A House for Mr Biswas

A House for Mr Biswas

Seth Character Analysis

Seth is the most powerful and respected man in the Tulsi household, although he is actually Padma’s husband and not a Tulsi himself. He initially hires Mr Biswas to paint signs in the Tulsi Store, but thereafter his presence is most often a sign of trouble for the protagonist. He coordinates most of Mr Biswas’s moves around Trinidad and manages most of the Tulsis’ businesses, underpaying and abusing his workers, before trying to singlehandedly take possession of them and becoming ostracized from the family. After Padma’s death, he has a wild streak and gets caught “insuranburning” a lorry. He comes to Port of Spain to welcome Owad back from England, but Owad refuses to acknowledge him, and Seth is never seen again.

Seth Quotes in A House for Mr Biswas

The A House for Mr Biswas quotes below are all either spoken by Seth or refer to Seth. 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:
Independence vs. Belonging Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of A House for Mr Biswas published in 2001.
Part 1, Chapter 3 Quotes

How often did Mr Biswas regret his weakness, his inarticulateness, that evening! How often did he try to make events appear grander, more planned and less absurd than they were!

And the most absurd feature of that evening was to come. When he had left Hanuman House and was cycling back to Pagotes, he actually felt elated! In the large, musty hall with the sooty kitchen at one end, the furniture-choked landing on one side, and the dark, cobwebbed loft on the other, he had been overpowered and frightened by Seth and Mrs Tulsi and all the Tulsi women and children; they were strange and had appeared too strong; he wanted nothing so much then as to be free of that house. But now the elation he felt was not that of relief. He felt he had been involved in large events. He felt he had achieved status.

Related Characters: Mr Biswas, Shama, Mrs Tulsi, Seth
Page Number: 87
Explanation and Analysis:
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Part 1, Chapter 4 Quotes

Real calling name: Lakshmi. Signed by Mohun Biswas, father.

Related Characters: Mr Biswas, Shama, Savi, Seth, Hari
Page Number: 156
Explanation and Analysis:
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Part 2, Chapter 2 Quotes

Mr Biswas had never thought of Tulsi property as belonging to any particular person. Everything, the land at Green Vale, the shop at The Chase, belonged simply to the House. But the lorries were Seth’s.

Related Characters: Mr Biswas, Mrs Tulsi, Seth
Related Symbols: Houses
Page Number: 374
Explanation and Analysis:
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Seth Character Timeline in A House for Mr Biswas

