A House for Mr Biswas

A House for Mr Biswas

A House for Mr Biswas Part 1, Chapter 6 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
A messenger brought the news of the calamitous rains to Hanuman House that same evening. The sisters and husbands convened, the sisters conferred, and they all ultimately decided to send the men to Green Vale. Sushila and the children performed rituals to protect Hanuman House and banish misfortune; the children went to sleep and the sisters played cards and read downstairs, with Chinta going back and forth between “her frowning card-playing manner” and the Ramayana she had resolved to be the first of the family’s women to read.
As usual, power in Hanuman House is delicately balanced between the men and women; the sisters run the meeting and take care of the house while the men work outside of it; Sushila again takes charge of important magical protections from the margins. Chinta’s quest to finish the Ramayana shows that Mr Biswas’s literacy and passion for books are not unique among the Tulsis.
Themes
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The men returned with Anand sad and sleepy and Mr Biswas in Govind’s arms, “deeply exasperated and fatigued.” Although he had not spoken to Mr Biswas since fighting with him years ago, Govind “put himself on the side of authority,” and Chinta acknowledged this by taking care of Anand. They put Mr Biswas in the Blue Room and gave him sweetened milk with spices, brandy, and butter; he was comforted to be there, better safeguarded from the rain by Hanuman House’s thick walls, but found himself “continually awakening to a new situation” mysteriously linked to disjointed events from his past. He noticed that the objects around them were in their proper places and quickly fell asleep, comforted by the sound of the rain.
Despite all their animosity to Mr Biswas, Govind and Chinta still take care of him and Anand in their time of need. Just as when Mr Biswas returned there from The Chase, Hanuman House has again become a sanctuary for him, where certainty and predictability are comfortable even if he still does not like the family. The rain, too, has switched from menacing to reassuring. He thinks freely about his past only in moments of illness, despair, or vulnerability like this one.
Themes
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The next morning, it was still raining and dark, and the children were excited to stay home from school, investigate the events of the night before, and play outside in the flooded streets. The rain stopped and the town dried up in the mid-morning, and Shama proposed that they bring the furniture in Green Vale to Hanuman House. A trusted Catholic Indian doctor stopped by, prescribed Mr Biswas a regime of vitamins, and proposed he see a specialist in Port of Spain. Then, the thaumaturge came to purify the Blue Room; the miracle worker proposed hanging aloe in doorways and windows and getting a black doll, and unsuccessfully offered Mr Biswas a concoction.
Shama’s request to move the furniture back to Hanuman House makes it clear that Mr Biswas is not expected to return to isolation. As Hindu aristocrats under British colonial rule, the Tulsis continue to mix Eastern and Western practices (Hindu rituals and Western medicine). Port of Spain again gets a passing mention—like in Mr Biswas’s sign-painting with Alec years before, Port of Spain implies sophistication and progress to those in the countryside.
Themes
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Colonialism, Oppression, and Escape Theme Icon
The Tulsis hung the aloe and black doll, and then moved in Mr Biswas’s still-soaked furniture. Savi was frustrated that the children “misused” the rocking chair by fighting to pull one another off it, so she complained to Shama, who told her not to worry about it. A few of Mr Biswas’s painted placards were also put up in the hall and Book Room.
The rocking chair transforms from Mr Biswas’s personal property into part of Hanuman House’s shared property. By hanging up his placards, the Tulsis finally acknowledge Mr Biswas’s contributions to the family and incorporate him into their collective.
Themes
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Get the entire A House for Mr Biswas LitChart as a printable PDF.
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As he “slept and woke and slept again” in darkness, Mr Biswas found comfort in “the absence of the world” and peace in surrendering, which led him to “this worldless room, this nothingness.” He felt distant from the depressed mindset that had so thoroughly enveloped him.
Ironically, Mr Biswas’s depression in Green Vale also stemmed from a sense of alienation and nothingness; here, though, that same feeling is soothing and emboldening, perhaps because he can be certain that others are nearby to care for him.
