In A House for Mr. Biswas, Mr. Mohun Biswas is struggling to find true happiness in his life. Born as a six-fingered baby with an unlucky sneeze, the young Mr. Biswas has lost his father and must live with an impoverished mother in his aunt’s house. Mr. Biswas develops the desire to find a job which can afford him the financial independence from his derisive relatives, and fulfill his dream of building his own house where he can live comfortably for the rest of his life.
Many readers may contend that the ending of the novel is a sad one because Mr. Biswas’s dream house is far from being a perfect house. The house’s staircase is rotten, and the “landing pillars had rotted because they stood next to a tap which emerged from the back wall of the house” (549). Furthermore, the decaying house has a front door with an elegant appearance that “flew open in a strong wind even when locked and bolted” (549). Readers may concur that it is a tragedy for Mr. Biswas to finally die in a dilapidated house that may fall down any minute.
Although the house is unsuitable for living, it nevertheless stands as a monument to Mr. Biswas’s legacy. He has worked tirelessly for most of his life with nothing that he can call his own, except his wife and children. Instead of identifying with the Tulsis, the ambitious Mr. Biswas wants to find his own identity as a “labourer” who has overcome the obstacles that life has given to him. As a man with limited resources, Mr. Biswas has certainly succeeded in fulfilling his dream of getting his own house, the ultimate symbol of his independence. He succeeds in laying “claim to one’s portion of the earth” (11).
One of the obstacles in Mr. Biswas’s life is the Tulsis. Mr. Biswas confesses that he feels trapped in the Tulsi family. He finds it very difficult to come to terms with the Tulsis who disapprove of his ambition to build his own house. But the frustrated Mr. Biswas cannot leave the Tulsi family, which has given him several opportunities to earn money to maintain himself and his wife. Expressing his desire to “paddle his own canoe,” (134) Mr. Biswas receives permission from Seth to work in a shop located in an isolated muddy village. After the shop has proven unprofitable, Mr. Biswas finds employment as a driver working in the Tulsi sugar cane plantation. Without the Tulsis’ help, Mr. Biswas cannot earn enough money to maintain his own family. Hence, he feels trapped in the Tulsi family, as he often finds himself returning to Hanuman House whenever he encounters a problem. “He didn’t know what his rights were, didn’t believe in the shop at The Chase, and his plans were vague...As he cycled past the unfinished, open house on the County Road, he wondered how many nights he would spend behind the closed façade of Hanuman House” (97). Mr. Biswas believes that his life is intertwined with that of the Tulsis since he can never completely leave them.
However, in the end, after Owad has returned from England and Mrs. Tulsi has expressed disapproval of Mr. Biswas occupying Owad’s room, Mr. Biswas resolves to move out of Hanuman House for good. No longer oppressed by the capricious Mrs. Tulsi and her obnoxious Eurocentric son, Mr. Biswas purchases a house on Sikkim Street where he lives for the remainder of his life. He finally does what he has always wanted to do. No longer are the Tulsis an obstacle to him. Hence, his dream house represent his ultimate independence. And the house, though dilapidated, “did not fall” (564), showing that Mr. Biswas’s life-long work and resolution have not failed him.