A House for Mr Biswas
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"A House for Mr Biswas" Summary

By V.S. Naipaul

fiction | 640 pages | Published in 2016


Estimated read time: 5 min read

One Sentence Summary

A man in Trinidad struggles to find his place in society as he dreams of owning his own house.


"A House for Mr. Biswas" is a renowned novel written by V.S. Naipaul, which was first published in 1961. This captivating book tells the life story of Mohun Biswas, a Hindu man of Indian origin who struggles to find his place and establish a sense of identity in Trinidad. Through the lens of Mr. Biswas' life, the novel explores themes of postcolonialism, identity, family, and the desire for freedom and independence. Naipaul's masterful storytelling and vivid descriptions make "A House for Mr. Biswas" a compelling and poignant read.

Brief Synopsis

The novel is set in Trinidad, a Caribbean island that was once a British colony. It spans several decades, beginning in the early 20th century. The story revolves around the life of Mohun Biswas, a man of Indian descent who is born into poverty and hardship. From a young age, Mr. Biswas is determined to escape the limitations of his circumstances and build a life of his own.

The plot follows Mr. Biswas as he navigates various challenges and setbacks. He becomes a minor journalist, marries into the wealthy Tulsi family, and eventually finds himself locked in a tumultuous relationship with his domineering in-laws. Throughout his life, Mr. Biswas dreams of owning his own house, which he sees as a symbol of independence and autonomy.

The setting of the novel, Trinidad, serves as a backdrop to Mr. Biswas' journey. Naipaul vividly portrays the multicultural society of Trinidad, where different ethnic groups coexist but face tensions and discrimination. The colonial legacy and postcolonial struggles shape the social and economic landscape within which Mr. Biswas must find his place.

Main Events

Birth of Mr. BiswasMr. Biswas is born into poverty and faces various hardships.
Marriage to TaraMr. Biswas marries into the Tulsi family.
Living with the TulsisMr. Biswas experiences many conflicts with his in-laws.
Becoming a journalistMr. Biswas starts working as a journalist.
Pursuit of his own houseMr. Biswas dreams of owning a house, symbolizing freedom.
Tragic AccidentMr. Biswas' son Anand dies in a tragic accident.
Building his own houseMr. Biswas finally begins building his own house.
Death of Mr. BiswasMr. Biswas passes away, having achieved his dream.

Main Characters

  1. Mohun Biswas: The protagonist of the novel, Mr. Biswas is a determined individual who strives for independence and self-identity in Trinidad. He is a complex character, juggling the challenges of family, work, and dreams of owning his own house.
  2. Tara Tulsi: Mr. Biswas' wife, Tara, comes from an affluent family. Their relationship is often strained due to cultural and societal differences, and she struggles to find her own identity within the confines of her traditional role.
  3. Anand Biswas: Mr. Biswas' eldest son, Anand, symbolizes the hope and dreams of the next generation. His tragic death shapes Mr. Biswas' perspective on life and motivates him to pursue his dreams more fervently.
  4. Shama Tulsi: Tara's younger sister, Shama, develops a close bond with Mr. Biswas and provides him with emotional support throughout his struggles. She becomes a significant figure in his life.

Themes and Insights

1. Postcolonialism and Identity: "A House for Mr. Biswas" explores the impact of colonialism on individuals and societies. Through Mr. Biswas' experiences, Naipaul highlights the struggles faced by those caught between their ancestral heritage and the culture imposed by colonial powers. Mr. Biswas wrestles with his Indian roots while trying to assimilate into Trinidad's multicultural society.

2. Family and Relationships: The novel delves into the complexities of family dynamics and the role they play in shaping one's life. Mr. Biswas' relationships with his in-laws and his own children are fraught with tension and a struggle for power. Naipaul demonstrates how familial ties can both uplift and restrict individuals.

3. The Pursuit of Independence: A central theme in the book is Mr. Biswas' unwavering desire for independence. His dream of owning a house symbolizes his yearning for freedom and a sense of belonging. Throughout the narrative, Naipaul explores the sacrifices and compromises one must make to attain independence, as well as the toll it takes on personal relationships.

4. Social and Economic Struggles: "A House for Mr. Biswas" portrays the socio-economic disparities that exist within Trinidad's postcolonial society. Mr. Biswas, born into poverty, faces numerous obstacles as he attempts to improve his social standing. The novel sheds light on the systemic barriers that exist for marginalized individuals.

Reader's Takeaway

"A House for Mr. Biswas" is a thought-provoking and emotionally resonant novel that provides readers with a deep exploration of identity, family, and the pursuit of independence. Naipaul's storytelling prowess paints a vivid picture of Trinidadian society, allowing readers to immerse themselves in Mr. Biswas' struggles and triumphs. The novel serves as a reminder of the universal human desire for self-determination and the challenges that arise in the search for personal fulfillment.


V.S. Naipaul's "A House for Mr. Biswas" is a timeless masterpiece that delves into themes of postcolonialism, identity, and the pursuit of independence. Through the compelling story of Mohun Biswas, the novel offers both a captivating narrative and profound social commentary. Naipaul's powerful prose and vivid characterizations make "A House for Mr. Biswas" a must-read for anyone seeking a deeper understanding of the complexities of human existence and the impact of historical legacies on individual lives.

A House for Mr Biswas FAQ

  1. What is 'A House for Mr Biswas' about?

    A House for Mr Biswas is a novel written by V.S. Naipaul that tells the story of Mohun Biswas, an Indian man living in Trinidad who strives for independence and a sense of belonging by owning his own house.

  2. Who is the author of 'A House for Mr Biswas'?

    The author of 'A House for Mr Biswas' is V.S. Naipaul, a Trinidadian-born British writer and Nobel laureate.

  3. Is 'A House for Mr Biswas' based on a true story?

    'A House for Mr Biswas' is a work of fiction, but it is inspired by the life of Naipaul's father and the experiences of Indian immigrants in Trinidad.

  4. When was 'A House for Mr Biswas' first published?

    'A House for Mr Biswas' was first published in 1961.

  5. What genre does 'A House for Mr Biswas' belong to?

    'A House for Mr Biswas' is a novel that falls under the genres of literary fiction and postcolonial literature.

  6. What are the major themes explored in 'A House for Mr Biswas'?

    Some of the major themes explored in 'A House for Mr Biswas' include the search for identity, the longing for a sense of belonging, the desire for independence, and the impact of colonization on personal and cultural identity.

  7. Is 'A House for Mr Biswas' part of a series?

    'A House for Mr Biswas' is a standalone novel and is not part of a series.

  8. Does 'A House for Mr Biswas' have any adaptations?

    Yes, 'A House for Mr Biswas' was adapted into a play in 1987 and a television miniseries in 2014.

  9. What is the writing style of 'A House for Mr Biswas'?

    The writing style of 'A House for Mr Biswas' is characterized by Naipaul's precise and detailed description of characters and settings, as well as his exploration of complex themes through the protagonist's journey.

  10. Is 'A House for Mr Biswas' recommended for a specific audience?

    'A House for Mr Biswas' is recommended for readers interested in postcolonial literature, immigrant experiences, and stories of personal struggle and triumph.