In Custody Questions and Answers
by Anita Desai

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Analyze the character of Sarla from In Custody.

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In Custody centers on the character of Deven. Sarla is his wife; she appears sporadically in the novel, generally as a reflection of Deven’s thoughts. His career as a lecturer at a lower-level state school has not supported the lifestyle she had hoped they would lead.

Their marriage seems to be a case of co-dependency. Even though she sees her husband as a failure, she is not well-positioned to function without him. Likewise, he relies on her to manage the household while imagining that she is following his orders, such as in helping him pack for the trip.

Sarla largely functions as a symbol of the hopes that Indian people pinned on independence, believing that their political freedom would bring prosperity, and their associated desire for Western modernity as symbolized by expensive consumer goods.

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