Fasting, Feasting

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Fasting, Feasting Chapter 2 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Still in the modern-day, and Papa has had his car driven up to the front of the house. He declares that Mama and Uma need to get some exercise, so he takes them to the park. At the park, Uma is expected to walk with Mama, and the two walk slowly, Uma following Mama's pace, while Papa circles the park several times on his own. Uma hungrily smells roasted nuts and cooked gram, which is garbanzo bean flour, and watches interestedly at the crowd, while her mother criticizes passerby for their immodest dress or behavior. Papa decides when to order Mama and Uma to leave, and when Uma asks why they are hurrying, Mama says that Papa must have his lemonade.
The fact that Papa mandates the trip to the park because he thinks that Mama and Uma need exercise shows how much he considers himself to be responsible for determining even the physical needs of the women in his household and for facilitating how they should be met. It is as if they are children. Uma shows a hunger, not just for the literal nuts and gram she smells in the park, but for the sensations, smells, and sights presented to her in the park. She wants to linger because she has gotten a taste for life outside the world of her family, and she's curious for more.
Themes
Gender and Social Roles Theme Icon
Plenty/"Feasting" vs. Want/"Fasting" Theme Icon
Tradition/India vs. Modernity/West Theme Icon
The novel flashes back to the past, to Uma's childhood. Uma remembers when Mama became pregnant with Arun, and she recalls this as the only time she noticed a significant discord between her parents' desires. Uma remembers the secrecy and shame surrounding news of her mother's pregnancy. The narrator indicates that the secrecy ensued because pregnancy is a sign of sex – particularly female sex, which is shameful. When Arun is conceived, Mama is older and the pregnancy is painful, and she wishes she could terminate it. But with just two daughters, Papa wants a son. So Mama feels she has no choice but to go through with it, however miserable it makes her health. Papa is proud when the boy is born, and Mama appears to welcome the son and recover her state of harmony with Papa.
Uma remains interested in searching her memory for instance of her parents as separate individuals. If she can recall these instances, it may mean that being a part of a family doesn't necessarily mean losing one's self. The memory of her mother's pregnancy speaks to the importance of sons. For Papa, the importance of having a son outweighs the risk the pregnancy poses to Mama. The shame surrounding Mama's pregnancy shows a contradiction in their view of women's sexuality. While Papa wants the child, the end result of sex and pregnancy, he cannot acknowledge the pregnancy publicly without also acknowledging Mama as a sexual being.
Themes
Gender and Social Roles Theme Icon
Family Life and Individual Freedom Theme Icon
Tradition/India vs. Modernity/West Theme Icon
Loneliness and Togetherness Theme Icon
The novel flashes back a bit further, and shows young Uma going to the catholic convent school. She is interested in everything she studies, but she gets failing grades in every subject. She loves the western Christian religious atmosphere of the convent school, delighting in the religious education, the music, and looks up to the nuns—who are for the most part American and British. The nuns focus on proselytizing, but Uma seems neither aware nor bothered by this. Her grades are failing worse than ever when Arun is born, and when the nuns start sending notes home describing her bad scores, Mama tells Uma that there is no point in going to school any longer. Uma refuses to let Mama soothe her shaking hands when Mama tells her that she must prepare herself for marriage, and that in the meantime it is her job to stay home with Arun.
Uma's enthusiasm for going to school in spite of her failing grades reflects on her ongoing curiosity and interest in people, places and things. Unlike her father, who in Chapter 1 worked tirelessly to succeed in school to build his career, Uma's fondness for school is not goal-oriented. She enjoys the religious environment because even though the nuns have their own agendas, their perspective is different than her parents. When Mama tells Uma she must stay at home with Arun, she begins a pattern of sacrificing Uma's needs and her desires in order to build a better life for Arun. Uma's role, they belief, is at home, and her value is in her domestic abilities rather than her education or the development of her mind or spirit.
Themes
Gender and Social Roles Theme Icon
Family Life and Individual Freedom Theme Icon
Plenty/"Feasting" vs. Want/"Fasting" Theme Icon
Tradition/India vs. Modernity/West Theme Icon