How does Anita Desai exploit language in "A Village by the Sea" to give us an insight into Indian tradition and culture as reflected through the life of the people in Thul?

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Question: How does Anita Desai exploit language in "A Village by the Sea" to give us an insight into Indian tradition and culture as reflected through the life of the people in Thul?

Answer: A Village by the Sea is Anita Desai's "private attempt to seize upon the raw materials of life and is no reflection of Indian society, politics or character", (Desai's comment on her work) but the novel is on the whole based on Indian Culture. Anita Desai has successfully blended India's tradition, environment and a bunch of more problems that surround the poor Indian family who are being torn apart by illness and alcohol. The children of the family work and fight to keep their family together. On the way they have to deal with change and tragedy.

Anita Desai through the book and life of people in Thul explains that the term culture includes arts, beliefs, customs, inventions, language, technology and traditions. She creates a vivid picture of family, of life in a small Indian village and of all the teeming hustle and bustle of Bombay.

The novel is set in a village on the west coast of India, some where around Bombay, a land of varied cultures and diverse traditions. Traditions in the life of a Hindu play a vital role and it is these traditions only which has kept the Hindu religion alive today, as these traditions have been followed generation after generation and is hoped to continue till the end of the world. Tradition is the main aspect focused on in Anita Desai's book.

The book revolves around poverty stricken people and people who face hardships and difficulties from day to day. Anita Desai uses vivid imagery for the readers to visualize the lives of people in these rural villages such as Thul. The setting of the home immediately enforces the idea of poverty onto the readers. "The hut should have been re-thatched years ago- the earthen walls were crumbling, the windows gaped without any shutters. There was no smoke to be seen curling up from under a cooking pot on a fire", this shows that the families did not even have enough to protect themselves, that is need to shelter and food. She uses her descriptive style to show evidence to the readers how a family was forced to life is such unpleasant conditions. The words 'slipping, crumbling and gaped' enforce the idea of the pain and anguish the families in the village had to experience. The word 'gaped' is personified and windows are been given the human quality of gaping that is they are always in the search of happiness and wealth. What city people threw, villagers admire, take and use, "she carefully folded up the torn sheets and put them away in a neat heap..." this how the poverty stricken villagers are. Poverty is evident in the novel, as she has linked the lives of the common people in Thul with the lives of two very young children, and their struggle to survive she does this by informing us that that life was not so easy for Lila and Hari as their father, "had sold his boat to pay his debts," and they once, "had a buffalo but, she too, had been sold to pay debts." Anita Desai very effectively emphasizes on the fact "had been sold to pay debts" through her literal technique of repetition. The family's food habits also expose their simplicity and misery as "there was nothing to eat with the chapattis but a pinch of salt and a few green chilies." This line also gathers sympathy from the readers for the family as they feel pitiful for those whose don't poses proper means to stay and survive. " pot on a fire" this statement shows us the Indian tradition of cooking food; as they didn't not use the gas or cooking range to make their food but used to fire wood. 'Dry bread and dry rice' was all they ate and this makes us introspect how fortunate we are of not being in their place where even the basic necessities of life couldn't be satisfied. The children in the village were also robbed off their childhood as they are made to shoulder responsibilities at a tender age; they made these sacrifices for the welfare of their families. Lila's poverty forces her to take on responsibilities very early in life, "it was time to start work." "She had given up school a long ago..." as she was forced into labour because her father "took to drinking toddy" and neglected his job as a father. This shows that the education in the village was not of primary importance and when the children reached a particular age they had to do household chores or supplement the family's income. Through the lives of Hari and Lila we get a picture how the rest of the village survived. In a way they represent the rest of the village.
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Anita Desai has admirably described the attire of these villagers. She uses the attire of the villagers as a means to give a deeper insight into Indian customs and traditions. She shows her aptitude to describe and respect the villagers for what they were. Women wore vibrant colored saris, and this particular aspect shows how the women tried to brighten their dull lives with color. Anita Desai has described these saris to have bright colors and patterns that remind one of spring, a season of happiness and joy. Lila whose is only thirteen had to also employ the ...

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