Abstract

A great deal has been written about Mr Biswas's quest for identity, and critics are generally agreed that this search is inseparable from his search for a house.^ It has been insufficiently remarked, however, that the idea of identity is bound up with conceptions of language in A House for Mr Biswas. The ways in which language is conceived and used in the novel play a major role in the characterization and development of the protagonist. Somewhere between the group of foreign-looking old men who cannot speak English but 'are afraid to leave the familiar temporariness"^ or life in Trinidad, and the English speaking grandmother, Bipti, Mr Biswas flickers between states: identity and nonentity. This unstable situation is aggravated by the further complication that none of the categories themselves, Hindi-speaking, English-speaking, identity, nonentity, represents a stable position, positive or negative; hence Mr Biswas's dilemma.

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