I consider Anita Desai’s “Clear Light of Day” as a poetic novel as it considerably deals with symbols and suggestions. Her use of “the house” imagery is at the center which signifies dust, dullness and decay.
As the novel begins, you’ll notice that the house of the Das family does not change except decays. Like Anita Desai’s other novels, the setting is Old Delhi. The interesting thing you’ll notice is she skillfully synthesizes the image of house with the lives of the Das family. The house is associated with sickness, dust, and disorder. And for that reason, the “grey” color is described again and again.
So, the house reflects the mentality and sickness of the entire Das family. In other words, nobody in the Das household enjoys life, all merely exists! The sickness and disorder pervade in the mind of the family members. This house is exactly in contrast with the house of Haider Ali and that is why Raja gets attracted towards it.
For this house of Das family, the symbol of “web” is described which is apt from every point of view. As I say the house does not change but decays, it is fair to remark that because of such sickness and dusty atmosphere of the house everybody feels “suffocated” and that is why they try to find escape in one thing or another. For that reason, Raja is attracted towards Haider Ali’s house. Tara often goes to Mira Mansi and finally, she succeeds in escaping completely by marrying off Bakul. Baba seeks escape in music and plays his gramophone all the time. Bimla becomes the professor of history. In this way, the house plays a vital role behind the escapist nature of the Das household.
Anita Desai beautifully describes the state of the Delhi city. Sometimes, the whole city seems to be dead and the houses are referred to in the novel as the “tombs”. The house of the Das family seems to be deserted and therefore, Bimla does not prevent Baba playing his gramophone loudly because she thinks that the silence of the house is more dreadful. For her, the noise produced by Baba’s gramophone gives peace to her. Even when Mr. Das and his wife were alive, they were just like the outsiders as Mr. Das was known for his entrance. The mother was either engrossed in the cards or confined to the bed. That is why Tara sometimes feels that even the ghost of her father could create the noise of papers and nothing else!
The decaying aspect of the house is felt on the Das family and this why the whole family gets scattered and only Bim remains with Baba in the “dead house”. This is how, the house has symbolic significance, which plays a major role in the actions and deeds of the Das household and becomes the central episode in the novel.
IX A (Shit-I)