A House for Mr Biswas

A House for Mr Biswas Part 2, Chapter 1 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Mr Biswas ended up in Port of Spain entirely by accident; after leaving Hanuman House in the early morning, he was mostly worried about finding somewhere to sleep that night. He had not chosen what way to turn at the junction—to the north were Pagotes and Port of Spain (where Ramchand and Dehuti lived), and to the south his brothers—but a bus came by and its conductor grabbed Mr Biswas’s luggage, repeating, “Port of Spain.” Remembering his own days as a bus conductor, Mr Biswas got in.
As usual, Mr Biswas’s most decisive transformations are accidental products of circumstances he refuses to resist. So far in the book, Port of Spain has figured only as a distant symbol of a sophisticated, cosmopolitan, urban life, but it is understandable that this would appeal to Mr Biswas’s refreshed romantic imagination.
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During the whole ride, Mr Biswas thought about getting off and turning south, but it would be too hard to have the conductor bring his suitcase out. Heading toward the mountains, the bus passed sugarcane fields full of workers and then rice paddies speckled with wood houses. The bus abruptly turned west, passing through more and more traffic until it reached Port of Spain, flanked by hills on the right, swamp and sea on the left, all smelling of sea salt, sugar, and cocoa.
Mr Biswas anxiously wonders whether he made the wrong decision, even though he does not seem to think the alternative would have been any better. As Trinidad’s capital, Port of Spain condenses everything on the island—its landscapes, exports, and traffic—and it seems that, by arriving there, Mr Biswas has again risen in status.
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Mr Biswas disembarked and enjoyed “a day of freedom” paralleled only by the one he spent wandering around Pagotes when Bhandat’s rumshop abruptly closed. Walking along the crowded streets, he marveled at the various stores and restaurants, perceiving “the city whole” and never the individuals moving through it, engrossed in the excitement of its activity.
Mr Biswas is thrilled at the city’s novelty and organization—its anonymous residents seem to all belong in their particular roles there. Notably, his childhood day in Pagotes was just as free but nowhere near as delightful as this day in Port of Spain; back then, he found his freedom exhausting and burdensome.
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At four, when businesses closed for the day, Mr Biswas headed for Ramchand’s address, which disappointingly turned out to be “an unfenced lot with two old unpainted wooden houses and many makeshift sheds.” He found his sister, Dehuti, cooking—she and Ramchand were surprised that he planned to pass some time there and were pleased that he took refuge in them during a troubling time.
Compared to Ramchand and Dehuti’s countryside hut, their house is underwhelming, and Dehuti continues to play the part of domestic housewife. Despite offering his home in the last chapter, Ramchand clearly did not expect Mr Biswas to show up, but—as usual—he has nowhere of his own to stay.
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Ramchand said that Mr Biswas could “stay here and rest as long as you want,” listening to music on the gramophone. Dehuti was not even sullen. When her younger son returned from school, she asked him to tell her what he learned that day: “an account of an escape from a German prison camp in 1917.” His parents and Mr Biswas complemented his reading and then asked him about his math, which Mr Biswas could not even do but complemented because “he saw the approving red ticks.” Ramchand commented on how “damn important” education turns out to be in life.
While the colonial education system’s curriculum seems utterly irrelevant to life in Trinidad, Ramchand sees education’s economic benefits, to which Mr Biswas and his children can attest. Despite his lighthearted manner and low caste, Ramchand seems to be offering serious social commentary and is again living the life Mr Biswas wants. Meanwhile, by mentioning the gramophone he plays to his asylum patients, Ramchand again subtly implies that Mr Biswas might be insane.
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Mr Biswas shared one of Dehuti and Ramchand’s two rooms with their son. The house’s interior was much cleaner than the outside, its furniture “brilliantly polished.” It had “room and even privacy.” But at night Mr Biswas could hear the “intimate whispers” of other tenants—“all Negroes,” around whom Mr Biswas had never lived; this made his visit all the more strange and adventurous. Their ways were not the same as “country Negroes,” cooking meaty food and living “less organized” lives. “Women ruled men” and children were much less esteemed than in Hanuman House; here, children wore clothes on their bottom halves, the opposite of in the country, and were much more aggressive and sociable.
