In Seema Jena's 1989 essay titled “Characterization in the Works of Anita Desai,” what are the main claims of the essay? Which ideas in the essay are most noteworthy?

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The main claim in the essay, as noted in the italicized and bracketed introductory note here on eNotes, is that Desai's early novels express women's mental development as it relates to their place in the structure of Indian families. Notice that in that introduction, the structure of Indian families is called "patriarchal," which means that men and not women are considered the rulers of the household. So in other words, the essay's main point is that Desai's novels help us understand how women think and grow as a result of their role in male-dominated Indian families.

Jena's thesis statement appears to be this one: "[Desai's] novels ... [delve] deep into the forces that condition the growth of a female in the patriarchal, patrilineal, male dominated Indian family."

Here are Jena's supporting claims in the essay:

1. The conflict in Desai's novels mostly center on the human psyche: that is, they take place within a character's mind, rather than between two characters or two groups. The novels are more about a character's private moods and attitudes rather than social relationships.

2. Many of Desai's main characters are intelligent yet disturbed; they feel alienated from the people closest to them and maintain a deep, intense longing for a free, solitary life. Specifically, they want to be free from their families.

3. The characters don't struggle with poverty, but they do strive for independence and for their own identities, even experiencing suffering and misery in this quest. However, they lose themselves in the stifling atmospheres of their families.

4. With many of the characters, their unhappy marriages lead to disaster and to the belief that life has no meaning.

5. The characters also struggle with self-expression and communication, ultimately finding that they can accomplish neither with their family members.

6. "Bim" is a character of Desai's who is the exception. She finds happiness and independence, and her own identity in life, thereby providing hope for "a resurrected and rejuvenated India."

Whether or not you find any of these claims particularly interesting or noteworthy will be a matter of personal taste. Personally, I found Jena's comments on Desai's writing style to be especially interesting. The essayist praises the novelist for her incredible level of detail that lends realism to the stories, as well as for her talent in allowing character development and action to express the themes rather than too much authorial intrusion. For me, these comments help me understand the aesthetic value in Desai's work that exists outside the often depressing task of understanding how patriarchal families relegate women to a life of restriction, repression, neuroticism, and dissatisfaction.

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