Themes
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Pratap and Prasad visited Hanuman House, treating the children kindly but underestimating their number and chatting politely with their brother Mr Biswas. So did Ramchand, who was now working as a warden at Port of Spain’s Lunatic Asylum and recommended that Mr Biswas, like his patients, listen to music on a gramophone. He also suggested Mr Biswas join him and Dehuti in Port of Spain; on his way out, Sushila and Chinta commented on his evident low caste.
Mr Biswas’s old family has a rare encounter with his new one; despite everyone’s affability, the gap between them is evident, and Mr Biswas increasingly seems like one of the Tulsis. Ramchand inadvertently highlights Mr Biswas’s apparent madness in an attempt to help. Meanwhile, caste continues to divide Trinidad’s Hindus—it is telling that even the widowed Sushila notices it.
Themes
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Later that night, Seth visited Mr Biswas, who neither wanted to nor even could return to Green Vale—the people there burned his house down, and although Mr Biswas cried, he was overjoyed and relieved at the news, noticing his anxiety and anguish disappear, feeling incredibly grateful to Seth and somehow wanting “to embrace him, to promise eternal friendship, to make some vow.”
Mr Biswas’s departure from Green Vale increasingly resembles his from The Chase: Seth’s visit again brings news of a burned-down house and Mr Biswas is again elated, seeming to pick the least suitable target for his uncharacteristic love.
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Shama gave birth that night, but Mr Biswas never recorded it in his Collins Clear-Type Shakespeare book. The midwife took care of the new daughter in the Rose Room, and Mr Biswas took his medicines. He realized that his fingernails were healing and felt himself overcoming his “periods of darkness,” gaining strength through his confinement in the Blue Room. He even got nearly all the children drinking Ovaltine, which was part of his treatment.
Even though Mr Biswas was present at Hanuman House, he managed to miss his fourth and final child’s birth, just as he missed the first three (and his father missed his own). As his fingernails heal, he again only realizes his psychological states through outward changes to his body.
Themes
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Feeling “safe and even a little adventurous,” Mr Biswas left the Blue Room and found Hari on the verandah, wondering how he became so respected among the family for his knowledge of Sanskrit and scripture. Mr Biswas thought for a second that he, too, could become an esteemed pundit but stepped back to take stock of his life and discovered that he had found no true vocation his entire life and would soon have to do something about it. However, this did not worry him, for his unparalleled dissatisfaction at Green Vale was now his gold standard for misery, and he now he recognized how lucky he was for his children to have food and shelter.
Mr Biswas tried and failed at all the Tulsis’ professions: shopowner, cane worker, pundit. His attempts to find himself through imitation failed, and his self-awareness suddenly broke through as he realized that he was fortunate to have the opportunity to try these professions at all. Hari’s passion for punditry, although not one Mr Biswas shares, nevertheless points the protagonist to the possibility of finding fulfillment in a vocation as well as in a family.
Themes
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Slowly, Mr Biswas spent his remaining money on Ovaltine; soon, he had to vacate the Blue Room in anticipation of Owad’s return. Not wanting to interact with him or Mrs Tulsi and not wanting to live elsewhere in Hanuman House, Mr Biswas packed his clothes and paintbrushes in a small cardboard suitcase and set out early in the morning “into the world, to test for its power to frighten,” to finally plunge himself into “real life.”
Mr Biswas’s comfortable and revelatory stay in Hanuman House did not lead him to satisfaction, but it did finally motivate him to seek something greater for himself—even if this meant running away aimlessly with his few possessions, as he so frequently did in his youth.
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Related Quotes
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Mr Biswas thought about going to meet Shama and her new baby but “his senses recoiled” at the idea, and he left as soon as the children left for school. High Street was bustling with vendors, and he felt he could safely ignore his fears, as though “the world had been restored to him.”
In seeking his vocation, Mr Biswas again pushes his family away and takes advantage of their generosity. He searches for a job exactly as in his childhood, with little plan or preference.
Themes
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