As always, Mr Biswas notices how houses reflect their inhabitants’ status and priorities. After his rest in Hanuman House, he sees the value of privacy, which mediates between his two most central desires: it allows independence without isolation and belonging without helplessness. City and country are not just different but, as suggested by the image of children wearing bottoms in the city and tops in the country, literally inverted versions of one another.
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Mr Biswas was enamored with “the organization of the city,” its street-sweeping and newspaper deliveries, the fact that people drank milk from bottles, and that Ramchand went away to work every day. Ramchand showed Mr Biswas all around the city, taking him to look at the harbor from the top of Chancellor Hill, “which was a moment of deep romance” since Mr Biswas never realized that “Port of Spain was actually a port,” hosting ships from around the world.
Mr Biswas sees the city as evidence of human cooperation and interdependence on a grand scale; unlike in the countryside, everything in the city relies on trust for the same kind of faceless collective Mr Biswas previously despised (in the Tulsis, at Green Vale). Here, he finally sees the wonder in such coordination, facilitates independent choice for all through extensive networks of dependence.
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Mr Biswas also enjoyed “Ramchand’s city manners” and let his brother-in-law patronize him, which he had always done since he was ostracized from his community in his childhood and simply left for another, demonstrating “the futility of its sanctions.” His Indian-accented English was hilarious when he tried to adopt Port of Spain’s slang, and his overenthusiastic manner often led him, and by extension Mr Biswas, to suffer others’ judgment.
Ramchand and Mr Biswas, both enamored with the city, both try to become of the city. Ramchand’s satisfaction and confidence relate directly to his bold decision to leave the Hindu community—unlike Mr Biswas’s ill-fated decision to stay in the community by marrying Shama, Ramchand’s choice to leave it allowed him to forge his own path and pursue his own values.
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After two weeks, Ramchand told Mr Biswas not to worry about finding a job, but he was penniless and felt “burdened by his freedom,” wanting to join the city rather than merely walking through it. He considered returning to sign-writing, but Ramchand suggested working at the Mad House with him. He said, “why the hell not?” and Ramchand recoiled, mentioning that he was worried about “the impression” that using his contacts would make.
As in his childhood, Mr Biswas loses interest in absolute freedom when it leaves him unmoored from any commitments that would make him truly belong in a place. Like the Tulsis, Ramchand’s exaggerated gestures of generosity are just for show and favor; he rejects Mr Biswas out of the same concern with status.
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Soon, Mr Biswas’s “spasms of fear” returned, he found his nails “all bitten down,” and “his freedom was over.” He sought out the specialist doctor he was referred to, finding him in a beautiful office that “suggested whiteness and order.” The people in the waiting room “didn’t look sick,” and when the Chinese receptionist asked if he had an appointment, Mr Biswas’s response was to accidentally whisper, “fish-face.” He gave her the letter from the doctor in Arwacas, but felt like “a fraud” when she started reading it. He waited for his appointment watching the “correctly ill” patients before him and wondering if his three dollars would cover the doctor’s fees, here where “illness was clearly more expensive.”
As Mr Biswas seeks out help, he sees the pristine office not as evidence of the doctor’s ability to solve his problems but as proof that he does not belong, that his class status makes his illness “incorrect” and unworthy of treatment. He particularly worries about unfamiliar people; his discomfort with the office’s “whiteness” and the Chinese receptionist points to Port of Spain’s cosmopolitanism and economic power as well as the persistent racial divisions throughout Trinidad.
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Mr Biswas thought about literature and abruptly decided to leave, told the receptionist he felt better and walked outside, down St Vincent Street. He finally saw “the city as made up of individuals, each of whom had his place in it.” He sat under a bench in the War Memorial Park, his stomach hurting, his freedom terminated and his place already determined for him by his past. He enjoyed his stomach pains, which seemed to show him “the restoration of the world” and remind him how far he had come.
Like in his depression at Green Vale, Mr Biswas shifts from seeing an undifferentiated crowd of people who properly belong to seeing a society of individuals who, to various extents, choose their place and commitments in the world. This promises that he can do the same, yet he still insists that his place has been chosen for him rather than being up to him to choose.
