This content was uploaded by our users and we assume good faith they have the permission to share this book. If you own the copyright to this book and it is. Editorial Reviews. Review. "[A] great novel." —Barack Obama "Naipaul has constructed a A House For Mr Biswas (). It is a rather long novel, so it has remained on the shelf (metaphorically speaking-since I read the ebook version). Issuu is a digital publishing platform that makes it simple to publish magazines, catalogs, newspapers, books, and more online. Easily share.
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The early masterpiece of V. S. Naipaul's brilliant career, A House for Mr. Biswas is an unforgettable story inspired by Naipaul's father that has been hailed as one . Read "A House for Mr. Biswas A Novel" by V. S. Naipaul available from Rakuten Kobo. Sign up today and get $5 off your first download. "The Nobel Prize. Read "A House For Mr Biswas Picador Classic" by Sir V. S. Naipaul available from Rakuten Kobo. Sign up today and get £3 off your first download. With an.
It's all the things I reject. It's not me. It is all there: His obstinacy, his hunger for appreciation and respect, his unwillingness to compromise, his meticulous obsession with detail, his preoccupation with questions of self and identity, his reluctance to let himself be labelled.
To get a grasp of Naipaul and his work, it is imperative to know something about his background, and, although a fictional variation, his first major novel, A House for Mr Biswas, gives perhaps the most profound account of it. Here Naipaul devises a version of his own father's short life as a West Indian of East Indian descent in colonial Trinidad. There might hardly be any situation further removed from the experience of a 21st century Central European. Yet the ostensible obstacle might in the end prove beneficial.
A remote observer is obliged to acquire a knowledge of the historical and sociological background of the novel a West Indian insider would take for granted — and leave unquestioned.
Lack of personal involvement at best results in an awareness of the political delicacy of the matter in question, and his very remoteness might serve to make the foreigner impartial. It remains true that "readers of Naipaul are at a disadvantage without a clear understanding of not only the general West Indian scene but also the East Indian segment of that society. In order to gain this insight, it is arguable not if, but to what extent anthropological and historical sources have to be consulted.
It is a Naipaulian peculiarity that, renowned novelist though he is, his greatest gifts are not invention or imagination but precise observation and impeccable honesty. His publications so far include almost as many non-fictional as fictional works. The dividing line is not always easy to draw, an anthropological reading of A House for Mr Biswas thus not particularly daring.
In some respects it might be even more reliable than ethnographic studies. Fiction may serve as ethnography in its own right and as a source of hypotheses, and [ We should also remember that Mr Biswas was written by an author who was in many ways more familiar with Trinidadian society than Morton Klass and the Niehoffs [influential anthropologists whose studies of East Indians' social life in Trinidad were published about the same time as A House for Mr Biswas ] could possibly have been.
Secondary sources had better be drawn on to an extent that promotes an understanding without getting in its way; stereotype is always near, whether a novel is read entirely without any theory which of course is impossible or with too much of one.
Dealing with a novel the subject matter of which is a colonial's struggle for order, independence and self-assertion, critics — and Western critics at that! On the one hand, there is what one might call a continuance of the imperialist condescension.
At the core of this world view lies the conviction that there are superior and inferior cultures, the former acting as benefactors, whose moral obligation it is to look after the latter magnanimously, to give guidance and support from an elevated position.
A clear-cut distinction is made between 'us' and 'them', and there can be no doubt as to who has the right, if not the duty, to rule and supervise. With regard to the West Indies, this close supervision of the life of the immigrant [the colonised] was due in part, especially in the early years, to a desire to protect a helpless, and largely ignorant, worker in a strange country.
Lord Harris [Governor of Trinidad from ] expressed the official view that 'they [East Indian and African immigrant labourers in Trinidad] are not, neither coolies nor Africans, fit to be placed in a position which the labourers of civilised countries may at once occupy. They must be treated like children and wayward ones too; the former from their habits of religion; the latter, from the utterly savage state in which they arrive.
In the case of A House for Mr Biswas, this would put the protagonist and his whole colonial surroundings beyond all serious examination. Taking up this perspective, the possibly Western reader-critic, detached from Biswas's toil and from a presumably safe distance, would at best be in a position to lean back and enjoy the comedy with benevolent paternalism.
At worst, the novel — as indeed Naipaul's complete works — would be of little concern to him. Regardless of morality, he would in any case deprive himself of the pleasure of discovering Biswas's — and Naipaul's — relevance to all of us. Since, with the increase of political awareness, the imperialist perspective has gone a little out of fashion, some critics now tend to throw out the baby with the bath water.
First World Whites may thus hope to gain absolution by self-castigation; the goodies become the baddies and vice versa. For them, there is nothing in between imperialist aggressors and colonial victims.
Non-White critics from post-colonial countries often arrive at the same conclusion, albeit from an opposite starting point. To them, Naipaul is a denigrator of his own background. There are others like him who specialize in the thesis of what one of them has called self-inflicted wounds, which is to say that we 'non-Whites' are the cause of all our problems, not the overly maligned imperialists. Naipaul's approach to writing is not political in that he has, in his own words, "no unifying theory of things.
