Overview of "Studies in the Park"

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Author: Jennifer Bussey
Editors: Elizabeth Bellalouna , Michael L. LaBlanc , and Ira Mark Milne
Date: 2000
Document Type: Work overview; Critical essay
Length: 1,596 words

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One of the most prominent Indian authors writing in English, Anita Desai is known primarily for her novels. Her short fiction, however, displays many of the same techniques, such as her distinctive and evocative use of imagery. "Studies in the Park" is marked by Desai's masterful use of sensory images to create atmosphere and herald change. The result is a story with a strong sense of place, and one that shows how the main character's external environment profoundly impacts his internal struggle. Desai's detailed descriptions of the sounds of Suno's home and of the park show the reader what those places are like, and point up their negative and positive impacts on Suno. In addition, much of Desai's fiction centers on the personal struggles of Indian men and women trying to cope with the contemporary demands of family and society, and this short story is a variation on that recurring theme.Up to this point, sounds have represented annoyance and distraction. But the rhythmic sounds of the park, in contrast to the chaotic ones at home, enable him to disconnect from the external world while sitting squarely in the middle of it.

In "Studies in the Park," Desai relies heavily on sounds--from family members' voices to kitchen noises--to describe Suno's surroundings and how he feels in those surroundings. At the beginning of the story, as he studies at home for the exam that will determine his options in the workforce, he feels like the world is closing in on him. He is under tremendous pressure from his family to study hard and do well. His father constantly reminds him, "Remember Suno, I expect good results from you. Study hard, Suno." The pressure increases when his father says, "You must get a first [the highest grade], Suno . . . must get a first, or else you won't get a job. Must get a job, Suno." In addition to his father's words, the chaotic sounds of Suno's home life include his mother's constant chopping and frying in the kitchen, and his siblings' running and screaming. Desai describes discordant sounds on every page to reflect how Suno experiences this environment. Her words and phrases include "voice of doom," "hissing," "clash, clutter and break," "screech," "bawl," "whine," "howls," and "croaked." Such words make clear that the sounds of the household are an assault on Suno's ears and psyche. In fact, the story begins...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|H1420031551