Ruth Prawer Jhabvala’s characterization achieves a balance between the round character, who seems fully human in psychological development, and the flat character, who represents types or ideas pertinent to the action. Not even Prem, who is the most fully rounded character in The Householder, is developed sufficiently for readers to believe that they know him well. Yet even a seemingly flat character such as the guru is given sufficient dialogue to escape the predictability of stereotype. Jhabvala peoples her novel with characters who are individualized but also capable of representing various types in modern Indian society. Furthermore, by using both European and Indian characters, Jhabvala establishes cross-cultural relations as well as dissecting the manners of middle-class urban India.
Hans Loewe represents the naive European who believes that everything, and everyone, in India is gifted with spiritual wisdom. He befriends Prem, apparently one of the first people he meets, with a fierce determination to achieve enlightenment as soon as possible. Although Hans lasts only a few weeks in India, he is there long enough for his flattery of Prem to have its ironic consequences, for it is Hans who first renews Prem’s interest in his own religion’s spiritual legacies. By the end of the novel, his shallow approach to any sort of discipline is enough to convince Prem that friendship, with Indu or Raj, is much like the discipline of householding.
Kitty, who runs a poorly kept boardinghouse that caters to wandering Europeans and who rents Hans a room, is representative of the expatriate European who has been in India long enough to develop a jaded, cynical attitude toward both India and...
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