Clear Light of Day – chapter one
At the beginning of the chapter one, the reader discovers the siblings of the family. There are Bim, Tara, Raja and Baba. At first, the links between these characters seem really unclear. Their relationship looks knotty and messy. The atmosphere is gloomy and dark. Firstly, even though it is very early in the novel, the reader can already see that the family is used as a symbol of Indian Muslim microcosm (the country get slip up to India and Pakistan as the family blow up). Maybe it’s due to the huge difference of maturity between the two sister (the one who left home, get married and became a mother is representing the child figure). There’s also the fact that Bim is taking the mum figure, nursing her brothers and sisters, taking care of the house, keeping the garden alive and so on. However, she’s also destroying childhood memories (as the rose) to refresh everybody’s purpose. Perhaps Desai wants to remind the reader that they are grown adults, they have to let their infancy (and everything attached to it) behind them to finally move on. Perhaps the writer is trying to give a message to the reader. Finally, what if she was giving the family a chance to regenerate?
Firstly, Desai’s using a metaphor comparing the family to a rose. It says “a fully bloomed rose dangled. It came apart instantly revealing […] a few pathetic stamens”. It makes the family looks like a flower. The rose is impressive and stately on the outside but extremely weak on the inside. As some unfortunate events shake it (Tara and Raja leaving home, mum and dad dying…), the family instantly crumble and shatter. It also means that, they’re strong together but unnecessary and ridiculous when they’re separate.
This statement is supported by “a pearl […] flashed than flowed”. The pearl is incredibly gorgeous and precious (giving the hearty image of the sun rays reflecting on a sheet of crystal). However, it’s also really easy to sink. It gives the impression of a united and happy family on the outside but frail and easily breakable.
Then, what if the cause of this separation within the family would be the difference of maturity between the sisters Tara and Bim? In the novel, we know that Tara represents innocence and ignorance (for example, she would have like to see the roses beautifully attached to the tree). Therefore, Bim represents wisdom and seriousness. The first one have a soft and gentle character, as Bim has a strong feminist one. Desai reveals it by representing the two sisters in the garden. “She brought her hands together in a clap and cried, “look, a snail!”. She has the attitude of a child discovering nature, playing with animals. As she’s the one that left home got married and had two daughters, Bim is surprised.
“Tara, grown woman, mother of grown daughters, still child enough to play with a snail?”. She’s so mature and serious that she didn’t even thought about playing with a snail. She’s stunned by the immaturity of her sister. It gives the impression that the two sisters rediscover each other on this day of gathering.
Next, Desai is using the word “eagerness” to describe Tara. Maybe the writer wanted to establish an infantile ambiance with the image of an impatient child in a funfair, pulling the skirt of her mother to finally get the carousel ride he demander for hours. It gives the impression of a childhood memory, with seller of cotton candy and soft music in the background, in total contradiction with the age of Tara.
With introducing her extreme maturity, Desai probably wants to implicitly give the reader a new trait of Bim. With the passage of the “rose”, the writer possibly also wants the reader to realise that Bim is destroying childhood. The theme of literale death is also discussed. As the rose also represents childhood memories, its explosion means the death of innocence and memories of a passed life. Therefore, when she makes the rose fall in front of Tara’s eyes, maybe she wants to make her understand that she should grow and move on.
However, the word “firefly” in the poem she reads to Baba is also really symbolic. The message given to the readers is that a regeneration is possible for their sister’s friendship.
Finally, Bim is representing the mother figure. The reader first realises it when she asks Tara “did you sleep at all?”. She’s leaving at the family house. Therefore, she’s now the one that welcome the other family members. It gives the impression of a mum, really worrying about the welfare of her children. She’s nursing them, as if she was trying to recreate a hearty place in the old house full of unpleasant memories.
Her overprotective mother side is also revealed in the passage where she “sat beside her brother’s bed that summer he was ill”. All day and night long, during the whole summer, she took care of her ill brother. During what normal teenagers would have went out to laugh and have a good time, she kept remaining at his beside, nursing him, reading his favourite book, make sure he was sleeping. It gives the impression of an responsible adult, while she only was a child. She had an education in old India (which was a very big deal at the time), became a history teacher, took care of her autistic brother, and also did everything to keep family ties. Here is where the reader understand her strong feminist spirit.
To conclude, Desai is looking and searching under the cover of this Indian family. As if she did not stop at the sight of the iceberg but looked below to understand. At the end of chapter one, the reader know that the family’s relationships are really complex, that maybe it is because of the difference of maturity between Tara and Bim, that Bim is having the mother figure (pergaps using a violent way to make the things change but still keeping an eye on everybody). However the character of Raja is no that much cited, the way the sisters talk about him and the fact that the writer talks about him using the first pronoun is hitting a big distance. Finally, the title of the novel is still scheming but a playback track is open for the reader to achieve the outcome.