The timeline below shows where the character Seth appears in A House for Mr Biswas. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1, Chapter 3: The Tulsis
Social Status and Hierarchy Theme Icon
Gender and Family Theme Icon
An intimidating Tulsi named Seth hired Mr Biswas at a paltry rate to paint some signs for the windowless and... (full context)
Social Status and Hierarchy Theme Icon
Education, Work, and Language Theme Icon
...as he painted “BARGAINS! BARGAINS!” on a misshapen column. At the end of the day, Seth came inside, muddy and stained, to request in English that Mr Biswas talk with Mrs... (full context)
Independence vs. Belonging Theme Icon
Social Status and Hierarchy Theme Icon
Seth led Mr Biswas out the back door to a “damp, gloomy courtyard” and left him... (full context)
Social Status and Hierarchy Theme Icon
Gender and Family Theme Icon
...that someone saw him put it down. The children rushed inside, home from school, alongside Seth, who told Mr Biswas the note was “nothing to be ashamed about.” This astonished the... (full context)
Social Status and Hierarchy Theme Icon
Gender and Family Theme Icon
Seth suggested that he might know Mr Biswas’s family and asked who his father was—Mr Biswas... (full context)
Social Status and Hierarchy Theme Icon
Education, Work, and Language Theme Icon
Gender and Family Theme Icon
...Tulsi asked Mr Biswas whether he liked “the child” and he affirmed that he did. Seth offered to speak to Ajodha and insisted that Shama was “a good child” with “a... (full context)
Independence vs. Belonging Theme Icon
Gender and Family Theme Icon
...look at her. He received no dowry, house, or job from the Tulsis—Mrs Tulsi and Seth did not even consider it. (full context)
Independence vs. Belonging Theme Icon
Social Status and Hierarchy Theme Icon
Gender and Family Theme Icon
...left the new upstairs wing that included the drawing-room and prayer-room. He also asked about Seth, the “Big Boss,” and Mrs Tulsi, the “old queen” or “old hen” or “old cow.”... (full context)
Independence vs. Belonging Theme Icon
Social Status and Hierarchy Theme Icon
Colonialism, Oppression, and Escape Theme Icon
One day, Shama reported that Seth wanted to talk to Mr Biswas, who refused to go downstairs until she began crying.... (full context)
Education, Work, and Language Theme Icon
Colonialism, Oppression, and Escape Theme Icon
Seth asked Mr Biswas to work on the fields—his literacy was no excuse, for Seth and... (full context)
Independence vs. Belonging Theme Icon
Gender and Family Theme Icon
...Biswas packed his things as he argued with Shama and finally asked her to tell Seth he was never paid for the signs he painted. She refused, and they resumed bickering,... (full context)
Gender and Family Theme Icon
...Chinta and Padma, who showed little emotion because she had ostensibly been called to resolve Seth’s conflicts many times before. Mr Biswas admitted that he would not go—Chinta stopped crying but... (full context)
Social Status and Hierarchy Theme Icon
Gender and Family Theme Icon
...home, Mr Biswas mocked Shama for what Pankaj Rai would do to her high-caste family members—Seth would become a leather-worker and the “two gods” (Shekhar and Owad) barbers. Worst of all,... (full context)
Social Status and Hierarchy Theme Icon
Colonialism, Oppression, and Escape Theme Icon
After a week or so, Seth asked Mr Biswas about Pankaj Rai in the hall and mentioned that he was almost... (full context)
Independence vs. Belonging Theme Icon
Social Status and Hierarchy Theme Icon
Gender and Family Theme Icon
The newspaper notice mentioned Mr Biswas’s name, and Shama insisted that he talk to Seth, who complained that he threatened to “disgrace the family” and hinder the boys’ odds of... (full context)
Independence vs. Belonging Theme Icon
The next morning, Seth kicked Mr Biswas out of the house. He went to the shop in The Chase... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 4: The Chase
Gender and Family Theme Icon
...a bamboo tent in the yard and bring in food; all the Tulsis came “except Seth, Miss Blackie, and the two gods” (Shekhar and Owad), who were busy in school. Hari... (full context)
Gender and Family Theme Icon
...Tulsi’s Rose Room in the Hanuman House. His pick was “Sarojini Lakshmi Kamala Devi,” but Seth and Hari named her instead and already registered her birth under the name Basso—that was... (full context)
Social Status and Hierarchy Theme Icon
Education, Work, and Language Theme Icon
Colonialism, Oppression, and Escape Theme Icon
...Shama both felt like he violated the sanctity of a government document. He complained that Seth had written his occupation as “labourer,” insisted on addressing his daughter as Lakshmi, and boldly... (full context)
Independence vs. Belonging Theme Icon
Gender and Family Theme Icon
Seth came inside and implored Mr Biswas to start acting responsibly; in response, Mr Biswas asked... (full context)
Social Status and Hierarchy Theme Icon
Education, Work, and Language Theme Icon
Gender and Family Theme Icon
...Seebaran?” before she revealed she heard his entire conversation with Moti. She suggested he ask Seth, whom Mr Biswas distrusted immensely even though “he used to study doctor. Doctor or druggist.” (full context)
Independence vs. Belonging Theme Icon
Education, Work, and Language Theme Icon
Gender and Family Theme Icon
...had gone home. She had a son, whom Mr Biswas agreed to name Anand at Seth’s behest, three years after Savi, who stayed at the Tulsis’ house. He visited her every... (full context)
Gender and Family Theme Icon
Mrs Tulsi and Shama both cried as Shama massaged her mother with more rum. Seth entered and asked Mrs Tulsi how she was feeling, failing to acknowledge Mr Biswas and... (full context)
Education, Work, and Language Theme Icon
Gender and Family Theme Icon
Colonialism, Oppression, and Escape Theme Icon
Mr Biswas told Seth that the store was on “a bad site” and explained that his debtors would never... (full context)
Social Status and Hierarchy Theme Icon
Colonialism, Oppression, and Escape Theme Icon
...Biswas asked whether he would be in charge of “this insuranburning,” leading everyone to laugh. Seth proposes that Mr Biswas tell the police that Mungroo threatened to kill him, which means... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 5: Green Vale
Independence vs. Belonging Theme Icon
Social Status and Hierarchy Theme Icon
