Fasting, Feasting Summary & Study Guide

This Study Guide consists of approximately 38 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Fasting, Feasting.
This section contains 446 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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Fasting, Feasting Summary & Study Guide Description

Fasting, Feasting Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion on Fasting, Feasting by Anita Desai.

Anita Desai's novel of intricate family relations plays out in two countries, India and the United States. The core characters comprise a family living in a small town in India, where provincial customs and attitudes dictate the future of all children: girls are to be married off and boys are to become as educated as possible. The story contrasts the life of the main character, Uma, the family's older daughter, with Arun, the boy and baby of the family. Uma spends her life in subservience to her older demanding parents, while massive effort and energy is expended to insure Arun's education and placement in a university in Massachusetts.

Despite Uma's thirst for knowledge, she is removed from the convent school she adores in order to care for her new baby brother, Arun, as well as her parents. It is a role she maintains throughout her life. Uma is the picture of a bumbling incompetent who fails at almost everything she attempts, whether it is cooking, studying, or becoming a wife. Two attempts to arrange marriages for Uma end disastrously. She lives with this shame, even though she had nothing to do with the arrangements or the resulting deceptions.

In contrast, Uma's younger sister, Aruna, is beautiful, adept, and poised. Traditionally, the younger sister in a family cannot be married until any older sister has married and left the family home. However the family realizes that Uma's fate is to remain single; and plans are initiated to secure a husband for Aruna.

Although Uma is woefully clumsy and not exceptionally bright, she yearns for a higher purpose, as exhibited by her leanings toward social, cultural and spiritual activities. Uma is especially drawn to an old widowed aunt, named Mira-Masi, who encourages Uma's spiritual education in ashrams and other religious events, much to the chagrin of Uma's parents.

By the time Arun leaves for college in the United States, Uma is a woman in her forties, too old to capture the possibilities of a life of potential now open to her brother. Uma is forced to send letters dictated by her father to Arun inquiring about progress in Arun's new life; but Uma never begrudges Arun his more positive fate.

Arun is thrust into a completely different world by living in the United States, especially during the summer when he rooms with a family named the Pattons. The typical American suburban life, with its manicured lawns and barbecue grills, presents a fazade beyond which Arun is allowed to glimpse to see the dysfunctional workings of its inhabitants. Arun is at once both intrigued and appalled by the abundance of material goods and food, while the Pattons remain within parameters seemingly starved for authenticity.

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