A House for Mr Biswas - Chapter 12 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 1,131 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)

Summary

Upon his return from England, Owad has changed physically, but also philosophically and politically. He embraces children and sisters and brother, shakes hands with brothers-in-law, makes a show of rejecting Seth, and assumes his new role as head of family. He has stories to tell of heroic deeds, helping important people, and the wonders of Communism. There is a festival atmosphere at the house for seven days, and it seems as if the old days at Hanuman House have returned. Anand idolizes Owad and adopts his views, but Owad is impatient and insulting with Anand, belittling him when they lose a card game, and slapping him twice when he reacts by yelling.

There are many witnesses to Anand’s humiliation, including his mother and sisters, and he tells his father he wants to move, but Mr. Biswas doesn’t listen. Shama wants Anand to apologize, and he does, begrudgingly, but Owad makes no friendly overtures and leaves for the theater with other members of the family.

When they return from the theater, their noisiness disturbs Mr. Biswas, who retired early because his stomach was acting up again. He yells at the crowd, attempting to get them to be quiet. Owad responds by mocking him, which makes everyone giggle, maddening Biswas. He yells at them to “Go to France,” and Mrs. Tulsi responds by saying “And you can go to hell.” Mr. Biswas’s initial shock at this statement is followed by anger, and he and Mrs. Tulsi continue to insult each other, with Shama and the girls trying to get Mr. Biswas to restrain himself. Owad says he can’t stand it and leaves the house.

Mr. Biswas gives notice that he will not stay in the house, and Mrs. Tulsi gives notice that he will not be allowed to stay in the house. Next day, Mr. Biswas’s mood swings from optimism to gloom as he contemplates freedom but is faced with the housing shortage in Port of Spain, envisioning his family sleeping in Marine Square alongside the homeless families about which he has written stories.

He goes to a café where he talks to people and drinks lager; soon he is approached by a solicitor’s clerk who wants to sell his house. Since it is raining and he does not like the thought of driving to his area in the country with his windows rolled up, Mr. Biswas agrees to go with the clerk to see the house. His impression from the outside is that it is not a house for him, meaning he does not think he will be able to afford it, since he only has eight hundred dollars.

The solicitor’s clerk and his mother are very hospitable as they encourage Mr. Biswas to look at all the rooms, but Mr. Biswas’s inspection is very superficial, since he has not revealed the fact that he cannot afford to buy the house.

The clerk tells him he will sell for six thousand dollars, comes down to five thousand five, then throws in the Morris suite when Mr. Biswas doesn’t say anything, thinking that he is driving a hard bargain. Mr. Biswas says he will think about it, but he does not think he will ever go back to the house on Sikkim Street.

That evening, a man comes and offers four hundred dollars for the materials of the house he built in Short Hills; the next day, Mr. Biswas puts a one hundred dollar deposit down on the solicitor’s clerk’s house. When he tells Shama, she cries, giving him several reasons for why she is upset at his sudden decision. Mr. Biswas has begun to appreciate Shama’s judgment, and he is frightened by her despair. However, he is also sorry because he does not want to inflict pain on her.

Nevertheless, he goes to borrow four thousand dollars from Ajodha. Tara is supportive of his plans and Ajodha is business-like, making a contract for four thousand five hundred for five years at an interest rate of eight per cent. Mr. Biswas agrees to the terms, knowing he will not be able to pay the loan off in five years. Anxious to show him worthy of the house, he has the family dress up to go see it. Shama says she doesn’t want to shame him, and she stubbornly stays in the car. The children walk through the house and express their enthusiasm for it.

Analysis

When Owad returns from England, he has achieved heroic status because he has experienced things that his family will never be able to experience. Everyone is eager to drink in all of his stories and they immediately embrace his ideals of communism. Anand is just as smitten as everyone else is, and he wants Owad’s respect and recognition. When Owad humiliates him, it may be that he recognizes a potential rival, and he wants to put Anand in his place and establish total control. In any case, his rejection has a devastating effect on the sensitive Anand, and he reverses his allegiance to Owad, rejecting all the principles he had previously espoused.

The dispute between Owad and Mr. Biswas triggers the hateful words exchanged between Mr. Biswas and Mrs. Tulsi. Coincidentally, or perhaps intentionally, her initial insult echoes Mr. Biswas’s words in one of their earlier disputes. Now there is no choice; the Biswas family will have to move.

Realizing that his choices are almost nonexistent, Mr. Biswas feels that Fate is stepping in when the solicitor’s clerk makes his proposition, and then a man suddenly is willing to pay him four hundred dollars for the materials of his house in Shorthills. Because he has been taken off guard and is uncertain of proper behavior under the circumstances, Mr. Biswas does not give the house more than a superficial inspection feeling that, because of his financial limitations, he is there under false pretenses.

After he talks himself into making the down payment, he tells Shama, who is upset because she has the sense to understand that this decision has been made too hastily. She is also upset because she has been left out of the decision-making, and she is worried about how they will pay for it, especially since they are still making payments on the Prefect. Additionally, she is reluctant to leave her family while they are still on bad terms. Her stubborn insistence on staying in the car while the rest of the family inspects the house is bad judgment on her part since she is the one who is most likely to discern any problems in the house.

Vocabulary

self-effacing, tenuously, quay, effervescence, sardonic, antipathy, solecisms, scathing, gratuitously, cryptic, proprietary, dacha, chastened, conundrum, excised, solicitor

This section contains 1,131 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)
Copyrights
BookRags
A House for Mr Biswas from BookRags. (c)2016 BookRags, Inc. All rights reserved.
Follow Us on Facebook