A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
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Reading Response Journal #1
I chose to read Rohinton Mistrys A Fine Balance, a story about four very different people living in India during a period of great civil unrest known as The State of Emergency. I found this book incredibly easy to get into because of the way Mistry writes. He seems to create the story around you, placing you in the setting as a viewer, involving you in the lives of the characters. Mistry clearly outlines the political and economic situation of India at the time, further emphasizing the plight of the main characters.
The first thing I noticed about Mistrys writing style is his incredible ability to make you feel like youve actually shifted to another country, another continent even. His descriptive ability allowed me to imagine so many little details in the book, the smell of the street, the loud, boisterous vendors screaming their slogans as pedestrians walk by. You really get to feel as if you are witnessing the events as they unfold. The first part of the book explained the story but then it promptly switched to brief histories of each of the main characters before introducing them to the main plot. Mistry gives you the diverse backgrounds of all the main characters, using his beautifully descriptive language to make even simple things brilliant. The story takes place in an “unnamed City by the Sea” somewhere in India, exploring the lives of four very different people. Mistry creates characters that come from a very different world than Im used to, making the story all the more interesting for me. Mistry included many cultural references in the story that I looked up so that I knew a little more about the basis of the story. Before I had read this novel I had no knowledge of the State of Emergency (having been born after it took place) so I found reading about it from the perspective of a person experiencing it, very informative.
This first section of the novel displays the interaction of the characters quite differently form the interaction they eventually have. All the characters are stiff and formal with each other. It is not until the next section of the book that they start to warm up to each other.
Reading Response Journal #2
The beginning of this section marks a change in the book as all the main characters are now living under one roof and their attitudes towards life and each other have changed quite a bit. Everyone seems to be happy in this section. Everyone is prosperous. Mistry quickly changes the tone of the story, changing the atmosphere as well. As the story progresses, a bond forms between the unlikely house mates and they create an incredibly mismatched family, banding together to protect and help each other through the trying experiences they face.
Mistry starts to use brighter descriptions and a more jovial tone. In his writing, Mistry tends to use a lot of words that are foreign to me, as in Indian words and terms, like in the short story by Anita Desai. This adds to the flavour of the novel and all round balance of the writing. There are several archetype used in this section, specifically the archetype of the band of mismatched heroes
who continue in their daily struggle. Dina Dali, an elderly widow, embodies the woman who is far ahead of the times, she is completely independent and free thinking. Maneck represents the young hero who is on a journey of self discovery, whereas Om and Ishvar represent the hard working lower class who always strive for better. There is a small bit of foreshadowing when the character of the hair collector is introduced and we find out about his passion for hair. Later in the novel he plays a crucial role when things get much worse for the four companions.
Reading Response Journal #3
Just as I thought everything was going well for the characters in this book,