A House for Mr Biswas - Chapter 11 Summary & Analysis

This Study Guide consists of approximately 45 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of A House for Mr Biswas.
This section contains 787 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)

Summary

Anand has entered college, and Mr. Biswas has changed without realizing it. The shifts in his ambitions have made him feel that he cannot change his circumstances after all, and he has “lost the vision of the house.” He sinks into despair “as into the void which, in his imagining, has always stood for the life he has yet to live.” He becomes withdrawn, but doesn’t have the fear and anxiety as he did before now.

Life goes on; then, when he is sent on an interview at a new government department, the Community Welfare Department, he is offered a job as Community Welfare Officer, for fifty dollars a month more than he is making at The Sentinel. He fantasizes a position where he will be placed in many supervisory positions, winning the confidence and devotion of peasants and juvenile delinquents.

The actual requirements of Mr. Biswas’s new job are to survey an area, having residents fill out a questionnaire. After collecting information he has to analyze it, this requires working late at home. He complains about all the work, and Shama points out that everywhere he goes it is the same. On top of his salary, he receives money for travel and subsistence pay, so he can afford to send Savi to a better school, buy better food, and treat Anand’s asthma. He also buys a new suit and does not save as much as he had hoped.

When the Department comes under attack—his first experience of public attack—he starts to worry about his job. The better his situation becomes, the more vulnerable he feels, worried that it is all too good to last. As he enters a new phase of his job, he is given a car on a “painless government loan” and now has to take driving lessons and apply for a driver’s license. They surprise everyone at the house with their new acquisition, a Prefect, and Anand finally receives the bicycle.

Shortly after they bring their new car home, they find out that Tuttle bought a house. Mr. Biswas wants to move into some of the extra rooms, but he does not get the chance to because Mrs. Tulsi moves back. Because of Mrs. Tulsi’s frail condition, the house becomes quieter out of respect.

Word comes that Owad, now a doctor will be returning from England. Even Mr. Biswas is excited, but he also feels uneasy, sensing some threat to his security. The threat turns out to be real, as Mr. Biswas is told to move to Mrs. Tulsi’s tenement to make room for Owad. When Mrs. Tulsi assures him that he will be allowed to return to the house in time, he feels as if she is playing a game of cat and mouse with him. The conditions in the tenement are worse than the conditions he sees on his job, and he has frequent fits of anger. After three months, the family is invited to move back into the Port of Spain house, but this time the family of six is given only one room.

Analysis

Just as Mr. Biswas is plunging back into the depths of despair, he is offered a job that will pay him much more money, and he regains his sense of self-worth. Even now, when things finally seem to be going his way, Mr. Biswas continues to be worried about things that might happen, such as losing his job. He rarely seems to be able to enjoy the good moments that occasionally find their way into his life, and it seems that any happiness is short-lived.

The possession rivalry continues when the Tuttles follow the appearance of the Prefect with the announcement that they have bought a house. Mrs. Tulsi’s occupation of the vacated Tuttle rooms has a dampening effect on the household, and routines begin to revolve around her needs. The news that Owad will be returning is greeted with excitement, but it turns sour when Mr. Biswas is informed that his family will have to move out of the house. When they are invited to move back after three months, it seems to confirm Mr. Biswas’s notion that Mrs. Tulsi is playing a cat and mouse game with them. Forced to share one room, it seems as though they are living just like mice in a hole. As Mr. Biswas ponders the future, wondering if things will ever get better, it occurs to him that his children are growing up and he will eventually be no longer responsible for them. He realizes that he has missed their childhoods.

Vocabulary

Desecrate, revivified, garrulous, urbane, petulant, caprices, remonstrate, wood lice, quiescent, rapaciousness

This section contains 787 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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