Naipaul’s A House for Mr. Biswas


Naipaul’s A House for
Mr. Biswas

Naipaul’s A House for Mr. Biswas: A House for Mr Biswas is a 1961 novel by V. S. Naipaul, significant as Naipaul's first work to achieve acclaim worldwide. Naipaul’s A House for Mr. Biswas It is the story of Mohun Biswas, a Hindu Indo-Trinidadian who continually strives for success and mostly fails, who marries into the influential Tulsi family only to find himself dominated by it, and who finally sets the goal of owning his own house. Naipaul’s A House for Mr. Biswas It relies on some biographical elements from the experience of the author's father, and views a colonial world sharply with postcolonial perspectives. In 1998, the Modern Library ranked A House for Mr Biswas number 72 on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. Time magazine included the novel in its list of the 100 best English-language novels from 1923 to 2005.

Naipaul’s A House for Mr. Biswas: Mohun Biswas (based on V. S. Naipaul's father, Seepersad Naipaul) is born in rural Trinidad and Tobago to Hindu Indian parents and his father is a Brahmin. His birth was considered inauspicious as he is born "in the wrong way" and with an extra finger. A pundit prophesies that the newborn child "will be a lecher and a spendthrift. Possibly a liar as well", and that he will "eat up his mother and father". Naipaul’s A House for Mr. Biswas The pundit advises that the boy be kept "away from trees and water. Naipaul’s A House for Mr. Biswas Particularly water". A few years later, Mohun leads a neighbour's calf, which he is tending, to a stream. The boy, who has never seen water "in its natural form", becomes distracted and allows the calf to wander off. Mohun then hides in fear of punishment. His father, believing his son to be in the water, drowns in an attempt to save him, thus in part fulfilling the pundit's prophecy. Naipaul’s A House for Mr. Biswas This leads to the dissolution of the family. Mohun's sister is sent to live with a wealthy aunt and uncle, Tara and Ajodha. Mohun, his mother, and two older brothers go to live with other relatives.

Naipaul’s A House for Mr. Biswas: The boy is withdrawn prematurely from school and apprenticed to a pundit, but is cast out on bad terms. Ajodha then puts him in the care of his alcoholic and abusive brother Bhandat, an arrangement which also ends badly. Finally, the young Mr Biswas decides to make his own fortune. He encounters a friend from his school days who helps him get into the business of sign-writing. Naipaul’s A House for Mr. Biswas While on the job, Mr Biswas attempts to romance a client's daughter but his advances are misinterpreted as a wedding proposal. He is drawn into a marriage which he does not have the nerve to stop and becomes a member of the Tulsi household. Mr Biswas becomes very unhappy with his wife Shama (based on Droapatie Naipaul) and her overbearing family.

Naipaul’s A House for Mr. Biswas

Naipaul’s A House for Mr. Biswas: The Tulsis (based on the Capildeo family), and the big decaying Hanuman House (based on Anand Bhavan aka the Lion House) where they live represent the communal way of life which is traditional throughout Asia. Mr Biswas is offered a place in this cosmos, a subordinate place to be sure, but a place that is guaranteed and from which advancement is possible. But Mr Biswas wants more than being just a gharjamai. He is, by instinct, a modern man. He wants to be the author of his own life. Naipaul’s A House for Mr. Biswas That is an aspiration with which the Tulsis cannot deal, and their decaying world conspires to drag him down.[5] Despite his poor education, Mr Biswas becomes a journalist, has four children with Shama, and attempts several times to build a house that he can call his own, a house which will symbolise his independence. Mr Biswas' desperate struggle to acquire a house of his own can be linked to an individual's need to develop an authentic identity. He feels that only by having his own house he can overcome his feelings of rootlessness and alienation.

Naipaul’s A House for Mr. Biswas: A House for Mr. Biswas follows the life of Mr. Mohun Biswas, a protagonist inspired by Naipaul’s father, as he struggles to find his freedom and a house of his own. The son of a poor laborer in Trinidad, Mr. Biswas is forced to live as a guest in one crowded, inhospitable house after another. After his father dies, his family moves in with his mother’s sister, Tara, and he is humiliated and beaten by Tara’s brother-in-law Bhandat. Mr. Biswas vows, "I am going to get a job on my own. And I am going to get my own house too. I am finished with this" [p. 64].

He goes to work as a sign-painter for the Tulsi family, and there he begins a flirtation with Shama. After his love letter is discovered by Mrs. Tulsi, Mr. Biswas is bullied into marrying Shama, thus beginning a long and unhappy marriage that produces four children, a constant struggle for money, and countless bitter quarrels. After a brief and failed attempt to run a dry goods store in The Chase, Mr. Biswas and his family return to live with the Tulsi family, a pattern that recurs thoughout the novel. It is in Port of Spain that Mr. Biswas comes closest to happiness, working as a journalist for the tabloid Sentinel, writing outlandish stories, and achieving a degree of local fame. Here, too, his son Anand excels in school and shows signs of talent as a writer. But Mr. Biswas’s fortunes suffer several reversals, and it is not until the very end of his life that he is finally able to buy a house–only to find the experience much different than he had imagined.

Naipaul’s A House for Mr. Biswas: A vivid portrait of a man who fights to free himself from the entanglements of family, custom, and religion, A House for Mr. Biswas is also an unforgettable look inside colonial society at the beginnings of great transition.

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