Analysis Of Fasting Feasting By Anita Desai

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This passage from “Fasting, Feasting” by Anita Desai contrasts American and Indian cultures. Desai does this by showing the effects of culture shock on Arun, an Indian foreign exchange student living in America. Indian culture raises young boys to learn and think; whereas America, Arun’s new home, emphasizes action over thought. Arun has a hard time adjusting to his new environment, and his rigidity affects his quality of life. Desai makes use of literary devices to reveal a lonesome boy in unfamiliar surroundings. This boy, because of his foreign values and culture, is uninclined to leave the comforts of certainty.
In lines 1-11 of the passage, Desai introduces Arun as a dejected introvert. She does this by describing Arun’s stance as “despondent” (2), by having him “[start] wildly for excuses” (5) to avoid going out with his host family, and by not allowing him any dialogue. Desai shows that Arun has very little motivation to spend time with others, and that he values thought over action. His attitude comes from his Indian heritage. Indian culture values education above all else for boys, while American culture values their activity. Desai contrasts Indian and American culture by juxtaposing the male characters’ reasons to go to the beach. Arun goes because he “cannot plead work” (1), and because Mrs. Patton coerces him. Rod and Daddy, the only other men in the passage, have already gone to the lake of their own accord, to go sailing. Aruns unwillingness to go to the beach represents his culture's preference of thought over action, which is contrasted by Rod and Daddy’s initiative and readiness to go to the beach. Arun’s cultural differences from those around him make him feel isolated and affect his decisions.
Arun’s isolation is only increased by his youthful ineptitude. In lines 12-30 Desai uses juxtaposition and selections of detail to create an uncomfortable mood that highlights Arun’s worldly inexperience. The passage doesn’t mention Arun’s age, but it doesn’t need to. His “awkward problem” (23) with Melanie, where he doesn’t know whether to walk behind or in front of her, is something only an ‘awkward teen’ would do. His problem is escalated by the fact that he still lacks verbal communication.

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