Overview of "Studies in the Park"

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Editors: Elizabeth Bellalouna , Michael L. LaBlanc , and Ira Mark Milne
Date: 2000
Document Type: Work overview; Critical essay
Length: 1,980 words

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"Studies in the Park" by Anita Desai is a richly symbolic coming-of-age story. In it Suno, a young man preparing for exams at the academy, leaves behind his awkward adolescence and enters adulthood in the span of three months. Unlike those in many coming-of-age stories, Suno's transition into adulthood is not marked by a religious ceremony, a civil promotion, or a secret ritual. Neither is Suno's rite of passage defined, as many are, by a single or a series of tragic events. Instead, his metamorphosis is initiated by his finding in the park a place to study, furthered by his accidental discovery, and completed by his finding within himself a balance of mind, body, and soul.When he later returns to the park, he is no longer a boy but a man whose life now strikes a previously missing balance.

In another important aspect, Suno's allegorical journey, complete with its startling epiphany, diverges slightly from other stories in this genre. In many coming-of-age stories the protagonist faces a crisis--the death of a loved one or a challenge that requires maturity or courage--that pulls the protagonist from the security of youthful innocence into the difficulties of adulthood. In these stories the crisis constitutes the climax, and the resolution lies in surviving the crisis. Readers invest neither time nor thought in predicting what adulthood holds for these characters. In this aspect Desai's tale transcends the standard coming-of-age story, for in her allegory readers are allowed to see, even encouraged to consider, the hopeful future that awaits Suno.

As the story begins, Suno lives a crowded life in a crowded home with his family. Readers are first introduced to Suno's mother, a woman who tends her family almost fanatically. She is constantly cutting and frying, monitoring her youngest children, checking in on Suno, and offering milk. She is probably uneducated given the setting of the story, and she is a disciplined woman who adheres to a strict schedule of preparing meals, sending her husband to work, and sending her younger children to school.

Suno's father enters into the story from the bedroom where he has just listened to the news in six different languages. In this way he serves as a foil to Suno's mother because he represents the educated individual whom Suno is destined to become. Yet, like his wife, he also represents discipline. He checks his watch as he enters the kitchen and asks for his meal, and readers have the impression that he is as regular as the cuckoo that comes out to announce the hour and no more effectual. He goes off to work, but we do not know where or to what job. When he exhorts Suno to pass his exams so that he can get a job, the father mentions nothing of what type of job this should be. The younger children are, in Suno's words, "wild." They are noisy and messy, throwing their school satchels into his room and leaving their greasy...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|H1420031552