Education, Work, and Language Theme Icon
...he had lived around sugarcane his whole life, he knew nothing about its cultivation, and Seth had to teach him when he came for inspections and to pay his workers every... (full context)
Social Status and Hierarchy Theme Icon
Education, Work, and Language Theme Icon
Colonialism, Oppression, and Escape Theme Icon
...easily deceived him and mocked his ill-fitting hat; he wished he had a horse like Seth, but once he mounted it and was promptly thrown off. Seth promised Mr Biswas a... (full context)
Independence vs. Belonging Theme Icon
Colonialism, Oppression, and Escape Theme Icon
The following Saturday, Seth told Mr Biswas that the shop in The Chase “insuranburn now,” giving him 75 dollars,... (full context)
Independence vs. Belonging Theme Icon
Gender and Family Theme Icon
Colonialism, Oppression, and Escape Theme Icon
That Saturday, Shama, Anand, and Myna came with Seth to fetch Savi. While doing his usual work with Seth, Mr Biswas heard Savi chat... (full context)
Colonialism, Oppression, and Escape Theme Icon
Seth came back, remarked that Mr Biswas had “a case,” and declared that he would take... (full context)
Social Status and Hierarchy Theme Icon
Colonialism, Oppression, and Escape Theme Icon
When Seth decided to take back twenty acres of land that he had been renting to laborers,... (full context)
Independence vs. Belonging Theme Icon
Social Status and Hierarchy Theme Icon
Education, Work, and Language Theme Icon
Gender and Family Theme Icon
...rent out”) while she looked after Owad there. The family fell into disarray—only Padma and Seth continued to win respect, and order only returned when Mrs Tulsi and Owad came home... (full context)
Independence vs. Belonging Theme Icon
Gender and Family Theme Icon
Mr Biswas did not want to borrow money from Seth, Mrs Tulsi, or Misir, so he decided to try Ajodha, but found that he did... (full context)
Independence vs. Belonging Theme Icon
Gender and Family Theme Icon
Colonialism, Oppression, and Escape Theme Icon
...roof. But after two months, he only had 18 dollars more for the house, and Seth proposed that Mr Biswas buy cheap galvanized iron from their old brick-factory behind Hanuman House.... (full context)
Education, Work, and Language Theme Icon
...lamp on at night and worrying that someone might burn his house down; Shama and Seth said not to worry, but the house slowly “became greyer.” (full context)
Independence vs. Belonging Theme Icon
Social Status and Hierarchy Theme Icon
Visiting one Mr Biswas Saturday, Seth asked what was wrong. Later, Mr Maclean called to say that he had found some... (full context)
Independence vs. Belonging Theme Icon
Education, Work, and Language Theme Icon
Gender and Family Theme Icon
...about God (the boy’s true father), gravity, and “people called Coppernickus and Galilyo.” On Saturday, Seth could not convince Anand to go home. At times, thinking he had ague (a fever),... (full context)
Gender and Family Theme Icon
...the fat man, Dinnoo, “was trying to thief my money.” The other man claimed that Seth promised them work, but Mr Biswas sent them away. (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 6: A Departure
Independence vs. Belonging Theme Icon
Gender and Family Theme Icon
Later that night, Seth visited Mr Biswas, who neither wanted to nor even could return to Green Vale—the people... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 1: “Amazing Scenes”
Social Status and Hierarchy Theme Icon
Gender and Family Theme Icon
They took photographs, and Seth came on the last day of the festivities to impose his authority on the house.... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 2: The New Régime
Independence vs. Belonging Theme Icon
Gender and Family Theme Icon
...into disarray, with Mrs Tulsi losing her authority and no longer interested in the family. Seth’s power was too superficial to fix the family’s conflicts, and particularly the sisters’ distrust of... (full context)
Independence vs. Belonging Theme Icon
Gender and Family Theme Icon
Colonialism, Oppression, and Escape Theme Icon
...a visit. Mr Biswas came home from work one day to see his roses destroyed. Seth was standing outside with two black workers, and Mr Biswas nearly threw a rock at... (full context)
Gender and Family Theme Icon
Colonialism, Oppression, and Escape Theme Icon
In fact, Seth owned the house, and after he and Mr Biswas exchanged some more insults, Mr Biswas... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 3: The Shorthills Adventure
Independence vs. Belonging Theme Icon
Gender and Family Theme Icon
Colonialism, Oppression, and Escape Theme Icon
...not imagine them doing so. However, when Shama went to Hanuman House to report what Seth had done in Port of Spain, in fact the Tulsis “had decided to move on”... (full context)
Independence vs. Belonging Theme Icon
Gender and Family Theme Icon
When the women returned from Arwacas, they revealed that Seth’s new property was an enormous grocery store, and they feared that he planned to use... (full context)
Social Status and Hierarchy Theme Icon
Education, Work, and Language Theme Icon
Gender and Family Theme Icon
Colonialism, Oppression, and Escape Theme Icon
...continued to creep up on the house. The widows worked tirelessly, withstanding hateful messages from Seth and doing their best to build a bridge across the gully that was now a... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 5: The Void
Independence vs. Belonging Theme Icon
Social Status and Hierarchy Theme Icon
...course” in Arwacas, where he stayed at Hanuman House with its sole inhabitant, a widow Seth never found out about. In fact, “Seth had acted wildly” since Padma’s death, losing his... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 6: The Revolution
Independence vs. Belonging Theme Icon
Social Status and Hierarchy Theme Icon
Gender and Family Theme Icon
...to the port, where the ship was approaching and the Tulsis were astonished to see Seth nearby, wearing a cheap suit and fidgeting uncomfortably before lighting a cigarette and being told... (full context)
Social Status and Hierarchy Theme Icon
Gender and Family Theme Icon
Colonialism, Oppression, and Escape Theme Icon
...moving onto the brothers-in-law. When he shook Mr Biswas’s hand, he “suddenly grew distant” because Seth was approaching. It immediately became clear to everyone that “Owad was the new head of... (full context)