Overview: A House For Mr. Biswas By V. S. Naipaul

2848 words - 11 pages

V. S. Naipaul’s A House for Mr. Biswas is a story of Indian Hindu migrants whose grand-parents have been migrated in Trinidad and Tobago as indentured labourers on the sugarcane estates and started living there permanently. Two families have been described particularly in the novel in the main plot. One is Mohun Biswas’s family and other one is Tulsi family in Arwacas. Hindu rituals, rites and customs have been criticized in the novel at many places. Mr. Biswas tragic Hindu life starts when he was a mere child. According to Cudjoe, “Given the Hindu sensibility that informs the text, Mr. Biswas’s tragic dimension can be perceived as poetic necessity. (Cudjoe 74) When Mr. Biswas’ father drowns in the pond and subsequently dies in an effort to find his son in the pond, then this family loses the respect which is reserved to Hindu Brahmins. They eat food in Sadhu’s house as per Hindu rituals. Biswas’ family belonged to a Hindu Brahmin family and as per Hindu customs the garlic and even onion is not used in their food as it is considered a tamasik bhojan; then how this family eats the meat served to them and there is not mentioning of any resistance or reluctance of non-vegetarianism by any of the member of family. They eat non-vegetarian food there. It is only Mr. Biswas who feels nauseated and vomits all the food:
Because no cooking could be done at their house, they ate at Sadhu’s. The food was unsalted as soon as he began to chew, Mr. Biswas felt he was eating raw flesh and the nauseous saliva filled his mouth again. He hurried outside to empty his mouth and clean it, but the taste remained. (Naipaul 33-34)
According to Hindu rules, dead body is always cremated but in the novel the body of a Brahmin father, Raghu’s body is buried which is against the Hindu rituals, “Cremation was forbidden and Raghu was to be buried” (Naipaul 29). The way, Raghu’s mourning is done in the house, is a satire on Hindu religion. Whenever the husband of a Hindu lady dies, she has to break the bangles of her hands and starts wailing and crying; but in the novel nothing like this happens. Bipti, Raghu’s wife, neither wails nor mourns but she hurries to inform her sister, Tara about his death. When Tara approaches in this grief-stricken home, it does not seem that she has come on the occasion of death as she comes in very nice clothes wearing bangles up to the elbows and she is loaded with jewelry. From all this, it seems she has not come in the mourning but in a marriage ceremony in the home she came:
Tara came and at once took control. Her arms were encased from wrist to elbow with silver bangles…she had brought her own pundit, whom she continually harangued; she instructed Pratap how to behave during the ceremonies; and she had even brought a photographer. (Naipaul 29)
Not only this, she emerges as a dominant woman in this home. She applies her own rules to other members of family. She orders Dehuti to see that Mr. Biswas was properly dressed. She brings a Chinese,...

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