The Inheritance of Loss

Cultural Transcendence in The Inheritance of Loss and Clear Light of Day College

Both The Inheritance of Loss and Clear Light of Day feature characters who either identify with cultures other than their own, or attempt to cope with cultural differences while living abroad. Using themes such as education and migration, Kiran and Anita Desai demonstrate how an individual can feel displaced as a migrant or within one’s own country. However, both authors also explain how culture and the concept of home can transcend geographic boundaries.

The loss of culture is depicted early in The Inheritance of Loss. It’s revealed in the opening chapter that Sai has “no idea how to properly make tea… the Indian way,” since she only knows “the English way” (Desai 6). Sai inherits this loss from her grandfather, Jemubahi who becomes isolated from his own cultural heritage through education. As a young man, he leaves India to attend Cambridge University, where he attempts to fit in with the British students. Although Jemubahi grew up in the 1930’s when Gandhi held his salt marches, these protests against imperialism had no lasting impact on him during his formative years. At Cambridge, he feels humiliated that his English “still had the rhythm and the form of Gujerati” (112) when asked to recite poetry.

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