Baby is Shiva Naipaul’s detailed portrait of a dreamer out of touch with reality. She is not a powerful or particularly colorful figure, but she is intensely and touchingly human in her natural foibles, suffering, and yearnings. At first, she is little more than a conventional Hindu wife, who is subject to her husband’s will and whim. She bears his cycles of violence and calm, drunkenness and abstinence, brutality and concern. She even abides his adulterous relationship with Doreen James. Her resignation, patience, and unquestioning loyalty to Ram mark her as an acquiescent victim of domestic exploitation, but because her world view is marked by an indifference to the formal arrangement of laws, duties, and social forces, her world does not fall apart easily.
She derives substantial emotional solace from the Khoja sisters, who, as a group, are a corporate entity. Although foils to her patience and soulless devotion, the sisters provide her with the emotional coherence and consistency she lacks from her husband. While each of the sisters has her own specialty—Urmila, her voice; Shantee, her shared confidences with Govind’s wife; Badwatee, her obsession with Catholicism; Indrani, her defiant solitariness; Darling and Saraswatee, their compliancy—together they constitute a formidable feminine force and represent the grasping and conspiratorial power of a family that is a pillar of the Trinidadian community.
Baby shares with her cousins...
(The entire section is 522 words.)