The story, The Third and Final Continent, written by Jhumpa Lahiri, is narrated by a Bengali man who left India for England in 1964. He spent a few years in London and attended lectures at the London School of Economics. After that, he emigrated to America, where he was offered a full-time job at MIT’s library. He was married to Mala, who had to wait in Calcutta for some time before she went to the United States. The narrator first resided at the YCMA but then took a room at a boarding house that was run by Mrs. Croft, an elderly, eccentric lady. This was around 1969, the year of the American moon landing.
The Third and Final Continent Summary
Mrs. Croft’s daughter Helen tells the narrator that Mrs.Croft is 103 years old. The relationship that the narrator and his landlady share is an essential part of the story. Mrs. Croft repeatedly insists that the moon landing is ‘splendid,’ and this is the signature trait that inspires the narrator’s affection and respect for her.
Six weeks later, Mala’s passport and green card are ready, and she travels to the United States to join her husband, who located a furnished apartment a couple of blocks away. The two get accustomed to the neighborhood and each other. They visited Mrs. Croft when she broke her hip, Helen was taking care of her, and Mala was introduced to the former landlady.
The couple explores the city together and shares stories. One day, the narrator comes across Mrs. Croft’s obituary in the newspaper, and hers is the first death he mourned in America, and hers was the first life he admired.
At the end of the story, the narrator and his wife are fully assimilated into American citizens and live about 20 miles from Boston, and their son is in Harvard. The narrator is sure that he will soon launch himself into the world, and he understands his son’s prospects with a sense of achievement. The narrator had survived on three continents about thirty years ago, at an age when astronauts, the heroes forever, spent hours on the moon.
The Third and Final Continent Analysis
Like many other stories from the collection, The Third and Final Continent by Jhumpa Lahiri is also about assimilation and marriage. It is the story of how a young immigrant manages to adjust to his new home in a different country and a new bride. The star of the story is the eccentric, elderly widow who manages to make sure that the man feels less lonely and shows him qualities in his wife that he failed to notice. She puts together a model for his future life. Unfortunately, Mrs. Croft passes away toward the end of the story. Years later, the narrator is a happily married man, an American citizen with a son who attends school at Harvard, and he remembers the six weeks at Mrs. Croft’s as the most influential time of his life.
The Third and Final Continent Character Sketch
Narrator- The narrator is an unnamed Bengali model worker. He is polite and enduring and can easily adapt to different customs. He has the habit of thoroughly researching his surroundings in advance, taking inconveniences, and creatively improvising on them. He humors Mrs. Croft and her eccentricity and admires her. The writer suggests that the narrator’s temperament has helped him gain outstanding success in his new world as a transplant of Indian descent in the United States.
Mrs.Croft- She is an eccentric, old woman who is quite entertaining. Her obsession with the American moon landing is apparent throughout the story, and she constantly wants the narrator to express his enthusiasm about the same. She is highly old-fashioned, which is evident when she criticizes her daughter for conversing with the narrator without a chaperone. However, she is humorous and has been presented as a formidable figure.
Mala- The narrator’s wife goes to Boston with little assurance and lesser preparation. She is not exactly alone, but her adjustment to America happened slowly, and her husband made all the difference. The two, despite their uncertainties, successfully find common ground in the marriage.
The Third and Final Continent Theme
The story, The Third and Final Continent, reflects isolation- the loneliness that one is bound to feel in a foreign land but also shows the feeling of coming home. As the title suggests, America is the third country he lives in, and North America is the third continent. The story threads come together to explain that when some lonely people come together, it can lead to togetherness and a feeling of belonging. The story highlights the difficulties that immigrants face.
Updated by Anjali Roongta on April 10th, 2023.
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