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Walking south, through a more built-up area and toward the sea, Mr Biswas came to the Red House, which had a sign posted outside: “RESERVED TO JUDGES.” He walked up the steps to a fountain under a dome, where well-dressed professionals mixed with “professional beggars” who nevertheless had “an air of establishment” and lived without bothering anyone.
In the past, Mr Biswas only encountered the legal system as a distant entity with absolute power over his fate; now, he stands face-to-face with the levers of power. Even the beggars seem to belong and enjoy a status superior to his own.
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Mr Biswas started reading the posted government notices and “an elderly Negro, respectably dressed,” called for him, asking if he wanted “a certificate” of any sort—“Birth, marriage, death.” He rejected the offer, and the man lamented that “nobody wanting certificates these days,” perhaps because too many people were doing the same thing as he was. The man asked Mr Biswas to refer anyone who needed a certificate to him and said that his name was Pastor. Mr Biswas walked away, in awe of the facts that the government managed to keep records of everyone’s birth and death and that Pastor even managed to find a place in the city.
Mr Biswas’s encounter with Pastor recalls his childhood trip to procure a birth certificate; he was born outside the law, without formal recognition, and now learns that even those with the power to grant certificates are relatively low in the hierarchy—but, unlike him, they nevertheless belong somewhere in it. The scale and audacity of government power captivate him: the prospect of comprehensive records is just as unfathomable as the Book of Comprehensive Knowledge.
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Having returned to his old disposition from Green Vale, Mr Biswas realized that he did not fear people but felt “regret, envy, despair.” He thought about the newspapers on the wall in Green Vale and noticed the newspapers’ offices across the street. He remembered that Misir worked for the Sentinel, walked inside, and asked to speak with the editor, who referred him to Mr Woodward, but Mr Biswas insisted that he came “all the way from the country to see him.” The narrator intersperses a headline version of what could have transpired: “Amazing scenes were witnessed in St Vincent Street yesterday when Biswas” attacked the paper’s staff and burned the office down.
Mr Biswas continues to gradually progress along his circuitous path toward self-knowledge. Here, his fear yields to a more exact understanding of what he is missing out on. So it is no coincidence that he rushes into the Sentinel office in search of a job; after staring at newspaper headlines for years in Green Vale, he realizes that reporting might be the vocation he has always sought but also imagines his own willful actions as spectacular and newsworthy.
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The receptionist brought Mr Biswas to the editor’s cubicle. The editor (later revealed as Mr Burnett) was “a small fat man, pink and oiled from the heat” and asked what story Mr Biswas brought. He replied, “I don’t have a story. I want a job.” The editor was embarrassed and asked if Mr Biswas had any experience working on a newspaper—Mr Biswas thought of the articles he never wrote for Misir and replied, “once or twice,” before listing some of the authors he read. The editor smiled when he mentioned Samuel Smiles, Marcus Aurelius, and Epictetus, asking if he read them for pleasure, and Mr Biswas replied that he read them for “the encouragement.”
Compared to his relatively timid disposition in the past, Mr Biswas suddenly turns so assertive and confident manages to get a word in with the editor. In the process, he talks his way through the Sentinel‘s layers of social hierarchy, to which he is ordinarily so sensitive. Even though he despaired in the doctor’s office earlier that same day, suddenly his romantic, literary fantasies resurge and drive him back to work with words.
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The editor (Mr Burnett) asked how old Mr Biswas was—“thirty-one”—and what his profession was—“sign-painter.” He walked him outside and asked him to paint warning signs in a yard. Later that afternoon, as Mr Biswas imagined headlines and swore to himself, the editor returned, surprised that Mr Biswas had not left yet and satisfied with his work. He told Mr Biswas to return the next day for “a month’s trial” without pay.
Not only do Mr Biswas’s sign-painting and reporting both reflect his attraction to the written word, but the former leads directly to the latter. His age is scarcely mentioned, so this passage gives an important landmark: the prologue states that he died at forty-six after working for the Sentinel for some time.
