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Fiction analysis: “The Inheritance of Loss”

The environment reveals the people. More broadly speaking, the ways that the narrator describes the environment and its impacts on the characters disclose the internal thoughts and emotional states of humans. In the passage, Desai uses figurative language to create vivid imagery of the choking tranquility of the environment, employs the use of contrast between movement and stillness and between sound and silence to portray the place as mysteriously quiet, and uses stream of consciousness of the protagonist to reveal the loneliness and confusion of the character, feelings that translate from the physical environment into the character herself.

        Through painting a vivid imagery of the environment as bizarre and mysterious, Desai directly uses extensive literary devices to position the character in a strangely isolated environment, establishing a sense of solitude. Describing the colors as “mist like moving like a water creature across the great flanks of mountains possessed of ocean shadows and depths,” Desai portrays the overall atmosphere as hollowly mysterious, positioning the concrete color under the more abstract concepts and scenes of “ocean shadows and depths,” establishing a sense of horrifying eternity that speaks to the loneliness of the character. Similarly, Desai describes Kanchenjunga with great details and emphasizes the protagonist’s perception of the “wizard phosphorescence” of the mountain, characterizing the physical landscape with magical elements that invoke fear of the character, who shivers when staring at the landscape. Throughout the following paragraphs, Desai chooses to transition from one scattered item to the next—from describing the “single bald lightbulb dangled on a wire” to describing the cook and the figurative scene of “the flame [casting] a mosaic of shiny orange across the cook’s face.” The figurative language used to describe the objects as well as the abrupt shift from one scene to the next create a heightened atmosphere that directly connects to the anxious mood of the character under such an environment. The imagery and the selection of details in the passage reveals the tension in the passage: the seemingly disconnected and even random scenes and objects reveal the uncomfortable feelings and mood in the environment, who feels extremely lonely despite the things around her.

        Moreover, Desai contrasts the movement of vapor and mist with the stillness of the larger physical background as well as the contrast between sound and silence to further establish a gothic and horrifying setting. From describing the mist as “gathering speed, sweeping in thicker and thicker,” the trees as “looming forth,” and the vapor as “replacing everything with itself,” Desai contrasts the obvious movement of the subtle things with the stillness of the character herself, again positioning the character in a powerful environment that reveals her perceived futility and helplessness. Likewise, the description of the caress of the mist through her hair” and the scene of “the vapor took them gently into its mouth” again emphasizes the active nature of the physical surrounding and the passivity of the character, who becomes rather disoriented when perceiving the larger, changing environment. Using the same technique, the writer contrasts the gone house and the vanished garden with the static character and endows the environment with powerful characteristics. The use of dialogue directly contrasts the silence established by the passage with the sudden presence of human voices, which also further demonstrates the daunting tranquility of the place.

        Finally, Desai uses stream of consciousness of the protagonist to offer final reflections on the environment. Breaking through the silence, the voice of the girl directly replaces the description of the physical surrounding and pulls the reader back to the emotional state of the character. Writing the scene of the girl “walking to the kitchen, caught a glimpse of herself being smothered” and saying “hello” to herself, Desai renders the character extremely lonely and disoriented. The lines of stream of consciousness that follow testify for the action of the girl. As she contemplates her own solitude and melancholy, she asks the question, “could fulfillment ever be felt as deeply as loss?” The final line of the passage completely retrieves from the environment and offers a reflection on the idea of love; but the line also ties closely to the overall mood of the passage as it is equally pensive, melancholic, and offers space for sentimentality.

        As extensive description of the physical landscape converges to the final stream of consciousness of the character, Desai embeds the feelings of the character into the larger mood and setting, implying that while the environment contributes to the contemplation of the character, it also mirrors the mind of the protagonist because the passage revolves around the perspective of the character.


Published by Sunny

I am a high school rising sophomore and I love to read and write.

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