A House for Mr Biswas - Chapter 8 Summary & Analysis

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With Owad studying abroad, Mrs. Tulsi has no reason to stay in Port of Spain, so she goes back to Hanuman House, but she has lost her vitality and is not the same person that she was. Without her direction, the house is in a state of disorder. Christmas at Hanuman house is depressing for the children; they get nothing in their stockings, Mrs. Tulsi does not play her usual role on Christmas morning, and the atmosphere is sullen. Savi says she will never go back.

At The Sentinel, Mr. Burnet is sacked, and extreme changes are made in the way the paper is published. Mr. Biswas is afraid he will also be let go because of his close associations to the “frivolous excesses” for which the paper is known. The new regime is more interested in simple, accurate reporting of news, no more scandal, shock, or sensationalism. In the retraining and reassignment of jobs, Mr. Biswas is assigned to cemeteries, unimportant cricket matches, and Court Shorts, which he feels is more like filling out a form than real writing. His name is not in the paper any more, and he is glad.

He grows very resentful of the new rules and policies and talks about how they can push him too far; he’ll publish his own magazine and sell it himself. At home, he eases up on the strictness of the routine and occasionally has Anand call in sick for him, declaring that they can just sack him if they want to, but at the same time taking care not to overdo the absences. He finds solace in the grotesques of Dickens, and works with Dickens to help Anand develop a higher-level vocabulary; he does not want Anand to turn out like him.

The war is on, money is becoming even tighter, and Mr. Biswas is unhappy. It is a struggle for him to write about serious subjects he does not have a feeling for, and he knows his work is not good. He gets a raise, but it barely covers expenses. The quality of food deteriorates even more, instigating quarrels between Mr. Biswas and Shama. When Anand tries to help, Mr. Biswas laughs at him, making him angry and humiliated. Anand is getting very unhappy with the high expectations and greater work load he is having to deal with in the exhibition class and begins contriving ways to avoid going to school. He even petitions to go through the brahminical initiation so that his shaved head will be an excuse to avoid school, but once his head is shaved, he does not even want to leave the house.

Mr. Biswas comes home one day to see that his rose bushes have been torn up at the direction of Seth, who plans to build a shelter for his lorries on the site. They engage in a heated exchange of words. Seth says that Mr. Biswas would never have made it without Seth’s help, and he should show gratitude. Mr. Biswas goes into a frenzy and storms through the house throwing things around, but in a way that is calculated to cause minimal damage.


As changes at the Tulsi house make the Biswas family uncomfortable, the changes at The Sentinel make Mr. Biswas unhappy. Even as he receives new assignments, he fears that he will be sacked just as Mr. Burnett was. The different style of writing preferred by the new regime feels stifling to him, leaving no freedom for creativity. Even as his status improves and his work life presents opportunities for diversion that he is not able to experience at home, he maintains a low opinion of himself, and works to develop Anand’s intellect so that he will not turn out to be like his father. While Anand does not object to the basic premise of a good education, he finds the requirements of the exhibition class to be overwhelming and feels he is missing his childhood.

The fact that Seth is planning to shelter his Lorries away from Hanuman House is an indication that there could be some trouble between him and the Tulsis. The exchange between Seth and Mr. Biswas is evidence that Seth believes Mr. Biswas would never have amounted to anything if he and the Tulsis had not taken him into their lives. Mr. Biswas’s resulting rage is more constrained than it has been in the past, indicating that it is not in his heart to inflict damage on his family or the Tulsis, in spite of the things he says about them.


cantankerous, invalid, flogged, arrogant, insatiable, intonation, perverse, zestfully, whimsicality, cowed, sonorous, effusive, denigrations, quail

This section contains 783 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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