The Characters

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

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.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Vimla “Baby” Lutchman

Vimla “Baby” Lutchman, the protagonist, a cousin to the Khojas and the least important member of the Khoja family. A visionary but passive woman, with a taste for commerce, she is not a deep thinker. She relies instead on instinct and suspicion. Never a very pretty girl, though she does have a beautiful, aristocratic nose, she grows fat soon after being married. Her marriage is arranged, and she immediately moves from being controlled by her family to being physically dominated by her husband. Despite her husband’s occasional brutality, his lack of interest in their marriage, and his affair with Doreen James, Baby remains devoted to him and their sons, and she never really questions the role into which she has been placed; hence, the marriage is relatively happy. Of limited intelligence and insight, she tends to accept the advice of Govind Khoja without thought. After her husband’s sudden death, however, she starts to rebel a bit, cherishing her newfound independence and freedom. Baby remains quite superstitious throughout her life, always attempting to interpret her dreams and looking for signs and portents. Slowly losing control, she is forced to sell her house. Rather than go back to the domination of living with one of the Khojas, Baby chooses to live with an old friend and help run a country store. After finally getting the opportunity to run a business, she finds that she has lost interest in this dream.

Ram Lutchman

Ram Lutchman, Baby’s husband, first a bus driver and then an employee in the ministry of education. Not a particularly good-looking man, Ram is poorly educated and comes from a poor background; therefore, he was glad to make such a good marriage. He does not find his wife very attractive, however, and during the early years of their marriage he visits prostitutes and beats his wife regularly. Through the aid of Govind Khoja, his situation begins to improve, but Ram only grows to hate the Khojas, both for their interference in his own life and for their...

(The entire section is 842 words.)