To me situations and people are always specific, always of themselves. That is why one travels and writes: to find out.
To work in the other way would be to know the answers before one knew the problems. That is a recognized way of working, I know, especially if one is a political or religious or racial missionary.
But I would have found it hard. His gaze is incorruptible; "When the behavior of the people and the degeneration of the land is what he can't abide, Naipaul will speak plainly about it whether it offends people or not".
Reproaching Naipaul with political agitation would be totally misjudging his way of working. It is only in the process of writing that he tries to get to terms with the shortcomings of his environment — by meticulously recording what he sees.
Naipaul himself traces his compulsion to become a writer back to the necessity "to impose order on the world, to seek patterns, to tell myself — this is what happens when people are strong; this is what happens when people are weak. I had to find that degree of intellectual comfort, or I would have gone mad. Here the Naipaulian approach presents itself as the most appropriate, which entails first of all careful observation.
To quote Naipaul, with a twist: That is why one reads: to find out. Such dialectic categories as order and chaos involve the danger of falling for stereotypes. Nothing would be more convenient than drawing a neat and tidy dividing line. Put order on one side, put chaos, as the opposed force, on the other, and see where you can place people and events.
It is not that easy; Naipaul is not that easy — which complicates a neat interpretation. However, it is worth one's while to take up the challenge.
The very fact that there is no either-or, no black and white in Naipaul's writing — which has brought him scathing criticism — is what makes reading him so rewarding.
Order and chaos are the two extremes between which Mr Biswas's life takes place. Yet the ideal is unattainable and its counterpart just as imaginary and non-existent. Mr Biswas, on his quest for orientation, draws on a reservoir of possibilities, the patterns of which will be examined, after a short historical introduction, in the following.
A distinction will be made between the rules according to which his in-laws, the Tulsis, organise their lives — their traditional values constitute the background Biswas tries to distance himself from — and Biswas himself, whose character, besides the alternatives of orientation he tries out, will be explored thereafter.
Those fundamental changes were mainly due to distinctively economic interest on behalf of the European invaders. Because of their fertility, the West Indies became attractive to the colonial powers even before their mineral and petroleum resources had been discovered. Among the Caribbean islands, Trinidad takes up a somewhat special position.
In Trinidad, European colonisation commenced rather late; monopolised for Europe by Christopher Columbus in , it was not until that the Spaniards founded their first permanent settlement on the island, and little expansion was to take place in the subsequent two centuries. When Spain had finally become aware that Trinidad belonged to the least developed colonies, plans were made to transform it into a profitable slave colony comparable to the other West Indies.
Due to lack of Spanish capital, the French — in times of the Spanish-French alliance — started sending colonists in The new settlers, most of whom were glad to turn their backs on France in the turmoil of the French Revolution, not only brought capital, but also slaves and sugar cane.
By , sugar cane was by far the primary agricultural produce; by the population had exploded from an estimated 2, to more than 18, In the aftermath of the war between Spain and Britain and in compliance with the regulations of the Treaty of Amiens, Trinidad became British in While the Spanish legislative system was maintained, papers continued to appear in French; the seed for the multicultural society Trinidad was to become had already been sown.
Under British rule, the sugar trade began to flourish. The steadily rising demand of labour was satisfied by the import of African slaves, who soon formed the largest ethnic group on the island. However, back in England, the political development away from the slave trade that was to lead to the abolition of slavery altogether had already started. The limited duration of Indian servitude indentures were for five years , the isolation of Indians in rural communities [ The levelling out of the sex ratio, investment in land, and successes in petty trades facilitated the reemergence of some form of patriarchal authority and extended family households.
Rural settlement patterns and customary marriage procedures aided the reactivation of caste endogamy and locality exogamy.
Even so, often what emerged were the bits and pieces of culture that became integrated with aspects of the local social structure into a new totality. This accounts for both the Tulsis' attempt to re-install Hinduism with a vengeance — after all, the older generation have witnessed its sudden decline in what must have been the traumatic experience of being robbed of their roots — and the fact that orthodox Hinduism has already been pervaded with external influences.
The Tulsis reclaim their roots, but they cannot undo the fact that they have already been gnawed at. The fear of becoming infiltrated by beliefs and attitudes which constitute potential risks to their community makes them move up even closer.
Everything which made the Indian alien in the society gave him strength. More important than religion was his family organization, an enclosing self-sufficient world absorbed with its quarrels and jealousies, as difficult for the outsider to penetrate as for one of its members to escape.
It protected and imprisoned, a static world, awaiting decay. Stuck in the middle between India, the old home, and Trinidad, the new one, the Tulsis obstinately cling to what they associate with being Indian. Half unwilling, half unable to adopt new ways and adapt to a rapidly changing environment, they create their own hermetic world, a version of India they try to "unroll like a carpet on the flat land" ; the world outside their gates is excluded.
