Fasting, Feasting

Pdf fan Tap here to download this LitChart! (PDF)

Mrs. Patton Character Analysis

Mrs. Patton is the sister of Mrs. O'Henry, wife to Mr. Patton and mother of Rod and Melanie, and the host who invites Arun to stay with her and her family in Massachusetts. A suburban American stay-at-home mother, Mrs. Patton is obsessed with shopping, particularly for groceries. Lonely and fascinated by Arun's culture and vegetarianism, Mrs. Patton tries to befriend him. Mrs. Patton routinely denies her own inclinations and feelings, not even following her instinct for most of her life to go vegetarian for fear that her husband will disapprove. Cheerfully trying to preserve her image of a perfect family, Mrs. Patton doesn't try to get to know herself or her children—especially Melanie, whose emotional and physical problems beg Mrs. Patton's attention. Toward the end of the novel, she begins to explore eastern spirituality in an attempt to find peace.

Mrs. Patton Quotes in Fasting, Feasting

The Fasting, Feasting quotes below are all either spoken by Mrs. Patton or refer to Mrs. Patton . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Gender and Social Roles Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Houghton Mifflin edition of Fasting, Feasting published in 2000.
Chapter 19 Quotes

When she finally brought herself to tell him that Arun was a vegetarian and she herself had decided to give it a try (…) he reacted by not reacting, as if he had simply not heard, or understood. That, too was something Arun knew and had experience of (…)—his father’s very expression, walking off, denying any opposition, any challenge to his authority…

Related Characters: Arun, Papa, Mrs. Patton , Mr. Patton
Page Number: 186
Explanation and Analysis:

The more things change for Arun, the more they stay the same. Arun is staying with an American woman named Mrs. Patton--a gracious host who makes every effort to make Arun feel comfortable, even buying him vegetarian food. When Mrs. Patton tries to convince Mr. Patton, her husband, to consider vegetarianism, too, Mr. Patton ignores her altogether. Arun is immediately reminded of the way his own father would ignore his mother--many American families, it's implied, are just like their Indian counterparts: the men are harsh and authoritative, and the women are meek and submissive. Thus Desai rebuts kind of racist critique of Indian society as "inferior" by showing how the same sins exist in all cultures--here Mr. Patton finds it inconceivable that someone could decide to not eat meat.

Arun chooses to focus on the similarities between his life in India and his life in America, instead of focusing on the myriad differences (too many to name). While Arun may be correct to notice that Mrs. Patton is timid around the harsh, brusque Mr. Patton, it's indicative of his cynicism and joylessness that he sees only misery in Mr. and Mrs. Patton's relationship.

A+

Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other Fasting, Feasting quote.

Plus so much more...

Get LitCharts A+
Already a LitCharts A+ member? Sign in!
Chapter 22 Quotes

We don’t sit down to meals like we used to. Everyone eats at different times and wants different meals. We just don’t get to eating together much now that they’re grown. So I just fill the freezer and let them take down what they like, when they like. Keeping the freezer full—that’s my job, Ahroon.

Related Characters: Mrs. Patton (speaker), Arun, Mr. Patton , Melanie , Rod
Page Number: 197
Explanation and Analysis:

Arun is spending time with the Patton family, an "all-American" clan that celebrates sports, success, and competition. The problem with the Patton family, it's suggested, is that they don't have any real sense of community. Mrs. Patton tells Arun (she can't even pronounce his name right, emphasizing the distance between her culture and his) that her family no longer eats together--a pretty good metaphor for the breakdown of the traditional American family over time. Mrs. Patton is a mother, but she's lost any real connection to her children apart from her literal, material duty to give them things to eat. Once again Desai compares ideas of plenty to scarcity--the Pattons have plenty to eat, but little real connection, and the Patton children have plenty of freedom, but little happiness.

Chapter 23 Quotes

Mr. Patton ignores her. He is getting a can of beer out of the refrigerator. Opening it with a shark jerk of his thumb, he demands, ‘Where are the kids? Are they going to be in for dinner tonight? What have they been doing all day? Are they doing any work around here?’

Related Characters: Mrs. Patton , Mr. Patton , Melanie , Rod
Page Number: 203
Explanation and Analysis:

Mr. Patton is a gruff, action-focused husband--a parody of the American masculine ideal. He's not a particularly considerate or kind man, either. When he returns from work, he doesn't seem to show any affection or love for his wife; he just asks her where his children are. By the same token. Mr. Patton doesn't really ask about how his children are doing; he just asks about what they've done all day (how many chores, etc.).

Mr. Patton is an unusually bullish, stern man, and yet Arun (who's witnessed the entire scene) seems to take him as a representative American husband. Based on Arun's earlier observations, it would seem, Arun thinks of Mr. Patton and Papa as similar kinds of people--basically dismissive of others' needs (particularly women), and too focused on actions. Arun notices that Mr. Patton ignores his family's feelings, and starts to dislike him for doing so.

Chapter 24 Quotes

Why don’t you ask me what I want? Why can’t you make me what I want? What do you think we all are—garbage bags you keep stuffing and stuffing?

Related Characters: Melanie (speaker), Mrs. Patton
Page Number: 207
Explanation and Analysis:

In this chilling passage, Melanie has a fight with her mother, Mrs. Patton. Mrs. Patton sees Melanie walking into the kitchen, with her face looking oddly swollen (by this point in the novel, we know that Melanie is bulimic, and regularly makes herself throw up). Mrs. Patton gives Melanie some eggs and encourages her to eat them, prompting Melanie to yell at her mother for treating her like a "garbage bag."

