Cultural Expectations and Gendered Roles: Identity Formations in Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Lowland

Author: Damini Bhattacharya, University of Southampton, UK
Published: December 31, 2022

Citation: Bhattacharya, D. (2022). Cultural Expectations and Gendered Roles: Identity Formations in Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Lowland. IAFOR Journal of Arts & Humanities, 9(2).


Individual identities are not only a summation of one’s unique choices and experiences, but are also influenced by the culture, society and politics of the place in which individuals feel a sense of belonging or of the place where, on the contrary, they experience a disruption of the self. For a diasporic subject, the experiences in the home country and the country to which they’ve relocated create a binary identitary self, one that develops in the space that opens between the familiar feelings of belonging and the newfound sense of alienation. Within that space the immigrant resides in a transnational and global context that does not fully incorporate either place. Gauri, the protagonist in Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Lowland, attempts to forsake her Indianness, but her new experiences and her determination to do away with the cultural signifiers of her traditional Indian upbringing provoke a synthesis, one that integrates fragments of the new, envisioned identity with remnants of a past identity that is very much alive in her unconscious. By analysing these fragments and remnants, the paper identifies patriarchy, sexuality, sexism, racism and conflicting ideas of motherhood and family as factors being negotiated by the protagonist as she contrives frames of reference for her new identity.


culture, diaspora, gender, identity, Indian women’s literature, The Lowland