father was in complete shock as well as her grandma. Her father’s instant reaction was, “The girl is mad! The girl is mad!”
When she is asked about continuing her education, it is the first time in her life where she is given any type of independence. Continuing her education would mean that she wouldn’t have to be dependent on any man’s wellbeing. Although it is good that she will have a future and will continue to be educated, Jyoti is still mentally attached to the sexist ways of her culture. She still marries and falls in love with men, by looking up at them and honoring their ways. Jyoti had no honor for herself and what she could do independently. It was all about the males in her life and their greatness, because in her society the powerful people were males.
Jyoti’s marriage to a man named Prakash is a big example of her lack of independence. She never got engaged to Prakash. She married Prakash after knowing him for only a couple of weeks. Although her marriage to Prakash was common in her society, Prakash wasn’t a common Indian. She was lucky to be married to Prakash. Her marriage to Prakash was the second time in her life that independence came to her. Prakash was against the feudal system of Hasnapur (the town in which they lived). By being married to Prakash Jyoti didn’t need to be a humble wife, like all the other women in her society. She again experienced independence. The independence to call her husband by his first name and to talk to him in any way she pleased. Prakash even gave her a new name, Jasmine.
Independence to continue education and now independence to do as she pleases in marriage, Jyoti, now Jasmine was a lucky woman who even argued with her husband at times. She did not strive for independence, it just came to her.
When her husband argued with her it was because he wanted her to think freely, while she wanted to be a scared, humble, dependent wife. For example, once Jasmine was arguing about having a child, which was a way for to become the typical housewife of her society. Prakash’s response was not one common in the feudal society they lived in. His response was, “We aren’t going to spawn! We aren’t ignorant peasants”.
Prakash gave Jasmine freedom of speech and the skills to be strong and not afraid to speak her mind. Prakash always told her to challenge him and keep arguing with him. He did not punish her when she argued him. He gave her the skills and self-confidence to argue to a man, those skills would open doors for her.
Prakash gave Jasmine courage and told her that they would move to America. Prakash had a scholarship to the US and on the last day when he was preparing to go to the states, work and then send back for Jasmine, he died. The religious conflicts of Northern India killed him as well as Masterji.
Prakash died because of a bomb that was put in their home by a person against Hindus. Earlier in her life Jasmine had lost her father due to a bull. Her father cared for her and was her future. After losing her father she lost Masterji, a Sikh who taught her all her life and motivated her to continue her studies. Masterji was harassed and killed by anti-Sikhs. Now she has lost another teacher, her husband.
As a widow, Jasmine returned to live with her mother in a widow’s hut and has to listen to her widowed grandma tell her that what happened to her husband was a punishment from God, because they weren’t a traditional couple. Jasmine has now lost all the people who gave her independence and taught her to be independent. She remembered that Prakash wanted for the both of them to go to America and live real lives with money and freedom.
Jasmine decided to use the independence she was given and asked her brothers to help her use the Visa her husband had and to arrange for her a trip to America. Now, she is being independent and doesn’t rely on men to supply it for her.
Jasmine immigrated illegally to America. She lost her independence after traveling a long way illegally in old planes and broken down ships. Her final destination was the Florida Keys, where a man brought her in America illegally and then raped her as a payment to him for bringing her in to the states. After being forcibly raped, Jasmine killed the man and then went out to try to find Tampa University where Prakash and her were supposed to be. As a religious act, her intention was to burn Prakash’s belongings at the University because it was where he’d want to be. At this time she was raped and lost. Fortunately a woman picked her up from the streets and took her in to her home. The woman empowered her again, helping her gain back Independence.
At the woman’s house, Jasmine is kept from INS. Jasmine tells the lady, Lillian that she has a friend in New York, Prakash’s former teacher who had helped Prakash reach the states. By then she had gained back the independence to move on. As a widow, Jasmine uses her independence to find Prakash’s former teacher, Professorji in New York. Fortunately she found Professorji and he helped her to have a safe shelter in an Indian community in New York. With the help of Professorji she was about to get a false green card, but that meant selling her hair, so she took matters into her own hands and called Kate, Lillian’s daughter.
Kate helped Jasmine find a family to take care of her, this helped Jasmine becomes American and gains all the skills she would need to be American. Later on Jasmine moved to Iowa and fell in love with a middle aged banker, Bud. Jasmine then became Jane, and was living with a middle aged Iowan. She had taken the Independence she was given and used it to live her life. Jane was now American, with an American husband and pregnant with an American, her and Bud also adopted a Vietnamese child whom she soon had to let go of.
To Jane independence was something that came to her. As a young girl she was lucky to be embraced with courage and independence. The Independence that Prakash gave her, stuck with her and made her confident and strong. It made her believe in herself and take matters into her hands. Prakash allowed her to have no fear of men and that helped her come to America and live a happy life with Bud.
Independence is an important topic in Jasmine, the main character, Jane got her independence from many people, which helped her to build a better life for herself. Without independence Jane would not have lived a good life as a widow in Hasnapur, where she would live alone and in poverty all her life.
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