Naipaul remembers his childhood in his grandmother's house the Hanuman House of the novel and the self-imposed isolation: So as a child I had this sense of two worlds, the world outside that tall corrugated-iron gate, and the world at home - or, at any rate, the world of my grandmother's house.
It was a remnant of our caste sense, the thing that excluded and shut out. In Trinidad, where as new arrivals we were a disadvantaged community, that excluding idea was a kind of protection; it enabled us — for the time being, and only for the time being — to live in our own way and according to our own rules, to live in our own fading India. It made for an extraordinary self-centredness. We looked inwards; we lived out our days; the world outside existed in a kind of darkness; we inquired about nothing.
Religion and religious rites serve to create a sense of identity within the family while at the same time constituting a means to make oneself unassailable against outsiders. Mr Biswas's ticket of admission, first into the Tulsi store, later into the family, is his being of the proper ethnicity, faith and caste.
His initial awe is soon replaced by disappointment, though; once inside, the spell is instantly broken, and what seemed intimidating almost immediately loses its spell. The family is governed by Mrs Tulsi, the patriarch's widow, in union with Seth, her brother-in-law. This constellation, "the untraditional organization of Hanuman House, where married daughters lived with their mother" , which might at first seem unusual, is a special case, however not a peculiarity unique to the Tulsis and in itself already an indication of change.
Hardly imaginable only decades earlier, let alone back in India, a situation developed in Trinidad in which a widowed matriarch would succeed fully to her late husband's position. In India, a widow would become subject to her married sons but in Trinidad, the authority of the patriarch very often lasted after his own death for as long as the wife lived, particularly in landed families. For these reasons, the tyranny of the sas [mother-in-law] actually stood for the household power of the patriarch himself.
The fact that the family is headed by a woman does thus not make the Tulsis especially unorthodox. One of the main functions of rituals is that they serve to create and uphold a sense of identity and community; they are shared by the group members only, thereby defining the group.
The more diverse a society, the stronger the incentive for respective groups to dissociate themselves via rituals. In an environment that is perceived as alien, indifferent or even hostile, the impulse to face the demands of life conjointly is especially powerful.
It is not surprising that rituals play an important role among the Tulsis, who have never ceased to see themselves as expatriates.
For Trinidad Hindus, religious ritual is the main link back to India. By adhering to ancient Hindu rites, they celebrate their roots. The repetitive actions of the rituals are supposed to point beyond themselves to a transcendent reality; this transcendence however has suffered somewhat from the inevitable adjustments that had to be made to meet the altered circumstances.
More recently, pujas are often relatively brief affairs. According to the ritual texts [ In Trinidad this has become much condensed, as one pundit explains: Puja in detail is a' elaborate t'ing. But in Trinidad we have it confine' to de shortes' amount a' time. If you do dese t'ing separate, separate, separate, puja go take a whole day, ya' understan'? So we put dem all togedda. De same amount a' time you will take to do one, we do five.
Many Hindus now become impatient if a pundit takes too long performing puja rites. The disparity between the conceived dignity of his role as the family pundit and Hari's actual deficient self respectively the triteness of his ritual activities gives rise to a great deal of comedy.
He combines everything that Biswas rejects and thus spurs his ironic bent; feared for his lengthy visits to the latrine, Hari becomes simply "the constipated holy man" Hari represents Hinduism and thus the basis of Tulsidom. Whenever the opportunity arises for him to perform his ritual, it equals a reinforcement of Tulsi self-assurance.
On the one hand Biswas experiences the family gathering on the occasion of the shop blessing ceremony he has reluctantly agreed to as a chaotic mess, on the other hand he feels left out, sensing the strength of a family solidarity he himself has never savoured. He is painfully reminded both of his own loneliness and his impotence to provide Shama with anything even close to the emotional stability she derives from her background.
For the last three days, since the arrival of her sisters, Shama had become a Tulsi and a stranger again. Now she was unapproachable. The ceremony in the tent was about to begin and she sat in front of Hari, listening to his instructions with bowed head. Her hair was still wet from her ritual bath and she was dressed in white from top to toe.
She looked like someone waiting to be sacrificed and Mr Biswas thought he could detect pleasure in the curve of her back. Her status, like Hari's, was only temporary; but while the ceremony lasted, it was paramount. She is reassured of the existence and strength of her roots, familial and religious; that she herself temporarily gains an importance she otherwise lacks is pleasant but secondary.
His function as a representative of Hindu faith renders Hari the perfect example of the loss of transcendence in religious practice. The religious rites he performs amount to little more than a stylised sequence of well-rehearsed manoeuvres. On the occasion of the second house blessing in Green Vale, Mr Maclean, the carpenter, reveals what he really expects from Hindu ceremonies.
Hari came early, neither interested nor antagonistic, just constipatedly apathetic. He came in normal clothes, with his pundit's gear in a small cardboard suitcase. He bathed at one of the barrels behind the barracks, changed into a dhoti in Mr Biswas's room and went to the site with a brass jar, some mango leaves and other equipment. Mr Maclean had got Edgar to clean out a hole. In his thin voice Hari whined out the prayers.
