A House for Mr Biswas Themes

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 436 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)


Family is a prominent theme in the novel. Mr. Biswas’s family is broken up because of unfortunate circumstances, and he never really has a close relationship with his mother, his brothers, or his sister. His mother seems unable to deal with life around her, and especially not Mr. Biswas’s needs. As Mr. Biswas is maneuvered into marrying Shama, he finds that he has taken on a very large family—fourteen daughters and two sons—to go along with her. It is Shama’s family that creates most of the conflict that occurs between Shama and Mr. Biswas. Up against the Tulsi family, Mr. Biswas feels helpless. The theme of family continues in the birth of four children to Mr. Biswas. His attitude toward his own family is very complex: at times, he feels they are an alien interference in his life, and at other times, he struggles to establish a bond with them.


Writing plays an important role in the events of the novel. It is Mr. Biswas’s talent for sign writing that brings him to the Tulsi store where he first sees Shama. Then it is the note he writes that leads to all the trouble with the Tulsis. As he learns to communicate in writing, he secures a position writing for a newspaper, and he is able to express his feelings and find some peace of mind in writing the letter to Dr. Rameshwar after his mother dies. Finally, writing keeps him connected to his children, particularly Anand, while they are studying abroad.


Food is not just an ingredient in the novel it is a theme. Early in the novel, a punishment involving bananas causes stomach problems for Mr. Biswas, which will cause him difficulty for the rest of his life. When they are not fighting about the Tulsis, most of the conflict between Shama and Mr. Biswas is centered on food. Mr. Biswas does not like the quality of food he gets at the Tulsi house, and he does not like the way it is prepared. His sensitive stomach is always reacting to the bad food, and he constantly has to depend on Maclean’s Brand Stomach Powder to get relief. However, food does not always play an antagonistic role in the novel. When there is cause for celebration, there is also cause for feasting, and the Tulsis’ food improves greatly for special occasions. Finally, when the family is living at the estate at Shorthills, Mrs. Tulsi has her daughters experiment with bamboo and other strange materials in an effort to find new sources of food.

This section contains 436 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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