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Mr Biswas worked enthusiastically, overusing his “extravagant vocabulary” at first, until Mr Burnett made him read enough London papers for him to learn their style. He soon learned to formulate stories and; given the Sentinel’s sensationalist style, Mr Burnett appreciated Mr Biswas’s facetiousness and sense of fantasy: “the only way we can get readers is by shocking them.”
Mr Biswas initially takes his literary predilections somewhat too seriously but gradually learns to shed his eccentricities and conform to the demands of his genre. Besides his brief stay with the cruel and unforgiving Pundit Jairam, this is the only time anyone has invested in training Mr Biswas.
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The next day, Mr Biswas offered Mr Burnett a made-up story: “FOUR CHILDREN ROASTED IN HUT BLAZE. Mother, Helpless, Watches.” Mr Burnett suggested he formulate normal, not bizarre, characters and cut down on unnecessarily long words. He visited the police, the morgue, and the City Council; his next story, after some edits, read: “WHITE BABY FOUND ON RUBBISH DUMP In Brown Paper Parcel Did Not Win Bonny Baby Competition.” Mr Burnett suggested Mr Biswas “lay off babies for a while.”
Mr Biswas’s first “stories” are completely absurd, but both concern childhood loss and abandonment, reflecting his own deep sense of loss from childhood (albeit in a more extreme sense). More subtly, these stories also point to the way he has abandoned his children by moving to Port of Spain. Despite his troubling interest in dead babies, Mr Biswas has finally found a profession that is also a means of expression.
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Mr Biswas never got over the excitement of seeing his words appear in print the morning after he wrote them. But he had still failed to give Mr Burnett “a real shock.” After three weeks, Mr Biswas was sent to replace a shipping reporter who accidentally got crushed at the docks; he visited tourist ships and got to write about visitors from all over the world. Now “every part of the world was near.” He visited an American ship and nearly joined a camera flash-bulb smuggling ring, interviewed a novelist who assumed his leading questions had “a sinister political motive,” and found notoriety visiting a ship from Brazil.
Mr Biswas’s printed words demonstrate that he has found something of a place in the world: right alongside the other articles and headlines. And, through his shipping assignment, the rest of that world finally opens up to him: he gets to write about stories just as exciting as the ones he read in novels.
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Mr Biswas’s story, which “chilled” Mr Burnett, was headlined “DADDY COMES HOME IN A COFFIN” and covered an American explorer who died in the Amazon. The Sentinel hired him for “fifteen dollars a fortnight,” and Mr Burnett told him to buy a suit.
Fittingly, Mr Biswas finally manages to shock Mr Burnett with a story that recalls both his childhood abandonment and his relationship to his own children (whom he still has not contacted from Port of Spain).
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Ramchand helped Mr Biswas reconcile with the Tulsis; his name was in the paper every day, and feeling that he could pose as rich and famous, Mr Biswas “felt disposed to be charitable.” He was writing as the Scarlet Pimpernel and waiting for anyone on Trinidad to recognize him and claim their prize—which few did—but one day, a peasant in the village where Prasad lived found him. Then, he went to see Pratap and discovered that Bipti had been living with him for some time. She had suddenly become “active and lucid,” which surprised Mr Biswas. That night, he wrote, “SCARLET PIMPERNEL SPENDS NIGHT IN A TREE: Anguish of Six-Hour Vigil,” in which his character was rescued by knowing peasants in the morning.
Having achieved fame because of his article about an absent father dying in a faraway land, Mr Biswas finally reconnects with his own family. Instead of highlighting spectacular events, the next column turns himself into the spectacle: the entire point was to identify the Scarlet Pimpernel (a name Mr Biswas borrowed from a fictional character who was, essentially, the original superhero in disguise). Beyond self-promotion for the sake of status and fame, he also gets to try his hand at fiction, getting as close as ever to the short stories he dreams of writing.
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Soon thereafter, Mr Biswas visited Arwacas, marching into Hanuman House to a grand welcome: “You are the Scarlet Pimpernel and I claim the Sentinel prize!” Yet the house and his family seemed “as though he had never left,” while the other children berated him with questions about his column. Returning “was better than he had imagined,” although Shama worried about his suit while he ate, and Hari barely acknowledged him when they passed on the verandah.
