Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard

by Kiran Desai

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How does Desai convey gender biases in Shakot in Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard?

Quick answer:

Pinky reflects the gender biases of Shahkot. She plays into the stereotypical norms of teen girls. She's preoccupied with movies, beauty, and attention. Then there's her brother Sampath. Sampath, of course, lives in a tree and shares the secrets that he learned from his post office job. While Sampath doesn't meet the criteria of a stereotypical man, if he wasn't a man, the people of Shahkot probably wouldn’t grow to think of him as a wise person.

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Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard is one of my favorite novels. I find the story of Sampath enchanting. I also find, as your question already acknowledges, that Kiran Desai illuminates many gender biases in the village of Shahkot.

Gender bias is addressed through Sampath's sister Pinky. Pinky is obsessed with Indian movie stars and longs to look like one. You could conclude that such a trope plays into gender biases about girls. It fits the stereotype that most girls want to be beautiful and famous.

Another gender bias occurs when Pinky complains she is being stalked by men on the street. Of course, Pinky's father thinks she's being melodramatic. He doesn't really believe her. Pinky's father plays into the stereotype that girls/women concoct allegations against men because they're dramatic or because they want attention. Yet Desai complicates that fraught dynamic since Pinky is dramatic and she does want attention.

Before I move on from Pinky, I should note that Pinky reinforces a gender stereotype in another way when she rebukes her father for reading about political corruption. Pinky doesn't want to hear about such supposedly serious issues. She'd rather read about the mischievous Cinema Monkey.

You could say that Desai plays into the notion that girls/women don't want to deal with substantial news. They want to read about frivolous, trivial, lighthearted things. Yet you could say that political corruption has become so expected and widespread that it’s trivial and common in its own way.

Finally, I think I should bring up Sampath. Sampath is a character who I feel strongly undercuts gender bias. It's hard to argue that Sampath meets any standard, typical definition of stereotypical masculinity. He doesn't work, he doesn't play sports, and he doesn't have a girlfriend. What he does is sit in the tree and pretend to know people's secrets. Yet if Sampath wasn't a man, people probably wouldn't come to think of him as a wise man. They might just think he was crazy.

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