A House for Mr. Biswas chronicles the unsettled life and death of Mohun Biswas, who is born into a poor Indian family in rural Trinidad. It is divided into two parts, framed by a prologue and an epilogue.
The last of three sons, Mr. Biswas, as he is referred to throughout, is born with six fingers on each hand at the astrologically inauspicious hour of midnight. This is considered by a Hindu pundit to be a sign of misfortune, and the prediction is confirmed when Mr. Biswas’s father drowns trying to rescue his son from a river. Mr. Biswas becomes dependent on his Aunt Tara and lives with his penniless mother in a mud hut. Tara has plans for him to become a pundit, but his mentor lacks patience with the unruly boy. Sent to work at a rum shop owned by the family, Mr. Biswas is beaten after being falsely accused of stealing, and he vows never to return. He gets a job as a sign writer for local shopkeepers.
When he goes to Hanuman House to paint signs for the Tulsis, a landowning Hindu family, he meets Shama, a sixteen-year-old girl. The Tulsis arrange a marriage, which Mr. Biswas is powerless to resist. Moving into Hanuman House, he feels trapped and lost in a house that is full of Tulsi daughters, sons-in-law, and children. He receives no dowry and no job, and he acquires a reputation as clown and troublemaker. After a fight with one of the sons-in-law, he moves to The Chase, a settlement of mud huts in the sugar-cane area, and runs a small, decrepit food shop owned by the Tulsis. After six years of boredom there, while Shama bears him a daughter, Savi, and a son, Anand, he moves to a squalid barracks in Green Vale while working as a suboverseer on the Tulsi land. Still feeling trapped, he dreams of building his own house.
Determined to realize his ambition...
(The entire section is 738 words.)