Upon returning to Hanuman House, Mr Biswas experiences fame and insignificance almost simultaneously: while everyone knows he has been in the newspaper and this excites the children, none of the adults treat him any differently. He appreciates the attention and familiarity but is frustrated that his relative fame has not raised his status in the strict, hierarchical household.
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Mr Biswas went to the book room, where Anand joined him. He asked what the adults have been saying about his column, and Anand replied, “nothing,” although Chinta thought he “look[ed] like a crook.” Shama came in with the new baby, asking it, “do you know that man?” Mr Biswas hated the scene. In Hindi, Shama said that the baby’s name was Kamla, and Mr Biswas replied in English, asking who named her; it was the pundit, of course, and Shama mentioned that Mr Biswas was in Hanuman House for Kamla’s birth before abruptly stopping her sentence. Mr Biswas held Kamla, and Shama took her back, saying the baby “might get your clothes dirty.”
The Tulsis, whether because of their previous conflicts with him, their religious orthodoxy, or a more general indifference, do not acknowledge or care about Mr Biswas’s work. By proving that Kamla did not recognize him, Shama reminds him that his status does not excuse his failure to fulfill family obligations. Famous outside the house, he starts once again to insist on speaking English and Shama again ridicules him by taking the baby away out of ostensible respect for his dignified attire.
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Later, Mr Biswas met with Mrs Tulsi in Port of Spain, leading him to feel as though “he had won a victory.” She did not mention his mysterious departure or his job; instead, she suggested that Shama and the children go to Port of Spain and live with her and Owad, or perhaps buy their own house—but if they lived with her and Owad, they would only have to pay eight dollars a month, do housework, and collect rent from the other houses she owned.
Mr Biswas feels that he has won something because of his work, which matters no more to Mrs Tulsi than it does to Shama. While he goes into the conversation intending to make a show of force, in fact he receives something better still: although it is still owned by the Tulsis, he can finally have his own space in Port of Spain.
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Mr Biswas felt “the offer was stupendous: a house, no less.” But he complained about how hard collecting rents would be in order to buy time. He realized he could turn “from a visitor into a dweller,” in a house that was truly complete and well-built. It was one of the newest and best houses in one of Port of Spain’s newest and best districts, and Mr Biswas felt extraordinarily lucky. So did Ramchand and Dehuti, who were tiring of Mr Biswas’s imposition on their space. Since they also felt responsible for his reconciliation with the Tulsis, Dehuti effectively joined Hanuman House, helping out before special occasions and attending events with the Tulsi sisters.
Even as he recognizes how much he stands to gain, Mr Biswas refuses to accept the offer or thank Mrs Tulsi; he still seems to see his conversation with her as a sort of fight. For the first time, he explicitly elaborates what he stands to gain from a house: the opportunity to truly “dwell,” to have sovereignty and control over his own space rather than imposing on another’s (even if Mrs Tulsi technically owns the house).
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The furniture moved yet again, finding ample space in its new home. Anand and Savi were reluctant to move, but after an initial visit Savi began to love the city’s lights and gardens, although it took the promise of Coca Cola and “real icecream” (not Chinta’s homemade slush) to convince Anand to come. Mr Biswas took his son around “with a sense of adventure” one Sunday, seeking out ice cream, which Anand declared “don’t taste like icecream at all.” And he thought Coca Cola was “like horse pee.”
The family’s accumulated furniture continues to follow them faithfully around Trinidad. Although Savi takes a liking to the city for the same reasons as her father—its sophistication, novelty, and sensory pleasures—Anand seems prefers the familiar and certain. The promise of imported commercial goods draws him, even if they sound better than they are.
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Mr Biswas seldom fought with Mrs Tulsi and Owad, and actually became friends with the latter, who respected his job and ability to “read such big books in foreign languages.” He no longer even resented the way Mrs Tulsi indulged her son, feeding him prunes and fancy milk in “proper milk bottles with silver caps,” and began to wish the same for Anand.
Even though Mr Biswas’s jealousy for and aggression toward Owad originally got him kicked out of Hanuman House, the two relate over a shared interest in all things literary, refined, and esteemed. With his own status finally secure, Mr Biswas abandons his jealousy.
