Anita Desai

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What is a critical analysis of the story "Scholar and Gypsy" or "A Mark Scheme"?

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RE: "Scholar and Gypsy"

This short story examines the falsity of a marital relationship as well as the moments of self-realization that come only under the challenges of a new and different environment.

This last story of Desai's collection entitled Games at Twilight, "Scholar and Gypsy" contains a prevailing irony throughout the narrative that begins with the very title. And, it is the irony of character and irony of situation that changes the reader's expectations from the beginning to the end, as well as the main characters' epiphanies of self-identity.

The "scholar," David, is an anthropology student who travels with his wife Pat to Bombay, where he plans to collect data and material for a Phd thesis. In Bombay, David finds the people urbane and interesting; however, his wife Pat is sickened and shocked by the crowds, the sanitary conditions, and the difference in culture. While David, the "scholar" feels that "these people would be at home in a New York party," Pat, without any higher education, finds them primitive and backward. After they visit another part of the city, the couple's estrangement grows as their perceptions become more disparate: his is solely empirical, while Pat's are more intuitive.

After they travel to the hills of Manali where David hopes that Pat will be revitalized, the distance between them grows even more. For, Pat is able to assimilate with the old hippies who yet search for Nirvana in the Northern hills. And, ironically, these expatriates become a tourist attraction to the Indian tourists who visit the Kulu Valley.

That his wife, the "gypsy" (people who do not mix or assimilate with other groups) would mingle with such people is repellent to David. For, he becomes more aware of his American background--"The alarming socially graceful David of Long Island upbringing." On the other hand, his wife assimilates into the old hippie culture. Thus, the anthropologist discovers more and more that people are alien and uninteresting to him and he is more urbane, while his wife assimilates into the old hippie culture associated with the temples and religious sites.

Further, the anthropologist David finds people more and more strange to him while they become more interesting to his wife, who originally was more close-minded about the inhabitants. Moreover, she seems to be assimilating into the culture up by the temples. Later, when David is tended for an injury by an American doctor, he feels relieved that he can "return to the bosom of his culture" with this man and, therefore protect his American identity. In the end, there is an ironic twist as it is David who is close-minded, and Pat who becomes open-minded. In fact, she is

...revolted, by his egoism and conceit that didn't allow him to see beyond the tip of his nose... didn't it just show that he saw nothing, noticed nothing outside himself?

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