Does the word challenge here has a latent meaning of anger and obstinacy? If so is that a common expression or something Jumpa Lahiri came up with as a writer?

...He offered these details as if responding diligently to questions I was not asking. “I don’t ask you to care for her, even to like her,” my father said. “You are a grown man, you have no need for her in your life as I do. I only ask, eventually, that you understand my decision.” It was clear to me that he had prepared himself for my outrage—harsh words, accusations, the slamming down of the phone. But no turbulent emotion passed through me as he spoke, only a diluted version of the nauseous sensation that had taken hold the day that I learned my mother was dying, a sensation that had dropped anchor in me and never fully left. Is she there with you?” I asked. “Would you like me to say something?” I said this more as a challenge than out of politeness, not entirely believing him. Since my mother’s death, I frequently doubted things my father said in the course of our telephone conversations: that he had eaten dinner on any given night, for example, and not simply polished off another can of almonds and a few Johnnie Walkers in front of the television. “They arrive in two weeks. You will see them when you come home for Christmas,”my father said, adding, “Her English is not so good.”...


2 Answers 2


There's no unusual or metaphoric use of challenge here.

The narrator explains exactly the sense in which he challenges his father: having experienced his father's penchant for embroidering the truth he declines to accept the claim of having found a new wife at face value and asks for some verifiable evidence that Chitra actually exists. A very similar sense is employed when we speak of academics or scientists challenging the claims or theories advanced in a publication.

Challenge doesn't have to involve anger or even mild hostility, merely the presentation of some obstacle to be overcome; for instance, you may in a very supportive spirit challenge someone to strive for a new achievement.

I know of no inherent connection of challenge with obstinacy.


"as a challenge" I feel is trying to provoke a certain response. Challenging a parent or an authority figure could certainly be viewed as aggressive, although it doesn't necessarily imply anger. You can challenge someone to friendly contests like a game of chess or a war of words, or a deadly battle like a duel.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .