Anita and Me


Meera Syal

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The Big House Symbol Analysis

The Big House Symbol Icon

Built on an old water-filled mine where four-year-old Jodie Bagshot once drowned, the Big House on Meena’s street is a mysterious building with unknown residents. The secretive, potentially dangerous nature of the place makes it a symbol of the threats that lurk in Tollington itself, such as aggression and racial hostility. However, Meena’s later discovery that an Indian man lives there turns the Big House into the opposite: a symbol of hidden diversity and kindness in the midst of turmoil. Meena enters the Big House’s compound on two occasions: while following Anita, after which the two girls are pursued by an angry dog, and while following Tracey, who ultimately falls and almost drowns in the pond. These two episodes are marked by stress and danger, compounded by the belief Anita has instilled in Meena that the house is inhabited by an evil witch. On both occasions, though, Meena draws comfort from signs of her own culture in this hostile environment: a hidden statue of the Hindu god Ganesha in the yard and the presence of Harinder P. Singh, the Indian owner of the house. The Big House thus reveals that it is not as threatening as Meena had thought. Rather, it is capable of making Meena feel newly welcome in the community, which has become affected by racial tensions. By turning from a place of terror to a symbol of a shared foreign culture, the Big House optimistically suggests that one can always find potential allies, even in the most threatening environments.

The Big House Quotes in Anita and Me

The Anita and Me quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Big House. 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:
Family Discipline and Guidance Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Oberon Books edition of Anita and Me published in 1996.
Chapter 8 Quotes

Mr Topsy/Turvey watched her with devoted eyes. ‘I served in India. Ten years. Magical country. Magical people. The best.’

‘Shouldn’t have bloody been there anyway, should you?’ I muttered under my breath. ‘Who asked you to lock up my grandad and steal his chickens?’

I was by now walking fast, making Nanima puff and trot a little to keep up, but I could still hear him shouting behind us, ‘We should never have been there. Criminal it was! Ugly. You look after your nan! You hear me, Topsy!’

Related Characters: Meena Kumar (speaker), Mr. Turvey (“Mr. Topsy”) (speaker), Nanima
Related Symbols: The Big House
Page Number: 222
Explanation and Analysis:

‘. . . understand why, but just think if you could use all that energy to do some good. Find out who the real enemies are, the rich, the privileged, not the other people trying to make a living like you, not people like . . .’

Related Characters: Uncle Alan (speaker), Meena Kumar, Nanima, Sam Lowbridge
Related Symbols: The Big House
Page Number: 226
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Big House Symbol Timeline in Anita and Me

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Big House appears in Anita and Me. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 5
Friendship Theme Icon
When Meena and Anita pass by the Big House , Anita crosses herself, saying that a witch lives there. She mentions Jodie Bagshot, a... (full context)
Family Discipline and Guidance Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
...keep Anita away from the caravans. However, Anita leads Meena past the caravans toward the Big House . Meena is shocked and frightened to see Anita open a section of the fence... (full context)