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However, Mr Biswas soon “set about establishing his tyrannies, ordering his children to fetch him things and read him documents, arguing when they tried to wake him up when he had requested, winning complaints from Shama but approval from Mrs Tulsi. He made Shama file his papers, and she insisted on keeping track of their accounts (for they were usually almost penniless). These often got muddled, and although she insisted on her mathematical prowess, she would send the kids to their father for help with math homework. Indeed, he found their books inferior and hated them passionately. He even sent them to Sunday school, until Shama thought he was “resuming his religious war” and he switched to reading them novels. She was busy sending out eviction notices, making her “a creature of terror to Mrs Tulsi’s tenants,” although she never realized it.
Mr Biswas can only now unleash his “tyrannies” because he has finally gained power in his household: for the first time, he is the ultimate authority over his children, rather than Shama and the Tulsis. He finally becomes the patriarch of his family, something idealized in both traditional Hindu and Western cultures but never possible at Hanuman House. While he sees Shama as a secretary of sorts, her other work with papers is far more important: despite Mr Biswas’s work and theatrics, she is actually the one who ensures that the family stays afloat financially and even becomes a slumlord by proxy on the side.
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Mr Biswas developed his professional skills, learning shorthand and reading extensively about newspaper management and writing before investing in a typewriter and journalism lessons by mail from London. He wrote excellent articles about the seasons but abandoned the second lesson when the first set was returned after a slew of unsuccessful submissions.
While Shama is busy taking care of finances and the family, Mr Biswas continues to see his job as the single most important component of his self-worth and focus wholeheartedly on it, even if his course by mail appears to be a worthless scam.  
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Mr Biswas tried writing stories but never managed to finish them—invariably, they told of an older man in an unhappy marriage meeting a younger woman often inspired by an advertising worker at the Sentinel. Whenever she agreed to go anywhere with him, “his passion at once died,” and he gave up, never to tell her about the wife and children he already had. He forgot that Shama was filing these papers, too, and she often dropped his characters’ names into their arguments. He decided to paint the typewriter and seldom used it again.
Like Misir’s formulaic stories about bankruptcy and tragic death, Mr Biswas’s fantasies are crude expressions of his situation: beyond being unhappy with Shama and regretting his impulsive decision to marry her, he is so attached to fantasy that it loses all charm once it enters the realm of possibility. He is only interested in desires he can never satisfy (which explains his desire to write stories, too).
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Mr Biswas planted a garden and bought an expensive combined bookcase and desk, which he stuffed with papers and later began to nest mice. He began to take pride in his expensive clothes and social status. Shama spent little on herself but much on wedding presents. She placed great value in weddings and funerals, and the children in holidays, although they became increasingly distant from the other children in Hanuman House, learning to stick together until they got home and resumed fighting. They loved Mr Biswas’s family, which treated them with kindness, generosity, and devotion.
Now that he makes a salary of his own, Mr Biswas spends money to flaunt his status and newfound refinement; Shama does the opposite, spending money only in order to give. This contrast reflects their individual dispositions and the archetypal gender role of a selfless, invisible woman who sacrifices her own interests for those of her self-interested working husband.
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Mrs Tulsi elected to send Owad to medical school in England, which devastated a jealous Mr Biswas and alienated many of the Tulsis; Shekhar had wanted the same for himself, and he came for a last weekend visit before Owad left, bringing gifts and seeming excited for his brother’s trip. Shama put monumental effort into preparing for this visit, the children were thrilled to eat whatever they liked in the kitchen, and even Mr Biswas felt a fraternity with the men and pride at hosting them. On Sunday, the Sentinel printed Mr Biswas’s article “I Am Trinidad’s Most Evil Man,” part of a series on the island’s superlative characters. Owad and Shekhar found it hilarious, as the “Most Evil Man” was from Arwacas.
An English education promises Owad social status, the best available job opportunities in Trinidad, and of course the chance to culturally whiten himself; even as Naipaul’s characters sometimes recognize the entrenched inequities created by British colonialism, they still idolize all things British. Again, Owad’s unparalleled fortune ignites status envy in others—but Mr Biswas is also saddened that he stands to lose a companion, much like when Anand declared he wanted to leave Green Vale.
