Biswas - the main protagonist of V.S. Naipaul’s A
House for Mr. Biswas - never has an opportunity to develop a sense of
self. He is always finding himself in situations that make him feel
powerless. Due to this powerlessness he is always in situations where he
is having people tell him what to do. He never has any personal power.
Mr. Biswas realizes that with money and possessions a person tends to
have more power in society. Indeed, for Mr. Biswas owning a house
serves as a symbol which illustrates his ability to realize a self-identity
and gain personal power to take control of his life.
Mr. Biswas is caught in the grasp of feudalism. He is trapped in the
rigid class structure that controls his society. He is always listening to
others and never makes decisions about his own life or well-being. Mr.
Biswas is a “ wanderer with no place he could call his own, with no family
except that which he was to attempt to create out of the engulfing world
of the Tulsis” (40). Hanuman House is the paradigm of the feudal society.
It has a hierarchy and very strict social structure. The Gods, Seth , and
Mrs. Tulsi serve as the hierarchy and rulers of Hanuman House. Everyone
else is just another face in the mob of people who work to benefit the
Tulsi’s while sacrificing their own well-being.
Mr. Biswas doesn’t own anything that has much value. He has
enough clothes to hang on a nail. By owning a house Mr. Biswas gains
personal power - something that he never has- which allowed him to feel
that he was important. He was able to live by his own rules , support his
family, and do things for his benefit and not for the benefit of others. Mr.
Biswas is now able to truly live by his motto: “ paddle your own canoe”
(107). This new found personal power allows Mr. Biswas to live a fulfilling
life that he can be proud of. He never has to take orders from anyone
ever again because he is the master of himself.
The episode with the dollhouse is a symbolic of Mr. Biswas’ feeling
of owning his own house. In Hanuman House everyone is supposed to be
equal. Equality is a virtue in the Tulsi household. Nobody is supposed to
challenge this idea because it is seen as disrespect to the Tulsi family. Mr.
Biswas’ purchase of the dollhouse for his daughter , Savi, manifests his
true feelings and aspirations. He wants the best for his family. This
dollhouse is the epitome of his dream house. This house represents what
he wants to own for himself. By owning this house Mr. Biswas is able to
challenge the ideas of this feudal society. He conquers all of the obstacles
that are placed in front of him by this rigid society. When Shama crushes
the house into a million pieces this is a symbol of all of the obstacles that
Mr. Biswas comes across. He is not going to let this dream of his be
crushed because it isn’t the way which is accepted in this society. He
does what he wants to do and doesn’t care what is going to be said about