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Compareand Contrast Between American And Indian Families

1699 words - 7 pages

Fasting and Feasting is a novel written by Anita Desai that narrates the story of the protagonist, Uma, and her family’s life. The novel is divided in two parts. Part one deals with Uma’s life in India until the tragic death of her cousin Anamika, and part two tells the story of Uma’s brother, Arun, as he spends his summer with the Pattons, a typical American suburban family. Throughout the novel, Desai explores the theme of family life and uses the novel’s two settings, America and India, to compare and contrast the values and customs that constitute each respective culture’s family life. At first glance, American and Indian families are foils of one another because of the relationships between the family members that composed them. As expected, Indian families are much more traditional and close-knit than American families whose members can, at times, be completely segregated from one another. However, there are some dark cultural elements dealing with the treatment of women, which are still embedded in both American and Indian families.

In the typical Indian provincial family, unity does not just exist in immediate families. It diffuses into extended families as well. This phenomenon is evident when all of Uma’s family congregates in order to preform the sacred ritual of the scattering of Anamika’s ashes. “Anamika’s parents climb the boat very slowly, as if with pain, because they are holding the jar. There are other relatives who have come with them from Bombay.” This quote shows that family members in India will travel long distances in order to attend rituals of importance, showing the close relationship extended family can have with an Indian individual. Another example of how much influence even distant family members can exert on the person, lies in Uma and Mira-Masi’s relationship. Mira-Masi is a distant relative of Mama’s and Uma’s figure of independence. As shown in this quote, she is one of the reasons why she desires a different lifestyle that the one tradition dictates upon her: “Only at night the idea that there was someone who had won what she desired would come winging through the dark, rustling her awake, sweeping across her and making her sit up so she could see its shadowy passage and watch it fade into the paleness of daybreak, the sound of its beating wings overtaken by the cacophony of the mynah birds in the sun-drenched trees outside.” Here Desai uses the language technique of personification to convey the idea of how the concept of freedom, given to Uma by Mira-Masi’s example, would sometimes be thought of by Uma, as she was sleeping. This quote is an example of how in Indian society, even a distant relative can exert life-changing influence on a person. On the contrary, in the Patton’s family life there seems to be no influence coming from extended family members. The limited time frame in which Arun lives with the Pattons does not provide extensive insight of the family’s life. Because of this particular way that...

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