A House for Mr. Biswas | Study Guide

V.S. Naipaul

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Course Hero. "A House for Mr. Biswas Study Guide." December 6, 2019. Accessed January 22, 2022. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/A-House-for-Mr-Biswas/.


Course Hero, "A House for Mr. Biswas Study Guide," December 6, 2019, accessed January 22, 2022, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/A-House-for-Mr-Biswas/.

A House for Mr. Biswas | Themes


Poverty vs. Abundance

These two contrasts are present throughout the novel. While the island of Trinidad is abundant in its lush fields of sugar cane, there is great poverty experienced by its inhabitants. The house in which Mr. Biswas lives with his mother on Tara's property is described as a "hut," as are many of the structures on the island. Furthermore, there is a contrast between the Tulsis, Tara and Ajodha who Mr. Biswas perceives to have much and their lack of desire to give generously to others. Some critical interpretations see the Tulsis as a representation of the British colonizers who live in abundance while exploiting the agricultural resources of the island, leaving its inhabitants in poverty.


Mr. Biswas is nothing if not determined. He overcomes many tribulations in order to finally purchase a home and reclaim his family from the Tulsis. He fights against the Tulsis' seeming lack of desire to help him achieve his dream, his own depression and self-doubt, and his wife's criticism to eventually succeed in his goal. Naipaul, whose own life experiences mimic those of certain members of the Biswas family, desires to show that even those born into sub-optimal circumstances have the ability to rise above them if they have a true desire to continue on a path toward a goal.


Family is a constant throughout the novel. Mr. Biswas can never escape his family. They interact with him over his lifetime in various ways and offer both support and consternation at times. Still, the central theme as it pertains to family is that it is inescapable, but it can be managed through effort. The Tulsis are always a part of the Biswas family's life, even after Mr. Biswas's death. However, they come to play a different role in that the nuclear family unit is eventually able to stand on its own without the constant interference of the extended family.

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