Mrs. Patton Quotes in Fasting, Feasting
When she finally brought herself to tell him that Arun was a vegetarian and she herself had decided to give it a try (…) he reacted by not reacting, as if he had simply not heard, or understood. That, too was something Arun knew and had experience of (…)—his father’s very expression, walking off, denying any opposition, any challenge to his authority…
We don’t sit down to meals like we used to. Everyone eats at different times and wants different meals. We just don’t get to eating together much now that they’re grown. So I just fill the freezer and let them take down what they like, when they like. Keeping the freezer full—that’s my job, Ahroon.
Arun is spending time with the Patton family, an "all-American" clan that celebrates sports, success, and competition. The problem with the Patton family, it's suggested, is that they don't have any real sense of community. Mrs. Patton tells Arun (she can't even pronounce his name right, emphasizing the distance between her culture and his) that her family no longer eats together--a pretty good metaphor for the breakdown of the traditional American family over time. Mrs. Patton is a mother, but she's lost any real connection to her children apart from her literal, material duty to give them things to eat. Once again Desai compares ideas of plenty to scarcity--the Pattons have plenty to eat, but little real connection, and the Patton children have plenty of freedom, but little happiness.
Mr. Patton ignores her. He is getting a can of beer out of the refrigerator. Opening it with a shark jerk of his thumb, he demands, ‘Where are the kids? Are they going to be in for dinner tonight? What have they been doing all day? Are they doing any work around here?’
Mr. Patton is a gruff, action-focused husband--a parody of the American masculine ideal. He's not a particularly considerate or kind man, either. When he returns from work, he doesn't seem to show any affection or love for his wife; he just asks her where his children are. By the same token. Mr. Patton doesn't really ask about how his children are doing; he just asks about what they've done all day (how many chores, etc.).
Mr. Patton is an unusually bullish, stern man, and yet Arun (who's witnessed the entire scene) seems to take him as a representative American husband. Based on Arun's earlier observations, it would seem, Arun thinks of Mr. Patton and Papa as similar kinds of people--basically dismissive of others' needs (particularly women), and too focused on actions. Arun notices that Mr. Patton ignores his family's feelings, and starts to dislike him for doing so.
Why don’t you ask me what I want? Why can’t you make me what I want? What do you think we all are—garbage bags you keep stuffing and stuffing?
In this chilling passage, Melanie has a fight with her mother, Mrs. Patton. Mrs. Patton sees Melanie walking into the kitchen, with her face looking oddly swollen (by this point in the novel, we know that Melanie is bulimic, and regularly makes herself throw up). Mrs. Patton gives Melanie some eggs and encourages her to eat them, prompting Melanie to yell at her mother for treating her like a "garbage bag."
Melanie's point, it would seem, is that in focusing so exclusively on health and outward appearances, Mrs. Patton (and, for that matter, American culture as a whole) neglects her loved ones' feelings and spiritual lives. One could say that Mrs. Patton treats her daughter like a mere object that Mrs. Patton must keep looking pretty and healthy at all times. She never asks Melanie what she feels like eating; instead, she gives Melanie food. Melanie has become obsessed with her own health because Mrs. Patton is, too.