English 580: World Literature Spring 1998

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Discussion Questions/Talking Points on Clear Light of Day by Anita Desai

[pagination refers to Penquin edition; isbn 0-14-010859-9]

1. What kind of person is Tara? What characterizes her relationship with Bim both when they were children growing up and in the present time frame? Do we see that relationship change during the current visit?

2. What was the ambience of the house when the children were young? Characterize the parents and their relationships to the children? What is the ambience of the house during the present visit?

3. What roles does Aunt Mira play in raising the children, forming their values? What are we to make of her gradually succumbing to alcoholism and how others react to her and her drinking?

4. What sort of boy was Raju? What do we know about him now that he is grown? What did Bim and Raju share when they were growing up? What are we to make of their "plans" to become a hero and heroine; did they succeed? Why are Bim and he now so distant? Does the relationship between Bim and Raju change during the current visit?

5. What are we to make of the Misras family? Characterize the brothers and sisters? What influence(s) does the Misras family have on the Das family? What about Mulk and his guru and his music? Is there real spirituality there? What purpose(s) does Mulk serve in the novel?

6. Are there conspicuous symbols in the novel? Perhaps the cow and well, the 78 rpm records, the rose garden and snail, the heat, the clear light of day?

7. What identifies this as a particularly Indian novel? Setting, locale, political events, attitudes--what else? Is the novel really about India in the same way say as Kanthapura and The Tiger1s Daughter are about India?

8. What role does Hyder Ali play in the novel? What does he represent, especially to Raju? Contrast the lifestyles of Hyder Ali's family and the Das family.

9. Baba, the autistic sibling, obviously does not participate much in dialogue with other characters, but he might be a benchmark to define the character of others. What role(s) does Baba play in the novel? What do we learn about others through their interactions with him?

10. What kind of man is Bakul? What about him is attractive to Tara? What did and does Bakul offer to Tara? Characterize Bakul's and Bim's interactions.

11. What has brought Bim to her current situation at the beginning of the novel? Describe that situation. Why doesn't her date with Dr. Biswas grow into something more? Is she happy, satisfied, frustrated, or what? Does she change over the course of the novel?

12. What might the title mean, refer to? What are the specific echoes of the title in the novel? Does the novel end on a positive or negative note?

13. On page 158, Tara wants the "problem of Bim," "the question of Bim" to be settled tonight? What exactly is the "problem" to which she refers? What is the source of the problem? Does it get solved?