Whining, he sprinkled water into the hole with a mango leaf and dropped a penny and some other things wrapped in another mango leaf.
Throughout the ceremony Mr Maclean stood up reverentially, his hat off. Then Hari went back to the barracks, changed into trousers and shirt, and was off. Mr Maclean looked surprised. The fact that he is not a Hindu does not necessarily mean that his assessment is erroneous; with equal justification one could see in him the child pointing to the emperor's nakedness.
Ritualisation permeates their lives and rituals work not only as a protective shield against an alien outside world, but also in that they help to maintain structure, order and hierarchies within the family.
In this respect, they act as a kind of universal means of communication. Once those complex choreographies have started off, they gather momentum in such a way that talk — indeed thought — becomes unnecessary. Everyone knows how to behave "without being told" ; everyone habitually falls in line and assumes their individual role.
This is a path which his brother Pratap fol- lows; he even becomes prosperous, with a house of his own. Tara, his mothers sister, comes to organise his fathers funeral, and takes his sis- ter, Dehuti, to live with her. His mother, Bipti, leaves her village after her garden is ransacked by some neighbours who mistakenly believe that her husband, who was thought to be the richest man in the village, Summaries 15 Librairie Du Liban Publishers and Pearson Education Limited had buried bags of money there.
She takes Mr Biswas with her to the town of Pagotes, where they live as dependent relations of Tara in a back street. The two brothers are sent to Felicity to work on the sugar estates and Mr Biswas, who finds himself increasingly distant from his mother, feels isolated and alone. The first words spoken in this chapter, which refer to Fate and how people cannot fight it, summarise neatly the attitude of the older generation of Indian Hindus from which Mr Biswas descends.
He differs radically from them, however, in that he attempts to determine the course of his life himself in an active way, despite all the ill omens and pes- simism expressed at his birth. The value of homes and houses is also emphasised in the final paragraph, since we are told that Mr Biswas is now leaving the only house to which he had some right and will be a wanderer for the next thirty-five years without a house of his own, and his only family will be the Tulsis with their engulfing world.
Lord Krishna: Krishna, the Hindu god of fire and light; according to Hindu legend he was a brave, beauti- ful youth brought up by cowherds, and had love- affairs with the milkmaids the Shiva dance: Shiva is the third deity in the Hindu trinity, repre- senting the destructive principle in life, but also a restoring or renovating power; also the God of Dance dhoti: Before the Tulsis No traces remain of Mr Biswass birthplace, although the land his moth- er once owned later yields oil, and the swamp region becomes a garden city.
Even his birth certificate has to be invented and drawn up by a Muslim solicitor, F. At the mission school he is taught by Lal, a converted Hindu, and learns many useless facts. He befriends Alec, who shocks the school by taking Dodds Kidney Pills and passing blue urine. They keep their home lives secret, partly because Mr Biswas is not happy there and still views it as a temporary arrangement.
He feels detached from his brothers, now grown men, and only sees his sister when taking part in a religious ceremony at his aunts house, where he is respected as a Brahmin and treated with honour.
He also goes there to read to his uncle Ajodha from That Body of Yours. After six years Mr Biswas is taken away from school, and goes to live with pundit Jairam where he learns religious ceremonies, including the morning prayer cer- emony, or puja.
Two episodes discredit him one when he steals two bananas, and the other when he defiles the sacred oleander tree with his soiled handkerchief.
He returns to his mother in Pagotes, an incident he later romanticises in a poem; but he is soon sent to the sordid rum shop where he rebels against uncle Bhandats mean and suspicious nature by spitting in the rum when he bottles it.
He leaves after a violent scene where he is accused of stealing money determined to establish his inde- pendence and get his own job and house. During his hunt for a job he vis- its Dehuti and her husband Ramchand, Taras disgraced yard boy; although he feels very separate from his sister, he is impressed that their hut is clean and comfortable with no signs of Ramchands lower caste. A meeting with Alec then leads to his job as sign-writer. He escapes into novels in search of romance, and identifies with the heroes of Samuel Smiles.
Finally his search takes him to Hanuman House in Arwacas. Raleighs dream: Sir Walter Raleigh c. Protestant Christian religion tracing its origin to Calvinism affidavit: Hindu ceremony of worship Sanskrit: They are respected, though little is known about them.
Mr Biswas passes a note to Shama and is called to an interview with her mother and uncle Seth. He is found to be a suitable husband and surprises himself by agreeing to marry Shama. After the ceremo- ny he begins to think of escape; he is appalled at the hierarchical organisation of the house where the daughters husbands names are 18 Summaries Librairie Du Liban Publishers and Pearson Education Limited forgotten and they are expected to become simply Tulsis.
He rebels and returns to Pagotes. Here, however, he finds that he has achieved new status with his relations and starts to accept his role, and soon returns to the Tulsi house to find that he is seen there now as troublesome, dis- loyal and untrustworthy. His invective against the Tulsis, particularly the little gods, develops into a campaign against them.
