A House for Mr Biswas - Chapter 9 Summary & Analysis

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The Tulsis have suddenly decided to move to Shorthills and live in a grand estate with a cricket field and a swimming pool. Seth and his family have left, and the land is being neglected and crops are being burned. Shama wants to join her family in the move, but Mr. Biswas and the children want to stay in Port of Spain. Shama sulks and her relatives come to stay with them occasionally, putting more pressure on Mr. Biswas.

When Mrs. Tulsi raises the rent, Shama shows him how the expenses are getting out of control, reasoning that they will be able to save money by moving to Shorthills and eventually be able to buy their own house. Mrs. Tulsi, energized again, persuades him to visit the estate, which he finds to be just as nice as it was described, except for a few things that need fixing.

When Mr. Biswas talks about going home, Mrs. Tulsi convinces him that he is home. They move to the estate and find that it is even more crowded than Hanuman House because some more sisters have moved in, as well as some married grandchildren. The Biswas family is given two upstairs rooms for their quarters, across the hall from a brother-in-law that Mr. Biswas has not met. Mr. Biswas refers to this brother-in-law as Mr. W.C. Tuttle, after the author of some books he has in his room.

Without Seth to direct things, repairs are slow, and the house begins deteriorating from neglect. Mr. Biswas reconciles the neglect of the house with the knowledge that he is independent of the Tulsis because he has his own job off of the estate; the estate is also an insurance against the loss of his job. To supplement his income, he takes small amounts of fruit from the trees on the estate to sell in town.

When plans are made for the marriage of seven nieces, the swimming pool is filled in so that a huge tent can be erected for the wedding. After the festivities, the neglect of the house continues and some of the sons-in-law, mainly Govind and Tuttle, begin to plunder the resources on the estate, selling them and keeping the money for them. Mrs. Tulsi has withdrawn again, and the attitude around the estate is every man for himself. The widows band together to develop ventures which generate some income, focusing unsuccessfully on the American soldiers who have begun to appear in the area.

Life for the children of the estate is miserable, since they still attend school in Port of Spain and transportation issues require them to wake up at 4:00 A.M. to be able to leave the house in Tuttle’s lorry at quarter to five. Eventually an old second-hand car is purchased, but it turns out to be unreliable, breaking down frequently and requiring the children to get out and push. They sell the car and get another one, the children crowding into the car and filling up the dicky seat.

On weekends, instead of resting after the week’s many challenges, the children have to pull weeds and gather fruit. Sleeping arrangements for the children change from day to day. Animosities start between the children, and Anand develops a sense of satire, which causes the others to leave him alone.

As he sees the terrible conditions having an adverse affect his own children, Mr. Biswas starts looking around for a site on which to build his house. In the meantime, several members of the family die, including Hari, the pundit, and Padma, Seth’s wife. Without Hari to conduct the spiritual business of the family, men and boys of the family take over the duties of the puja, but there is no consistency. Without Hari to say prayers for Mrs. Tulsi and the house, she believes the virtue and the luck have gone out of the family.

Different members of the family take on different moneymaking schemes with different degrees of success. The widows’ attempts are always unsuccessful, and they do men’s work around the estate. The estate continues to deteriorate as the land is eroded, the resources are scavenged, and animals die. Seth is happy at the Tulsis’ misfortunes, saying that they are being punished for rejecting and slandering him.

When Chinta creates a stir when she announces that eighty dollars has been stolen from her room, she ultimately lays blame on the Biswas family. They become subject to persecution in the house and beg to move. Mr. Biswas uses up all his savings to build a house and they move in, but are still unhappy because it is in an unfinished state.

Mr. Biswas spends time making improvements on the house himself, laboring to bring it up to the standard that will satisfy his family. He sends for his mother, who agrees to visit for two weeks, creating a memory that is more precious to Mr. Biswas than any memories of his mother. After her visit, there is a botched attempt to burn the cleared wood on the land around the house, resulting in a fire that later rekindles in the middle of the night. Tulsis come to help fight the fire, and the house is saved from burning. Afterwards, Mr. Biswas makes jokes about charcoal and talks about how it is the best kind of fertilizer.


Once again, Mr. Biswas is manipulated into living with the Tulsis in their estate at Shorthills. Without Seth’s direction and planning, the haven that was anticipated becomes a nightmare of neglect, hazard, and inconvenience. Mr. Biswas is only able to tolerate it because he does not feel as though he is truly a part of it, and he is able to save his money.

Children’s lives are stressful and unstable as their sleep routines are consistently disrupted and their school experience is clouded by the experience of trying to get there. As the men on the estate become opportunistic and self-interested, they do not contribute to the efforts to maintain the house and grounds. Consequently, the widows are forced to do the work that should be done by the men, with the results being substandard.

While the Biswas family is barely tolerating the conditions, Savi’s bad experiences with school transportation ultimately prompt Mr. Biswas to earnestly consider building a house again. The situation with Chinta’s missing eighty dollars reinforces his motivation and he builds his house a distance away from the estate house. Although the house has its flaws, Mr. Biswas works to make it right for his family. A bonus benefit of the house is that it provides Mr. Biswas with two valuable weeks to reacquaint himself with his mother, leaving him with the only memory of her that is not tinged with regret. In the aftermath of the fire, Mr. Biswas’s jokes conceal whatever feelings he is having.


clandestine, lianas, punctiliously, escarpment, patois, terminus, ammoniac, dereliction, dicky seat, derisive, sooty, pathos, purgative, bush, idyllic, verge, conflagrations

This section contains 1,173 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)
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