Fasting, Feasting


Anita Desai

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Fasting, Feasting: Chapter 24 Summary & Analysis

It is August. Arun comes into the kitchen in the morning, to find Melanie sitting sullenly at the kitchen table while Mrs. Patton scrambles eggs. Mrs. Patton tells Melanie that her father thinks she should “go outside and play games,” because she doesn’t look well. Arun is pouring a bowl of cereal, and notices that Melanie’s face in swollen. He wonders if Mrs. Patton notices. Mrs. Patton puts a plate of scrambled eggs before Melanie and tells her they will “do her good.” Melanie gets up, crying, and yells at her mother for never asking her what she wants to eat. She tells her mom that everything she cooks is poison. After Melanie storms off, Mrs. Patton shrugs lightly and turns to Arun, saying she knows that he would never say anything “silly” like that.
Mr. and Mrs. Patton mistake Melanie’s swollen face and depressed attitude for simple, childlike needs: In telling Melanie to simply “go outside and play games”, Mr. Patton assumes that Melanie’s bad health can be quickly fixed with a superficial solution. Mrs. Patton is no better—she assumes that a few scrambled eggs will “do her good”. They have both failed to take seriously Melanie’s unusual eating habits, or to investigate what is really going on within Melanie. By continuing to treat her like a child, they show that they have failed to get to know her as a young woman.
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Plenty/"Feasting" vs. Want/"Fasting" Theme Icon
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Related Quotes
Mrs. Patton announces to Arun that it is time to go shopping again. Arun remarks that maybe they should finish the food in the house first, but Mrs. Patton says, “What would we do in an emergency?” When they get to the grocery section, she starts expertly filling up her cart. Arun feels sickened by the excess, and he wonders if that is what bothers Melanie. He tries to put back a tub of ice cream, but Mrs. Patton playfully tells him no, it’s her favorite. At the check stand, the girl cashiering casually asks Mrs. Patton if she is pregnant, and at Mrs. Patton’s offence, the cashier tells her she “just has that glow.” The entire drive home, Arun is too embarrassed to speak, but Mrs. Patton drives fast and too carelessly, railing on about the cashier girl, asking Arun for his reassurance that she isn’t fat, or old.
Arun is losing his ability to remain indifferent within the Patton household. Aware that he is the only one in the house who is sufficiently worried about Melanie, Arun is able to see the family dysfunction with the clarity of an outsider who has experience in family dysfunction. Mrs. Patton’s obsessive shopping seems gross to Arun, because it fails to address real needs in her family and he imagines it might be the adding to Melanie’s problems. The comments of the cashier girl make Mrs. Patton snap, and she loses her façade of confidence, coming unglued with insecurity and self-doubt.
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Family Life and Individual Freedom Theme Icon
Plenty/"Feasting" vs. Want/"Fasting" Theme Icon