He becomes involved with a breakaway Hindu movement and satirises the Tulsis for being false Hindus by sending their sons to a Roman Catholic college. The confrontation comes to a head when Mr Biswas refuses the offer- ing at the puja and then spills a plateful of food on Shamas brother Owad. He is attacked by her brother-in-law Govind, and then ordered by Seth to leave.
Epictetus AD was a Greek stoic philosopher doodling: The Chase Mr Biswas moves to this isolated village to manage a small food shop, a venture which is destined to fail from the beginning as there is a large number of such shops.
To Mr Biswas his stay there seems always tem- porary and not quite real, a preparation for real life elsewhere. The shop is Tulsi property; the house is blessed by brother-in-law Hari at Shamas insistence. Even his daughter, Savi, is named by Seth and Hari, and is seen as a Tulsi. The decline of the business is furthered by Mr Biswass attempt through the corrupt lawyer, Seebaran, to regain lost credit.
He himself gets into debt as a result. He finds he has aged during these six years of boredom and futility, but he remains optimistic that some nobler purpose awaited him, and consoles himself with religion and philoso- phy, painting foreign landscapes and indulging in eccentric habits.
A son is born and his family spend more time away at Hanuman House. He wins acceptance there as a person skilled in wit and argument and views it as a sanctuary from the impersonal outer world. At the same time he resents its hold over his family, and when Shama declares she wants to return there for good, they quarrel frequently until he hits her.
He does not see her until their third child is born, when he too leaves The Chase and joins her at Hanuman House, staying there until he is given work on the estate at Green Vale. This chapter highlights Mr Biswass growing fear of the future as a blankness and an empty space, a void into which he is falling, which develops into the breakdown at Green Vale.
The fear is also linked with the recurring image of the boy standing outside a lonely country hut at evening which he had seen years earlier.
In spite of this feeling of emptiness, however, the period at The Chase is also a time of acquiring possessions and leaving marks of habitation. French high hopes the calling name: Christmas is a Christian festival and is not therefore usually celebrated by Hindus cheelum: Green Vale Mr Biswas moves into a small room in the barracks in the damp and shadowed vale.
Being largely ignorant of sugar cane and estate work, he is scorned by the labourers who fear only Seth. He wishes to move into his own house, but Seths promises to build him one are never carried out. His frustration at the sordid surroundings and fear of the workers are expressed at first in abuse of the Tulsis to Shama, who again retreats to Hanuman House, and then in solitary periods in his room. Shortly after Christmas he visits his children, taking a large dolls house to Savi, which is subsequently destroyed by Shama because of the disruption and jeal- ousy it arouses.
He takes Savi to live with him for a week to claim her; his wife returns briefly but becomes pregnant again, and he is left essentially alone. In an attempt to arrest his descent into the void Mr Biswas employs an incompetent carpenter to build a house, despite having little money to finance it. He becomes increasingly disturbed and restless and finds the objects in his room threatening, as well as the people he encoun- ters.
During a visit by his family he again hits Shama, who is pregnant, saying that she and the Tulsis are trying to kill him. She leaves, but his son, Anand, asks to stay. They move to the one finished room of the house, where the killing of Mr Biswass dog is followed by a fierce storm and the climax of Mr Biswass fears that they are coming to destroy him. The house itself is struck by lightning.
The main characters are Esmeralda and Quasimodo, the hunchback the wood was cured: Copernicus was a Polish astronomer who advanced the theory that the earth and other planets revolve around the sun; Galileo was the brilliant Italian scientist and astronomer who supported the Copernican theory and claimed that the earth was round Rama Rama Sita Rama: Mr Biswas gradually recovers and is able to piece together the past with its memo- ries of horror. He is relieved to hear that the house has been burnt down completely by the labourers, thus freeing him from the past memories.
He reviews his situation, reflecting that his position is still that of some- one without a vocation or reliable means of supporting his family and that he would not be missed. He determines to establish his independence and feels that real life with its especial sweetness is still waiting for him to discover it.
Amazing Scenes Mr Biswas takes a bus to Port of Spain where he stays for a time with his sister and her husband. He feels stimulated and excited by the city, but wearies of his freedom, and the spasms of fear return. After an abortive visit to a medical specialist he recognises that he has to accept the past as a vital part of himself, and this restores the wholeness of his mind.
He also recognises that the spasms of fear on seeing people were caused by regret, envy, and despair, rather than fear. He acts deci- sively and gains a job writing on the Sentinel newspaper under Mr Burnett where his talent for fantasy and facetious, humorous writing gains expression. As a shipping reporter he feels in contact with differ- ent parts of the world. He is reunited with his family and sees his fourth child, and as the climax of his current good luck, is given rooms in Mrs Tulsis house in Port of Spain.
His friendship with Owad develops and he establishes a closer and more disciplined relationship with his chil- dren, involving himself also in their education. He takes a short-lived writing course from London on journalism, and invents stories with a fantasy heroine entitled Escape.
He plants rose-bushes in the garden and begins to think of the house as his own. This order is disturbed by news of Owad being sent to England to study medicine, and Anands near-drowning at the docks.