Melanie's point, it would seem, is that in focusing so exclusively on health and outward appearances, Mrs. Patton (and, for that matter, American culture as a whole) neglects her loved ones' feelings and spiritual lives. One could say that Mrs. Patton treats her daughter like a mere object that Mrs. Patton must keep looking pretty and healthy at all times. She never asks Melanie what she feels like eating; instead, she gives Melanie food. Melanie has become obsessed with her own health because Mrs. Patton is, too.

Get the entire Fasting, Feasting LitChart as a printable PDF.
Fasting feasting.pdf.medium

Mrs. Patton Character Timeline in Fasting, Feasting

The timeline below shows where the character Mrs. Patton appears in Fasting, Feasting. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 11
Gender and Social Roles Theme Icon
Family Life and Individual Freedom Theme Icon
Plenty/"Feasting" vs. Want/"Fasting" Theme Icon
...keep up with grammatical directions. The letter tells Arun that the sister of Mrs. O’Henry, Mrs. Patton , is inviting Arun to stay in her home in Massachusetts for the summer, since... (full context)
Chapter 14
Plenty/"Feasting" vs. Want/"Fasting" Theme Icon
Tradition/India vs. Modernity/West Theme Icon
Loneliness and Togetherness Theme Icon
...barbecue—it all seems decadent, yet lifeless to Arun. He goes into the house to find Mrs. Patton unpacking the groceries, looking anxious about a can of stewed tomatoes, worried about what she... (full context)
Chapter 15
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
At the Patton house a little later, Mr. Patton is outside grilling steaks on a barbecue. He calls the family to eat, and Arun... (full context)
Chapter 17
Family Life and Individual Freedom Theme Icon
Loneliness and Togetherness Theme Icon
...he begins to get desperate, he receives Papa’s letter in Uma’s handwriting, informing him that Mrs. Patton has offered her home to him for the summer. Disgruntled at his family’s continual interference... (full context)
Chapter 18
Family Life and Individual Freedom Theme Icon
Tradition/India vs. Modernity/West Theme Icon
Loneliness and Togetherness Theme Icon
Soon after Arun arrives to the Patton house, Mrs. Patton tells Arun that she hears from her sister that food in India is different, and... (full context)
Chapter 19
Gender and Social Roles Theme Icon
Family Life and Individual Freedom Theme Icon
Plenty/"Feasting" vs. Want/"Fasting" Theme Icon
Mrs. Patton excitedly takes Arun to the grocery store to shop for vegetables. Arun marvels at the... (full context)
Chapter 21
Gender and Social Roles Theme Icon
Family Life and Individual Freedom Theme Icon
Plenty/"Feasting" vs. Want/"Fasting" Theme Icon
...turns him down, feeling embarrassed at his lack of athleticism. Later that night, Rod and Mr. Patton are on the downstairs couch, watching a football game and eating microwave taco dinners. Arun... (full context)
Chapter 22
Family Life and Individual Freedom Theme Icon
Plenty/"Feasting" vs. Want/"Fasting" Theme Icon
Loneliness and Togetherness Theme Icon
Arun is at the grocery store once again with Mrs. Patton . She is telling him that when her children were little, she would take them... (full context)
Chapter 23
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
...cars can break through, while pedestrians can get nowhere. When Arun returns to the house, Mr. Patton is angrily putting away bags of raw meat, asking Mrs. Patton if she knows where... (full context)
Chapter 24
Family Life and Individual Freedom Theme Icon
Plenty/"Feasting" vs. Want/"Fasting" Theme Icon
Loneliness and Togetherness Theme Icon
...the kitchen in the morning, to find Melanie sitting sullenly at the kitchen table while Mrs. Patton scrambles eggs. Mrs. Patton tells Melanie that her father thinks she should “go outside and... (full context)
Gender and Social Roles Theme Icon
Family Life and Individual Freedom Theme Icon
Plenty/"Feasting" vs. Want/"Fasting" Theme Icon
Mrs. Patton announces to Arun that it is time to go shopping again. Arun remarks that maybe... (full context)
Chapter 25
Family Life and Individual Freedom Theme Icon
Plenty/"Feasting" vs. Want/"Fasting" Theme Icon
Loneliness and Togetherness Theme Icon
Arun comes home the next morning from a trip to the library, to find Mrs. Patton in a bikini in a deck chair in the family’s front yard, sunbathing. Arun is... (full context)
Family Life and Individual Freedom Theme Icon
Plenty/"Feasting" vs. Want/"Fasting" Theme Icon
Loneliness and Togetherness Theme Icon
Mrs. Patton has stopped grocery shopping and cooking. Now, she does nothing but sunbathe. She calls to... (full context)
Chapter 26
Gender and Social Roles Theme Icon
Family Life and Individual Freedom Theme Icon
Loneliness and Togetherness Theme Icon
On an uncomfortably hot Saturday, Mrs. Patton persuades Arun into coming with her and Melanie to cool off at the swimming pond... (full context)
Gender and Social Roles Theme Icon
Plenty/"Feasting" vs. Want/"Fasting" Theme Icon
Loneliness and Togetherness Theme Icon
...But he knows that he cannot, for here he sees “real pain and real hunger.” Mrs. Patton soon emerges, and when she sees Melanie, she says nothing but “Dear Lord, dear lord.” (full context)
Chapter 27
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
Loneliness and Togetherness Theme Icon
Mr. Patton has taken on a night job to pay the bills for Melanie, and Mrs. Patton... (full context)