Monday, March 23, 2009

A House for Mr.Biswas By V.S.Naipaul

Mr. Biswas is the protagonist, a very tragic figure. He has ambitions but the means are lacking. He was born with six fingers and it is considered to be inauspicious in the part of the world where the story is set. Mr. Biswas has incomplete education and one can find that his childhood is surely not a happy one. After the death of his father, the joint family splits and the mother is left in poverty. His gloomy childhood presents a very grim picture of deprivation, despair and depression, with no hope of a better future.

As a grown up, Mr. Biswas begins to do the work of painting signboards. In the course of time he meets a girl named Shyama and he marries her. Shyama has many sisters and the family has a tradition of assimilating the sons-in-law into crowded household. Mr. Biswas doesn’t accept the offer and refuses to join the family. Through out his married life, the tensions remain with him. The family tussles confuse and annoy him but, finally, Mr. Biswas succeeds in maintaining his independence. He pulls himself out of the complexities.

During the years with his wife, he takes up many jobs: driving, sub-overseering, working as a government clerk, and then working as a journalist. All his life he remains just above the poverty line. There is a constant struggle in his life.

It is quite evident that the story is not striking from any angle. There are no major twists and turns in this straightforward narrative, and neither are there any surprises that you cannot anticipate. But therein lies the strength of this book. Naipaul tells the story of a simple man from a simple background, but within his characters is the universality of human emotion. Mr. Biswas is the classic loser, with nothing going for him, but within him is the human character the strongest.