The first, macabre stories Mr Biswas writes for the Sentinel reflect his guilt and anxiety about leaving his family, and also his feelings of insecurity and anxiety are given expression in the report of the Scarlet Pimpernel his assumed name as he tours the island spending the night in a tree. Amazing Scenes: Thomas Babington Macaulay , English statesman, poet and historian eviction notice: Country Life: British daily newspapers and maga- zines of the period Warwick Deeping: His Excellency used ironically here to refer to the boss Shirley Temple: Halvy was a French historian Chapter 2: The New Rgime The house feels empty, as if awaiting change.
Disaffections spread at Hanuman House as Mrs Tulsi ceases to control it effectively, and inter- nal quarrels develop. The Sentinels tone of frivolity becomes inappro- priate with the approach of war and Mr Burnett is sacked. The new edi- torial policy demands a strict adherence to fact, which Mr Biswas finds sterile and unrewarding. He fears for his job also, sensing that his work is mediocre.
Prices rise with the impact of the war and the quality of food declines. The quarrels with Shama, and his sense of being 24 Summaries Librairie Du Liban Publishers and Pearson Education Limited trapped, intensify, and the sense of expectation he had of the city and his life there disappears.
Anands life of study in the exhibition class is also taxing.
The destruction of the rose garden by Seth to provide space for his lorries provokes a violent scene in which Mr Biswas damages some of the furniture in the house. Charles Dickens , famous English novel- ist, noted in particular for his compassionate por- trayals of the conditions of the poor the sack: Charles Lamb , an English essayist, adapted Shakespeares plays for children Lakshmi: Hindu goddess of beauty, wealth and pleasure who appears in the Ramayana rakshas: Hanuman House is full of talk of the glories of the estate with its lush landscape and Shama wants to be part of the adven- ture.
Mr Biswas consents to move there after he visits it with Mrs Tulsi and is attracted by the idea of building his own house there and living cheaply.
Shorthills represents for him an adventure, an interlude, and he remains detached from its declining fortunes, since his job gives him independence and he is able to plunder the land and exploit the philos- ophy of every man for himself. For the children it means a nightmare existence with the problems of travel to school, and shortages of food.
The death of Hari is followed by that of Padma, and it seems that that family has lost its cohesive power of virtue. Mr Biswas decides to build his own house and withdraw, despite the isolation of the site. He invites Summaries 25 Librairie Du Liban Publishers and Pearson Education Limited his mother for a visit and she helps to clear the ground for the firing. It is this event which leads to the destruction of Mr Biswass third house by fire.
His rivalry with another brother-in-law, an ambitious extrepreneur, begins at Shorthills. Mr Biswas calls him W. Tuttle, this being the name of the author of his large collection of books, labelled by Mr Biswas as trash.
Their rooms are opposite to each other. The Emperors New Clothes: French essayist and novelist who believed in faith in humanity based on a pantheistic religion Boots: Wilbur Coleman Tuttle b.
A comic rivalry ensues over possessions, and the crowds and noise, increased by Basdais school- children boarders from Shorthills, drive Mr Biswas to walk in the streets and to see his office as a haven.
He feels he is excluded from the growing prosperity in the island and fears for Anands future job prospects as involving only intrigue, humiliation and dependence. He is appointed investigator for the Deserving Destitutes Fund, and is exposed constantly to failure and misery, as well as requests for help from the widows and Bhandat.
The internal rivalries in the house preoccupy him, including that between Anand and Vidiadhar, who are both in the exhibition class.
Anands schooling and personality are described fully with the build-up to the vital examination, which he pass- es with great success. Mr Biswass mother dies, and he commemorates her in an embarrassingly emotional prose poem which he writes for the literary group he has joined. He also writes a long letter to the doctor who delayed in signing her death certificate, and is rewarded by his letter being sent back and so acknowledged.
Mr Biswas destroys his fantasy Escape stories with their barren heroines when confronted with the sorded realites of Bhandats lodging where he vilifies his Chinese mistress as an awkward barren cow.
This can be seen as part of Mr Biswass acceptance of the life around him and his past, though it could be seen also as a gesture of defeat and pessimism.
Ella Wheeler Wilcox: Eliot , a major English poet Auden: Auden , an English poet linked particularly with the s pomme cithre: French apple of Cythera. Cythera is an island off the coast of the Peloponnese, dedicated to the Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite. The term pomme cithre, or love apple, can refer to a tomato bois-canot: French a hard wood used for boat-building bois means wood; canot means a small, open boat homilies: English writer of comic novels about upper class characters The Talisman: The Void Mr Biswas involves himself closely in Anands work at the college, and looks to his son increasingly as embodying his hopes for the future.
He even loses his vision of possessing his own house again and feels much despair. A new job in a government social welfare depart- ment, however, gives him a fresh interest and sense of security. He earns extra money and has the luxury of a holiday in North Trinidad, as well as new clothes and a new car which he enjoys showing off. He feels his luck is too good to last as the department comes increasingly under attack. The Tuttles leave for their own house and the ailing Mrs Tulsi returns and exerts her tyrannies until revived by preparations for the return of Owad.
