The outer characterization of the narrator and protagonist in “The Word Love” by Chitra Banerjee Divakarunitells us that she is an Indian PhD student, doing her studies in the US. The reference to the Shakespeare class (p. 2, ll. 13-14) suggests that she is studying literature. The narrator grew up only with her mother in India because her father died when she was very young. In the US, she has an American boyfriend with whom she has been living for three months.
The narrator’s inner characterization is constructed by using her perspective on the events she lives, through her actions, motives, and attitude.
From the beginning of the story, we find out that the narrator struggles with an inner conflict. She needs to tell her traditionalist Indian mother that she is living with a man, knowing that her mother will most likely disapprove: “You practice them out loud for days in the bathroom mirror, the words with which you will tell your mother you’re living with a man.” (p. 1, ll. 1-2)
Since she moved in with her boyfriend Rex, the narrator is torn between guilt and love. She loves Rex, but she feels guilty she has disappointed her mother.
She tries to explain to Rex why she is afraid of telling her mother, but the man cannot relate to traditional Indian culture. This leads to conflicts between them:
‘She lives in a different world. Can’t you see that? She’s never travelled more than a hundred miles from the village where she was born… (p. 1, ll. 29-32)
When such conflicts arise, the narrator tries to think of the happy times she had in her relationship, memories that suggest the narrator loves Rex and is trying to find excuses for Rex’s unsympathetic behavior:
You hate it when he talks like that biting off ...