Bim Character Analysis in Clear Light of Day
Bim: A Realistic Portrayal
Anita Desai’s delineation of Bim in Clear Light of Day is her major triumph in the writing of this novel. Bim emerges as the most conspicuous figure in the story and is, therefore, to be regarded as the protagonist of the novel. Bim is an introvert, and Anita Desai is more interested in the inner landscape of Bim. In doing so, Anita Desai has given us ample evidence of her capacity for psychological analysis. In this respect she has, at certain places in the novel, followed the technique of the stream of consciousness.
Anita Desai has given us a detailed account of the childhood of Raja, Bim, Tara, and Baba. Several episodes of Bim’s early life have been described, one of them being her cruelty towards Tara in maliciously cutting off Tara’s hair. As a girl, Bim shares many of Raia’s interests, Raja is fond of poetry. She also accompanies Raja on his excursions to the melon-fields across the river Jumna to eat the ripe fruit growing there in abundance. Bim assiduously attends upon Raja during his illness which is due to tuberculosis, and feels very solicitous about his condition all the time. She is much attached to her younger brother Baba also. In fact, it has been suspected that there is an incestuous element in her love for both her brothers, but we do not share this suspicion.
Bim’s Reaction to Bakul’s Desire to Marry Tara
Bim indulges in some light-hearted conversation with Bakul when he informs her of his desire to marry Tara. Bim raises no objection at all to Bakul’s wish and, in fact, encourages him to go ahead because they are all living in modern times and because Tara is a “modern” girl who is free to choose a man of her own liking to be her husband. Bim here also says jokingly that, by marrying Tara, Bakul would be lessening her domestic responsibilities and burdens. She does not feel the least jealousy of Tara. though Tara, who is five years younger than Bim, is going to marry so soon.
Bim’s Reaction to the Misra Sisters
Bim feels quite annoyed with the Misra sisters, Jaya and Sarla, for getting engaged instead of going to college to pursue higher studies. Bim declares that she would never marry. She goes on to say that she would never leave Baba Raia, and Miramasi. In doing this, Bim shows a rare Spirit of self-sacrifice, though she excites our pity too.
Bim’s Activities at School
As a student at school, Bim had distinguished herself, particularly in the extra-curricular sphere of school life. As a student, Bim was an active, involved, and purposeful person. She showed herself to be a born organizer and, therefore, rose to be the patrol leader of the Bluebirds a later, of the Girl Guides. Subsequently she became the captain of the netball team, class prefect and, in her final year, Head Girl. Although she spent little time at her studies, she achieved better results in the examinations than those bespectacled girls who had been toiling hard over their text-books.
Bim’s Unfavourable Reaction to Dr. Biswas’s Courtship of Her
Bim reacts most unfavourably to Dr. Biswas’s courtship of her, and she summarily rejects his proposal of marriage, even though he is very earnest, and even ardent, in his desire to marry her. She does accompany him to a musical concert, and she even goes to take tea at his house in response to his invitation; but she does so under great pressure from him. She does possess certain qualities which attract men towards her, but she herself is not romantically inclined towards them.
Bim’s Reaction to Raja’s Decision
Bim resents very deeply Raja’s decision to go to Hyderabad, and to leave her and Baba to fend for themselves. She does not give any outward sign of her anger on this occasion, maintaining a frigid silence and a cold reserve which any perceptive observer would have interpreted indignation. She is certainly justified in feeling resentful of Raja’s move because Raja, as the eldest member of the family, should have realized responsibility towards his younger sister and younger brother when parents were already dead.
Despite her keen interest in the extra-curricular activities at school, Bim grows into a highly sensitive person. She feels most annoyed when she receives a condescending and patronizing letter about the old house in which she and Baba are living as tenants. After the death of Hyder Ali, the original owner of this house, Raja and Benazir have become its new owners, and Raja then writes a letter to Bim about the rent of the house. From this time onwards, Bim begins to harbour a bitter grievance against Raja. A brother, who had once been very intimate with, and close to her, has now written a letter to her in his capacity as the new owner of the house, forgetting that he is also her brother.
In her mood of introspection, Bim finds that there have been flaws and inadequacies in her own behaviour towards Raja, Tara, and Bim. She now begins to realize that she herself had been somewhat intolerant towards them all. In this mood she begins to relent towards Raja. Then, after going through the dying words of Emperor Aurangzeb, she melts into tears, and further softens towards Raja. Then she tears off the letter which Raja had written to her many years back and which had offended her deeply. She now forgives Raja for his “unforgivable” letter. At the same time she now experiences a flood of affection rising in her heart not only for Raja but also for Tara, for Baba, and for her dead, aunt Mira. Then she sends a loving message to Raja through Tara, suggesting to him that he should come to Delhi to meet her and Baba, and informing him that she would be waiting for him. Sending this message is a noble action on Bim’s part; and it greatly raises her in our esteem.
Time, the Destroyer, and Time the Preserver
In the last episode of the novel, Bim, listening to a song sung by the aged guru of Mulk Misra, is reminded of T.S. Eliot‘s line: “Time the destroyer is time the preserver.” This line arouses in her the thought that the old house, in which she and Baba are now living, was the soil from which all of them (Raja, Tara, Baba, and she herself) had sprung, and that her deepest self lived there, and not only her own deepest self but the deepest selves of all the others (including aunt Mira). Bim now comes to the conclusion that the old rented house is the unbreakable bond which united them all, and still unites them.
Bim: A Convincing Portrayal
We have all heard of Joan of Arc who was a warrior, we have all heard of Florence Nightingale, who was the embodiment of compassion and the spirit of service, and we have all heard of Mother Teresa, the guiding spirit of the Sisters of Charity. All these were heroines, and Bim was an ardent admirer of the first two, because the third was unknown in the days when this novel was written. But Bim herself is a heroine also, though of a different mould. She is a miniature heroine, leading a life of self-denial and self-abnegation, without parading or flaunting her spirit of self-sacrifice. She is a heroine in the limited, domestic sphere of life. Her achievement is not spectacular, but it yet deserves our admiration. Whether such women are to be found in real life is a matter which everybody has to decide for himself.
To some readers, Bim may seem a mythical person, a figure of the fancy, or an example of wishful thinking on the part of her creator (Anita Desai). To such readers, the portrayal of Bim would appear to be far-fetched and remote from real life; while the portrayal of Tara would strike them as realistic to the core. We would also add that it is women like Bim who preserve family ties and who strengthen the bond among brothers and sisters.
Bim: Not an Idealized Portrait
Bim’s is by no means an idealized portrait. She has her faults and flaws. In the early stages of her life she is egoistical, proud, and too self-assertive (except in her relations with Raja). She is frankful scornful of Tara who is intellectually inferior to her, and she continues to be scornful of the Misra sisters. She strikes Bakul as brusque and authoritarian; and her attitude towards Dr. Biswas is arrogant. Later, her continuing to stay unmarried shows a certain deficiency in her. No woman can achieve true happiness in life without becoming a wife and a mother. In fact, a woman remains incomplete without marriage and motherhood. But, of course, Anita Desai has deliberately portrayed Bim as a confirmed spinster.
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