A House for Mr Biswas
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"A House for Mr Biswas" Characters Analysis

By V.S. Naipaul

fiction | 640 pages | Published in 2016

With an introduction by author Teju Cole, A House for Mr Biswas is Nobel Prize in Literature winner V. S. Naipaul's unforgettable masterpiece. Heart-rending and darkly comic, it has been hailed as one of the twentieth century's finest novels, a classic that evokes a man's quest for autonomy against the backdrop of post-colonial Trinidad. He was struck again and again by the wonder of being in his own house, the audacity of it: to walk in through his own front gate, to bar entry to whoever he wished, to close his doors and windows every night. Mr. Biswas has been told since the day of his birth that misfortune will follow him – and so it has. Meaning only to avoid punishment, he causes the death of his father and the dissolution of his family. Wanting simply to flirt with a beautiful woman, he ends up marrying her, and reluctantly relying on her domineering family for support. But in spite of endless setbacks, Mr. Biswas is determined to achieve independence, and so he begins his gruelling struggle to buy a home of his own.


Estimated read time: 7 min read

List of Characters

Character NameRole
Mohun BiswasProtagonist
ShamaMr. Biswas' wife
AnandMr. Biswas' eldest son
SaviMr. Biswas' daughter
OwadMr. Biswas' son
TaraMr. Biswas' sister
SethMr. Biswas' father-in-law
Mrs. TulsiMr. Biswas' mother-in-law

Role Identification

In the novel "A House for Mr. Biswas" by V.S. Naipaul, various characters play significant roles in shaping the life and experiences of the protagonist, Mohun Biswas. These characters include his immediate family members such as his wife Shama and their children, as well as his sister Tara and his in-laws, Seth and Mrs. Tulsi. Each character contributes to Mr. Biswas' challenges, desires, and personal growth.

Character Descriptions

Mohun Biswas

Mohun Biswas, the main character of the novel, is a determined and ambitious individual who struggles to find his place in society. Born into poverty and raised in a crowded family, Mr. Biswas is relentlessly seeking independence and a sense of belonging. He marries Shama, becomes a father, and constantly battles against his insecurities. Throughout the novel, Mr. Biswas' actions and decisions are driven by his desire to own a house that symbolizes his freedom and success.


Shama, Mr. Biswas' wife, is portrayed as a supportive and patient woman. Despite the difficulties they face as a couple, she remains loyal and stands by her husband's side. Shama plays a crucial role in Mr. Biswas' life, providing him with stability, love, and care. She takes on the role of a homemaker, holding the family together while Mr. Biswas pursues his dreams and endeavors.


Anand is Mr. Biswas' eldest son who represents the hopes and dreams of his father. He is intelligent and diligent, excelling in his studies. Anand's success in education becomes a source of pride for Mr. Biswas, who sees him as his key to achieving a higher social standing. Their relationship is marked by Mr. Biswas' expectations and Anand's desire to fulfill them.


Savi is Mr. Biswas' daughter who shares a close bond with him. She is described as affectionate and sensitive, understanding her father's struggles and dreams. Savi becomes a source of emotional support for Mr. Biswas as he navigates the challenges of his life. Her presence reinforces the importance of family and love in Mr. Biswas' journey.


Owad, Mr. Biswas' son, is depicted as a mischievous and adventurous child. While not having a significant impact on the plot, Owad showcases Mr. Biswas' experiences as a father and the joys he finds in raising his children. Owad's character adds moments of lightheartedness to the narrative, highlighting the complexity of Mr. Biswas' role as a parent.


Tara is Mr. Biswas' sister, who shares a troubled relationship with him. She is assertive and independent, often expressing her dissatisfaction with her own life. Tara's presence represents Mr. Biswas' connection to his roots and the conflicts that arise from his desire for personal growth and independence versus familial obligations.

Seth and Mrs. Tulsi

Seth and Mrs. Tulsi are Mr. Biswas' in-laws. Seth, Shama's father, is a successful business owner who exerts control and influence over Mr. Biswas' life. Mrs. Tulsi, Shama's mother, plays a more passive role but remains a symbol of authority within the family. Both characters contribute to Mr. Biswas' sense of entrapment and his determination to break free from their grip.

Character Traits

Character NameTraits
Mohun BiswasDetermined, ambitious, insecure, resilient
ShamaSupportive, patient, loyal
AnandIntelligent, diligent, driven
SaviAffectionate, sensitive, understanding
OwadMischievous, adventurous
TaraAssertive, independent, conflicted
SethControlling, influential
Mrs. TulsiPassive, authoritative

Character Background

Mohun Biswas, born into poverty in rural Trinidad, grows up as one of eleven siblings in a crowded household. His childhood is marked by financial struggles and his constant search for purpose. Mohun Biswas marries Shama, becoming part of her influential family, but struggles to find his footing both within his own family and in society at large. The lack of a secure home and his ongoing conflict with his in-laws become defining factors in Mr. Biswas' life.

Character Arcs

Mohun Biswas

Mr. Biswas' character arc revolves around his desire to achieve independence and realize his dreams. His initial aspirations are focused on owning a house, which he believes will offer him the stability and social status he craves. As the story progresses, Mr. Biswas faces numerous setbacks and challenges while juggling his roles as a husband, father, and provider. Through perseverance and determination, he eventually gains a sense of self-worth and finds some level of contentment.


Shama's character arc is interwoven with Mr. Biswas' journey. She starts as a young bride, adapting to her husband's ambitions and their shared struggles. Over time, Shama evolves into a pillar of strength, holding the family together during times of hardship. Despite her initial passivity, she gradually becomes more assertive, making decisions that shape their future as a family.


Anand's character arc centers around his academic achievements and the pressure he faces to fulfill his father's expectations. Initially, Anand strives to meet these expectations, excelling in his studies. However, as he grows older, he realizes the weight of his father's dreams and must confront his own desires and passions. Anand's growth involves a shift from seeking his father's approval to finding his own path in life.


Tara's character arc highlights the conflict between traditional familial expectations and personal independence. Throughout the novel, Tara grapples with her own desires while attempting to balance her responsibilities towards her brother and their extended family. Her character development showcases the limitations that societal and familial pressures impose on individuals.


Mr. Biswas' relationships with the various characters in the novel shape his experiences and personal growth. His relationship with Shama is one of unwavering support and understanding, providing a stable foundation for Mr. Biswas' journey. The bond he shares with his children, Anand and Savi, highlights the deep love and desire for their success.

On the other hand, Mr. Biswas' relationship with his sister Tara reflects the tension between personal aspirations and familial expectations. Tara's strong-willed nature challenges Mr. Biswas' choices and creates a sense of conflict within him. His relationship with his in-laws, Seth and Mrs. Tulsi, represents the power dynamics and struggles for autonomy that Mr. Biswas faces throughout the narrative.

In conclusion, "A House for Mr. Biswas" offers a rich tapestry of characters, each influencing the protagonist's life and growth. Mohun Biswas' journey towards independence, along with the support and conflicts of those around him, sheds light on the complexities of family dynamics and the pursuit of personal aspirations.