Depiction of self-identity in female characters in Bharti Mukherjee’s novel Jasmine

By Aditi Tapadar & Priya Chetty on July 19, 2022

Bharti Mukherjee is an Indian American-Canadian writer who has worked on several novels and short stories. Her third novel Jasmine is considered to be one of her greatest works. The novel is set in 1980 and revolves around a young Indian woman trying to adapt to the American culture and survive. The story and the protagonist are related to Mukherjee’s own experiences of displacement and dislocation. This makes the plot and characters extremely interesting and relatable to the readers. This article focuses on the description of the self-identity of the women characters in Jasmine.

Self-identity of the protagonist in the novel Jasmine

Set in the year 1989, Jasmine, tells a beautiful story about the protagonist’s journey from India to Florida. The narrative focuses on the characters that excel with emotion and unravel several aspects as the story proceeds. In this novel, the self-identity of women characters has been evaluated with great depth of knowledge and importance (Parekh, 110). The perception or recognition of different types of characters as a particular individual about different social contexts with the foundation of believes in oneself have been related to the woman characters.

Indian novels have traditionally depicted the Indian life and culture by resembling several types of problems generated and determined by society (Dayal, 70). In this novel, the woman characters and the self-identity of the perspectives have reflected through typical feminine sensibility and emotional ranges. Jasmine deals with the establishment of self-identity as well as female subjugation through which the new identity of modern times to the woman has been given. 

Revealing identity through different names in the novel

Mukherjee tries her best to focus on bringing out the suffering and the conflict of the woman who are settling abroad (Parekh, 110). The woman characters in this particular novel explore the social, political issues and determine the narrative of the protagonist. The protagonist is named several times in the novel, looking for an identity. She has been called Jyoti, Jasmine, Jane and Jase (Parekh, 110). Jasmine is the protagonist and the narrator of the whole novel. The story focuses on the lifelong journey and the path set for her from India to abroad.

As the story’s protagonist, her identity and life are defined by different names in each stage of her life. Through the journey, life is reflected as a spiritual being under a woman looking for self-identity through a non-linear and non-chronological fashion. Jasmine has grown through restrictive cultural as well as religious Indian aspect, and after that, she has immigrated to America illegally (Mishra, 2699). In this adventure, the woman character experiences different feelings that she wanted to experience throughout her life. Jasmine is trying to find her identity and change her faith with the representation of the American dream.

He wanted to break down the Jyoti as I’d been in Hasnapur and make me a new kind of city woman. To break off the past, he gave me a new name; Jasmine….Jyoti, Jasmine: I shuttled between identities.

Jasmine- 77

Relationship between gender and language in Jasmine

This contemporary feminist criticism and the novel have focused on the relationship between gender and language and different types of social structure in the world acting against women. The study of women characters had added suitable significance through the celebration of womanhood. The study also interpreted the self-identity of Jasmine, who is adopting and struggling on her own for her survival.

Jasmine has left her small village at flying through the sky without any bondage. Still, she is also becoming a different person as she is unravelling through different adventures and experiences of her life. The writer has done great work tremendously changing the voice of the woman characters and fighting for self-identity in the novel Jasmine (Powers, 92). There are several types of challenging and questioning aspects of male domination in every walk of life that the female characters have encumbered.

The element of gender equality

It can also be understood that Jasmine is such a character that has established the factors of gender equality and destroyed the egoistic nature of men. This character has changed her names a lot of times and found her female voice of attitude through which the journey from a Punjabi life to American adult life has been seen.

Her life has seen the Odyssey of different situations related to murders and love affairs and how her emotions and feelings have struggled to sort these situations and characters (Seeliger, 112). She has struggled between the identities, but she recognizes herself to be a strong woman. On different dates of life stages, she has different suppressions and exploitations. Still, the main factor in this novel that the writer has brought out is how self-identity has given them a great experience and helped them overcome different hurdles in their lives.

I wanted to become a person they thought they saw: humorous, intelligent, refined, and affectionate. Not illegal, not murderer not widowed, raped, destitute, and fearful.

Jasmine- 171

Individualism and independence in other women characters

The novel Jasmine also tells the readers about other women characters that are quite different. Mataji and Dida have seemed in the novel that follows the rules and dreams society has told them to. The protagonist perceives through her sexuality and race and focuses on the world through different lenses (Devi, 41). The self-identity of the woman characters in this novel experiences different relations to complex negotiation and exchange. There are several qualities of individualism, independence, courage, and decisiveness that have been portrayed in the woman characters of this novel.

Those self-identities of the woman characters in this particular novel have also brought up certain cultures and different types of barriers for perceiving through the significant light of consciousness (Babu, 87). Therefore it could be understood that Jasmine has focused on the self-identity of the woman characters. The focus has given by trying to fit in and looking for the nature of their identities.

Judging the emotional value of characters in the novel Jasmine

This article has solely focused on describing the self-identity of the women characters in the novel Jasmine written by Bharti Mukherjee. The characters and the reception of the plot have given the readers an outlook on the writer’s feelings. Therefore, the characters are extravagant and have emotional value upon understanding. This article has focused on the characters through the eyes of the author. The immigrant experience of the protagonist has helped to evaluate the women characters and brought a lot of changes in the story. To conclude, the novel has many shades, and the author has beautifully portrayed certain aspects of the women characters in Jasmine.


  • Babu, Yeddu Vijaya. “Quest for Empowerment and Assimilation: Images of Diaspora in Bharati Mukherjee’s Jasmine.” IUP Journal of English Studies 15.2 (2020): 84-88.
  • Dayal, Samir. “Creating, Preserving, Destroying: Violence in Bharati Mukherjee’s Jasmine.” Bharati Mukherjee. Routledge, 2017. 65-88.
  • Mishra, Veerendra Kumar, Devendra Kumar Sharma, and Sunil Kumar Jha. “Examining The Phenomenon Of Objectness To Thingness In Bharati Mukherjee’s Jasmine.” International Journal of Modern Agriculture 10.2 (2021): 2368-2375.
  • Parekh, Pushpa N. “Telling Her Tale: Narrative Voice and Gender Roles in Bharati Mukherjee’s Jasmine.” Bharati Mukherjee. Routledge, 2017. 109-126.
  • Powers, Janet M. “Sociopolitical Critique as Indices and Narrative Codes in Bharati Mukherjee’s Wife and Jasmine.” Bharati Mukherjee. Routledge, 2017. 89-108.
  • Seeliger, Henriette-Juliane. “A Tornado Hitting the Homeland: Disturbing American Foundational Myths in Bharati Mukherjee’s Jasmine.” Humanities 9.3 (2020): 112.