Fasting

In Fasting, Desai uses point of view, diction, and dialogue to show that Arun is scared of the unknown; that his indian background leads him to not be familiar with nature, as as a result he is frightened by it.

Arun’s point of view is explored, with his thoughts telling us what he thinks of a beautiful summer day. “But how passionately he prefers its post office, its shops, its dry-cleaning stores” shows us how much Arun wants to be indoors. He loves the small buildings in this isolated small town. Phrases such as “back of his neck begin to prickle, as if in warning” show how opposed he is to the outdoors. He takes what is a beautiful summer day, the kind of day most people would enjoy, and he manages to make it seem negative in his head. Even at the very start of the piece, he “stands despondent” and is unable to make any excuses for staying at home, or in the town. He doesn’t want to go to the beach, and even when he does go, he dislikes it. Since Arun is indian, we can assume that he is from a city, and not from a small village. His had probably spent his entire life in a small area, not really exploring outside of the city. After all, there was no need to.  All of these details reinforce that Arun doesn’t want to try new things; he is quite literally afraid of the unknown.

The diction that is used throughout the piece tells the reader how Arun is frightened. Phrases like “he starts wildly” show that he is almost amazed by the fact that he may have to go out in nature. “ugly, jarring note” gives the reader the impression that the sounds are discordant. Arun takes the sounds of nature, and the author uses diction to almost twist it. Instead of feeling at ease, the words convey a sense of nervousness; something is not alright. Finally, diction is used to make it seem like the woods want to actively stifle human life, with “creeping curtain of insidious green, these grasses stirring with insidious life, and bushes with poisonous berries”. This phrase is used to say that the active, lively woods are unnatural, and that even the innocent seeming bushes are poisonous to Arun. The use of diction to twist a summer day into a scary forest implies that he is panicky about going to the lake.

Finally, dialogue is used in this work to show a contrast between Arun and his family. “‘Summertime,’ he hears her singing, ‘when the living is eeh-zee—’” shows that faced with the same set of facts, the family members are drawing very different conclusions. The only reason for this to happen would be the background that each grew up in. Arun grew up in crowded India; the Pattons have been close to nature since they were born. This illustrates the difference in the two worldviews. “we’re not going to sit here waiting for them to come home—oh no.’” shows that Mrs. Patton is an independent woman. However, it also shows that Arun is willing to follow. He isn’t going outside because he wants to try something new, he is going outside because once his host family has their minds made up, they intend to follow through with something. This is important because of the lack of something: Arun never wants to go outside. Because his host family wants to, we can see that he is unhappy about the situation, but compliant.

Anita Desai masterfully uses strong diction, focused dialogue, and Arun’s point of view to show how he is scared of the unknown. These are also used to reinforce how Arun’s indian background colors his way of looking at a pure summer day. The meaning of the story is how the unknown is always frightening.