Heroes and Heroism in Anita Desai's Clear Light of Day

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Heroes and Heroism in Anita Desai's Clear Light of Day

When one asks a child, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" a usual response is "a fireman" or "a ballerina." In Anita Desai's Clear Light of Day, however, the young Bim and Raja are somewhat more ambitious; they answer that they want to be a hero and heroine. Later, Bim asks somewhat bitterly, "The hero and heroine-where are they? Down at the bottom of the well-gone, disappeared" (157). Bim has lost track of her heroes; however, Raja and Tara have not. The three siblings have very different relationships to heroic ideals.

Raja is the most obviously hero-conscious character. First of all, he is extremely artistic and idealistic, so he adores poetry, in both English and Urdu. He merely reads and quotes English poets, such as Byron and Tennyson; however, he goes farther in imitating the style of Urdu poetry in his own verses. As Bim thinks,

The poems were really very derivative. On each of them she could clearly see the influence of the poets he loved and copied. There was no image, no metaphor, no turn of phrase that was original. Each was a meticulous imitation of what he had read, memorized and recited . . . . One could see in them only a wish to emulate and to step where his heroes had stepped before him. (168)

Raja is not trying to be an original poet on his own; he simply tries to be exactly like his heroes, which he does perfectly. Through the Urdu poetry that he so admires, Raja becomes acquainted with his Muslim landlord and neighbor, Hyder Ali. At first Raja merely has permission to read and borrow the books in Hyder Ali's library, but increasingly he becomes involved in that family's household. There he learns to app...

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...s Bim, because she strikes a balance between idealism and reality. Raja is completely out of touch and gets so carried away by his glorious plans that he disregards the dangerous political situation which makes his plans impossible. At the other extreme, Tara lacks dreams, so that she has no goals for herself and needs Bakul to force her to "be strong" and "execute her will" (17). Bim, however, has entertained ideals, had them crushed, and finally come to terms with her disillusionment. Bim is the heroine in Clear Light of Day.

Work Cited

Desai, Anita. Clear Light of Day. Great Britain: Penguin Books, 1980.

Professor's Comments: Although your conclusion on Bim-as-heroine could use development--this is a fine and full exploration of the issue from your own angle. Good use of supporting illustration, and tecnically perfect.

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