Hullabaloo In The Guava Orchard Essays

Oppression and Freedom Symbolism

Freedom and oppression are prevalent themes in today's society. They are popular themes that writers write on and about through use of symbolism. Writers often tackle just one of these two themes, but Kiran Desai includes both of these themes in her novel. In her literary work, Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard, Kiran Desai uses symbols to underscore her central themes of oppression and freedom. Through use of the symbols of the guava tree, the guava, and Sampath's father, the themes of oppression and freedom are effectively emphasized.

The guava tree is a strong symbol representing the central theme of freedom. When Sampath sought peace and freedom, he fled to the guava orchard and he climbed up a guava tree; he immediately felt "his breathing slow and a wave of peace and contentment overtook him" (Desai, 50). Sampath found contentment and joy through his new-found freedom in the guava tree; people remarked that he had a "happier, calmer face" (73). Sampath felt safe and free from restraint in the guava tree, "Yes, he was in the right place at last" (51); he had found his "happy" place in the guava tree among the monkeys. Because Desai used the effective symbol of the guava tree, her central theme of freedom was effectively conveyed.

Next, the symbol of the guava also gives important emphasis to the theme of freedom. When Sampath holds a guava he feels a special connection with the "beautiful fruit filled with an undiscovered constellation of young stars" (204), Sampath wishes to become a part of it. At the end of the novel, all that is left of Sampath is "a guava, a single guava that was much bigger than the others...On one side was a brown mark, rather like a birthmark" (207); due to the brown mark on it, we are led to believe that Sampath "died" and turned into a guava. Finally, Sampath's wish of dying and ultimate freedom is fulfilled when " ...the Cinema Monkey picked up the fruit...calm-eyed and wise, holding it...

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This enchanting first novel, set in the Indian village of Shakhot, details the agreeable chaos that ensues from its underachieving protagonist’s decision to abandon the workaday world and live in a tree. Sampath Chawla was born during an insufferably hot summer (when “The bees flew drunk on nectar that had turned alcoholic”) at the precise moment that a Red Cross plane delivering supplies to “famine camps” inadvertently showered its bounty on grateful Shakhot. This wry allusion to Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children is only one of numerous grace notes in a beguiling narrative that displays its character’s eccentricities abundantly while never reducing them to caricatures. Sampath, at 20 having become a morose failure as a postal employee, attains widespread celebrity when his matter-of-fact revelations, delivered from the guava tree where he’s taken residence, show a deep knowledge of his neighbors’ secrets (he’s gained it from secretly reading their mail), convincing all and sundry that “the Hermit of Shakhot” is “one of an unusual spiritual nature, his childlike ways being coupled with unfathomable wisdom.” Things grow more complicated when a passel of “cinema monkeys” (so named for their harassment of female moviegoers) join Sampath in his tree, the Atheist Society arranges surveillance of his “activity,” and a research scientist, a retired Brigadier, a police superintendent, and other suspicious citizens lock horns with a hastily assembled Monkey Protection Society. Desai’s affectionate scrutiny of her maladroit protagonist is further sweetened, as it were, by deft comic portraits of Sampath’s family, including most memorably his food-fixated mother Kulfi and his desperate father, a “practical” martinet who laments: “What good is it to be the head of a family when you had a son who ran and sat in a tree?— Newcomer Desai is the daughter of highly praised Indian novelist Anita Desai. It’s a pleasure to report that this particular fruit of a distinguished literary lineage, having fallen rather far from the tree, is producing bountiful and delicious results. (First printing of 50,000, author tour)

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