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They went for a swim in the harbor and, joking around, Mr Biswas told Anand to hold his head under water for as long as he could, and then Owad and Shekhar threw Mr Biswas into the water. He surfaced in a rage, and they realized that Anand had disappeared. Shekhar dove under and quickly found him and returned him to dry land; when he came to his senses, he said that “the bottom of the sea drop away,” cried, and walked off. They followed him home, where he locked himself in his room for the rest of the day.
Mr Biswas is still profoundly unlucky with water, although the narrator again fails to mention it: after his father’s drowning and the storm at Green Vale, his son nearly drowns, and at his own behest. Despite his recent fortune in life, Mr Biswas remains just as unlucky and incompetent as always, and this comes dangerously close to destroying his family yet again.
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At work on Monday, Mr Biswas published a complaint about the need for warnings at the harbor, and Anand showed him an English composition, “A Day by the Seaside,” about his experience (it did not follow the teacher’s instructions but earned twelve marks out of ten). Anand did not respond to Mr Biswas’s efforts at connection and was embarrassed because he had to read his story for the class; Mr Biswas became angry and beat him until Shama intervened, and Savi threatened to return to the Tulsis. At dinner, Anand pulled Mr Biswas’s chair out from under him, which Owad found hilarious, and Mr Biswas withdrew for the rest of the night. Shama gave Anand money for milk and prunes the next day, which he found distasteful, and Mr Biswas set him up with afterschool lessons.
Both Mr Biswas and Anand transform trauma into writing; Anand’s success foreshadows his eventual academic prowess and literary aspirations. Since Mr Biswas is a fictionalized version of Naipaul’s father, Anand indubitably represents the author himself. Mr Biswas repeatedly lashes out at Anand because he cannot put up with rejection, even if deserved, from his son. Unsurprisingly, he never apologizes for nearly drowning him. Anand’s milk and prunes mirror Owad’s special diet, which Mrs Tulsi superstitiously gives him to feed his academic potential.
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Tulsis flooded the house during the week before Owad’s departure, celebrating and throwing Mr Biswas’s position in the household into uncertainty. He complained to Shama, particularly about the visitors’ effect on his flowers, suggesting that they set up trip-wires but eventually giving up on saving his garden and electing to spend as much time as possible away from home instead. However, when he returned one day to find other people’s children—four of them—on his bed, he decided to lock himself inside in the evenings instead. With Owad continuously occupied, he felt a distance between them.
As during Hari’s house blessings, Mr Biswas feels marginalized in his own space during the Tulsis’ farewell, suddenly reminded that he is not the house’s true owner, excluded from truly belonging. When he realizes he cannot even trust the Tulsis with his bedroom, he wages a ruthless campaign to claim any space he can. He is, yet again, completely incapable of sharing.
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They took photographs, and Seth came on the last day of the festivities to impose his authority on the house. Mr Biswas’s article about Owad was ignored, as the family preferred to focus on dressing their children or watching Hari’s services. Then, they went to see Owad off at the wharf, swarming the ship when they learned they could say goodbye onboard, while Mr Biswas was busy collecting stories from foreigners.
Seth steps in to replace Mr Biswas’s short-lived paternal authority over Mrs Tulsi’s Port of Spain house; at the formal send-off, Mr Biswas retreats into his job rather than seem part of the family that does not value him, neither for his role in family life nor for his work.
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Owad kissed the entire family goodbye; when it was his turn, Mr Biswas said, “I hope war doesn’t break out—” and started to cry. In fact, everyone after him wept except Mrs Tulsi. Three drunk Germans stumbled on board, everyone waved to one another, and the ship took off. Mr Biswas felt “a hole in his stomach” at Owad’s departure; he took Anand to a café for ice cream and Coca Cola. Life resumed as usual the next day, “but it would be a different day.”
Mr Biswas’s bad joke not only ends up coming true during Owad’s time in Britain (World War II is about to start), but also shows his inability to admit and confront negative emotions in others’ presence; he copes by distraction and deflection instead.
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