Justify the title of In Custody by Anita Desai.

The title of In Custody emphasizes how trapped the characters feel and speaks to the lack of social mobility in India’s society. Deven feels trapped in his job and marriage and feels eternally defined by his social status. By comparing his feeling of entrapment to the feeling of being imprisoned, Desai underlines how intense it is.

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The title of Anita Desai’s In Custody represents the way that the characters in the text are figuratively trapped in their lives. The phrase underlines how people’s inner selves in combination with external social forces can make people feel imprisoned.

Consider how Deven feels about his life and his job, in particular at the beginning of the book. He is not passionate about his job teaching Hindi and would rather be writing Urdu poetry. He also feels unhappy about where he lives and his family life. However, he has adult responsibilities that he cannot escape, and thus he feels trapped in a life that he is not content with. While, of course, this sort of symbolic imprisonment does not have the same level of poor conditions that a literal prison does, the phrase “in custody” is used to emphasize and exaggerate just how trapped Deven feels.

The title also speaks to the book’s critique of the social structure in India. There is a stark divide between the working class and upper class, and those in the working class have little to no social mobility. In a way it is as if they are “in custody,” too, trapped in their class and forever defined by their socioeconomic status.

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