Mr Biswas has to move temporarily to a tenement, and re-visits Hanuman House. The family then return to one room in Mrs Tulsis house. Latin for the public good Caramba!
Spanish Heavens above! Its three oclock already. Where is your father? Lena, go and call him. Come on, come on! Were already late Sindhis: The Revolution Owad returns to a full house, like an old Hanuman House festival. He is recognised as the new head of the family. His exploits are recounted endlessly, together with his glorification of Russia and anticipation of the socialist revolution in Trinidad. A strong antagonism develops, how- ever, between Anand and Owad after a quarrel, and Mr Biswas gives notice after a breach with Mrs Tulsi.
His meeting with the solicitors 28 Summaries Librairie Du Liban Publishers and Pearson Education Limited clerk in a caf leads to a visit to the house in Sikkim Street which at first seems inaccessible, though most desirable.
The sale of the house at Shorthills makes the price of five thousand dollars less prohibitive and he goes ahead with the download, in spite of Shamas disapproval, after borrowing four thousand dollars from Ajodha. Owad spends more time away from home at his brother Shekhars house Shekhar has married a Presbyterian, Dorothy, who upsets the Tulsis and with medical col- leagues.
Talk of the revolution now ceases. Robert Taylor: Hollywood film actor Russell: Bertrand Russell , distinguished mod- ern English philosopher Joad: Cyril Joad , modern philosopher and broadcaster Rhadakrishnan: Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan , Indian philosopher, scholar and statesman Laski: Harold Laski , English political scientist Menon: Krishna Menon , an Indian nationalist and champion of Indias anti-colonialist movement solecisms: Vyacheslav Molotov b.
French politician , leader of the French Communist party at this period Rokossovsky: The name Stalin, which means man of steel, was his revo- lutionary name Gogol: Nikolai Vasilyevich Gogol , Russian dramatist and novelist. His novels are considered to form the foundations of the nineteenth-century tra- dition of Russian realism story by a French writer: English magazines dealing with cur- rent events Morning Glory: The House The deficiencies of the new house are soon revealed, as well as the finan- cial commitments it involves, and Mr Biswas abuses the clerk as a crook and jerry-builder, a description which is confirmed by his elderly neigh- bour.
The Tuttles visit, however, and are easily deceived and impressed by the house, and its inconveniences are rapidly forgotten. The yard is expanded and a garden planted. This chapter repeats and expands several points which were made in the prologue, but here the emphasis is on the importance of the house to the children, especially Anand, as providing a stable focus for their lives and a fixed point around which their memories of child- hood can be organised.
Mr Biswas returns to the Sentinel, but finds the work tedious and feels increasingly burdened by his debts. Savi and Anand go abroad on scholarships, and Mr Biswas receives unhappy and worrying letters from his son which he responds to with long humorous letters of his own.
His sense of waiting for events to happen in this case the return of his children intensifies. He sudden- ly suffers a heart attack and spends a month in hospital, after which he is put on half-pay by the paper.
He grows lethargic and irritable, and is sacked after spending more time in hospital. The return of Savi com- pensates in part for Anands absence, and things seem to grow bright.
The tone of his last letter to Anand is one of joy and thanksgiving. His death is then reported flatly in the paper, and Shamas sisters visit for the cremation ceremony on the banks of a muddy stream, followed by the return of Shama and the children to the empty house.
Some points and details given in the Prologue are repeat- ed here and expanded. The technique of reporting Mr Biswass death in an impersonal form, as an item in a newspaper, adds to the pathos of his death and prevents any note of melodrama or sentimentality.
The elegiac mood is also continued in the constraint and control of the final para- graph with its closing image of the empty house. This image also empha- sises the significance of the house as a symbol in the novel. Librairie Du Liban Publishers and Pearson Education Limited Part 3 Commentary The achievement of the novel A House for Mr Biswas is a rich novel which presents a picture of life in Trinidad during a period of about fifty years; the development of the characters and the plot itself take place against a changing social back- ground.
The centre of the novel is always the character of Mr Biswas, and the themes are closely linked with him. Although he is an ordinary person with no outstanding features, Naipaul succeeds in giving him a heroic status and, as readers, we sympathise with his struggles, his failures and successes. He is in many ways an archetypal figure in that he embodies a universal theme the search for identity and for mean- ing in life, and it is this search which is charted in the novel and pro- vides much of its humour.
We also see in the novel the rise and fall of the Tulsi family, and the cultural transitions which the different gener- ations have to undergo.
Mr Biswas himself is a man caught between two cultures and unable to settle fully in either. As a second-genera- tion Indian, whose grandfather crossed the black waters from India, he is part of the Indians attempt to recreate their world in the pre- dominantly Creole society of Trinidad. Naipaul shows this attempt as doomed to failure. In an informative essay on Trinidad in his travel book The Middle Passage, he describes vividly the Hindu world of the Tulsis as: It protected and imprisoned, a static world, awaiting decay.
