A Devoted Son Themes
by Anita Desai

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A Devoted Son Themes

The changing relationship of parents and children

When Rakesh gains local fame for his intelligence and medical abilities, his father is very proud. He brags to his neighbors that not only is his son very accomplished, but also the first thing he does when he sees is father is stoop to touch his feet in respect. However, in the father's old age, now on the receiving end of Rakesh's medical care, their relationship changes dramatically because they have very different goals. Rakesh's medical knowledge drives him to want to take care of his father in the best medical way possible. He takes away unhealthy foods like fried foods and sweets and forbids everyone from sharing those with his father. He dictates how much time his father should spend outdoors and in which position he should rest.

His father simply wants to enjoy the remaining days of his life. In the end, Rakesh no longer fully respects his father's opinion, as he holds his medical expertise higher when making decisions on his behalf. His father grows increasingly upset with the treatment. As their roles shift at the end of the father's life, the dynamics of their relationship change greatly.


In the beginning, Rakesh is clearly thankful for the sacrifices his father has made on his behalf, at every opportunity showing visible respect to him. When it is his turn to care for his father during his illness, Rakesh likely expects from his father a sense of gratitude for his ability to medically care for him. After all, he instructs the servants in his father's diet, position of rest, location, and quantity of food. His father does not show gratitude for his medical knowledge, instead growing increasingly angry about this treatment. Their contrast in perception is captured in this exchange:

"Lying all day on his pillows, fed every few hours by his daughter-in-law’s own hand, visited by every member of his family daily—and then he says he does not want to live 'like this,'" Rakesh was heard to say, laughing, to someone outside the door.

"Deprived of food," screamed the old man on the bed, "his wishes ignored, taunted by his daughter-in-law, laughed at by his grandchildren—that is how I live."

Rakesh perceives his father as being treated with great care and laughs that he could possibly consider his situation differently. He thinks his father owes him more gratitude, while his father sees only deprivation and thinks that his son should be giving him more things to enjoy in his remaining days.


Despite his rise in the medical community, Rakesh remains loyal to his family. He returns home from his time in America without having found an American wife, as many of his...

(The entire section is 702 words.)