Fasting, Feasting


Anita Desai

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Fasting, Feasting: Chapter 15 Summary & Analysis

At the Patton house a little later, Mr. Patton is outside grilling steaks on a barbecue. He calls the family to eat, and Arun goes looking for Melanie, the Patton’s teenaged daughter, who sits sulkily at the bottom of the stairs, eating a bag of peanuts, and ignores Arun. Mr. Patton is angry that the two children, Melanie and Rod, won’t come to the dinner that he made them. Mrs. Patton accepts the bloody, charred steak that Mr. Patton throws onto her plate, but Arun must nervously tell Mr. Patton that he is a vegetarian. Mrs. Patton mutters quietly that she is too, but Mr. Patton doesn’t hear her. Mrs. Patton reminds Mr. Patton of Arun’s religious beliefs, but Mr. Patton says he can’t understand how anyone could refuse a “good steak”. Arun reassures Mrs. Patton that he will have a salad and bun, remembering his own mother’s sadness at his father’s disappointment.
While Arun has escaped his own family, the capacity of family to be oppressive has followed him even to America. Mr. Patton assumes the right to dictate when it is time for the family to eat, just as Papa dictated when it was time for the women to take a walk. Rather than making decisions together, Mr. Patton, like Papa, imposes his idea of what will be good for his family members onto them. Just like the manicured lawns with nobody to run around on them, Mr. Patton’s steak is well prepared, yet there is nobody to enjoy it. Like Papa, he responds with anger when his authority is challenged.
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