Any study of the themes of the novel is best approached through a close study of the character of Mr Biswas, and the themes can be defined during this examination. The character of Mr Biswas Mohun Biswas who is referred to as Mr Biswas even when still a small baby is a person who is subject to misfortune, as the ill omens present at his birth suggest.
He is marked, however, by his continual resilience and optimism. Despite his feeling of being trapped by the Tulsis, he fights to 32 Commentary Librairie Du Liban Publishers and Pearson Education Limited maintain his independence and feels confident that life will eventually yield to him its sweetness and romance.
A sense of despair and disillu- sionment troubles him later in life, but he fights against that too, and retains faith in the future both through his children and through achiev- ing the status of a house-owner.
At Hanuman House he conducts his cam- paign against the Tulsis with humour and inventiveness which show his wit and sense of absurdity. He invents a catalogue of animal names for the family, such as the old hen for Mrs Tulsi, and mocks them for their strong and exclusive family loyalties and mixed religious affinities.
At times his actions can seem petty and spiteful, and yet Naipaul succeeds in retaining our respect and liking for him as a character. It is worth think- ing about how Naipaul achieves this difficult balance. Part of the answer is that Mr Biswas is able to make fun of himself as well as of other peo- ple, and so avoids becoming too superior and smug.
He acts the role of clown or buffoon frequently, and even mocks his own appearance. In a scene at The Chase, he reflects how he does not feel like a small man, and yet the clothes hanging up were unmistakably those of a small man, comic, make-believe clothes.
A sense of insecurity also remains with him, so that he never feels periods of good fortune can be permanent, or believes in them fully. The effort to achieve the ownership of his house, reflected in the very title of the novel, thus becomes a need to establish a firm reality and independence of his own.
The creativity shown in his painting and writing reflects this need further, as does his reading of fic- tion and philosophy. He needs to believe in the possibility of romance, and much of his frustration in the novel stems from the feeling that romance is always eluding him, especially after he becomes involved with the Tulsis.
This involvement reveals another major theme of the novel: Freedom is shown as something which is desired, but feared at the same time, as it can cause feelings of emptiness and of not belonging or being necessary to another person or to society as a whole.
These feelings are frequently at war in Mr Biswas, and this conflict is shown in his changing attitudes to Hanuman House. Although he quickly rebels against its attempt to destroy his individuality by making him conform to the established rules and codes of behaviour, he also welcomes the feeling of security and orderliness which it offers.
Here he is no longer simply a nonentity, but has a recognised role, even if it often seems a negative one. He himself feels on occasions that his campaign is pointless and degrading, and that his presence in the household is basically irrelevant since if he left, the family rituals would continue as before.
It is at this point, at the end of Part 1, that he recognises that rebellion Commentary 33 Librairie Du Liban Publishers and Pearson Education Limited to be constructive must be accompanied by the positive act of con- structing a better alternative, and he leaves for the city with this intention.
The process of building a separate identity and accepting the results of ones past actions and involvements is shown to be a painful and difficult process. It involves the shedding of fantasies and illusions we all possess, symbolised for Mr Biswas in his Escape stories which he eventually destroys, and accepting the reality and commitments which have like Mr Biswass possessions gradually accumulated almost without his being aware of it.
The novel is thus partly about growing up, and attaining maturity and a sense of responsibility. A similar ambivalence is shown in Mr Biswass religious views. Although he claims to reject any traditional Hindu attitudes, such as the rigid caste system as is shown when he joins the Aryans , he enjoys his Brahmin status when at Taras and Ramchands homes, and possesses a certain fastidiousness about foods and smells he refuses to stock salt beef and lard in his shop at The Chase, and in moments of fear and stress he chants Hindu phrases.
He also receives a traditional Hindu cremation. Naipaul is showing us here the complex relationship that exists between the forces that shape an individual and his attempts to form his own per- sonality and beliefs. Mr Biswas displays also a certain navety or innocence in the judge- ments he forms of other people. It seems that he can be easily misled by people who can take advantage of his fears and ambitions.
This decep- tion happens with Moti and the lawyer Seebaran at The Chase; with the carpenter, Maclean, at Green Vale; and with the solicitors clerk. At Hanuman House also he is deceived into thinking that he is marrying into a wealthy family and will receive a large dowry, but this hope proves hol- low. A further concept that Naipaul is illustrating in the novel is the dif- ference that can exist between appearance and reality, and this contrast is often a source of humour.
The walls of Hanuman House appear to be concrete, but are in fact, as Mrs Tulsi proudly tells him, made of clay bricks. This disparity is shown most clearly in the house in Sikkim Street which again looks deceptively solid and deceives Mr Biswas, and then, comically, the Tuttles. Mr Biswas himself is not all that he appears to be.
As he says sadly to Shama: That is the whole blasted trouble. I dont look like anything at all. Shopkeeper, lawyer, doctor, labourer, overseer I dont look like any of them. As one of the Tulsi sons-in-law and as a journalist he can achieve a kind of status, but has always to return to his crowded, shabby room.
During his job as investigator of Deserving Destitutes, he reflects that the conditions he is living in are as bad as the people about whom he is writing.