Desai writes of Mirpore mostly through Deven's eyes to show how dull and dirty he thinks his current life is, and as a way for the reader to see that Mirpore is actually a good reflection of Deven's lackluster inner and outer lives. There are smoke-belching factories, "withered and desolate" (23) fields, the overwhelming "litter and paraphernalia and effluent of industry" (24), broken fences, cattle carcasses, empty skies, and the ever-present layer of dust. It is a place where hope and ambition go to die, and a place that represents Deven's strivings against his own weaknesses and ineptitude.
The women in this text are viewed through Deven's eyes, and therefore they tend to be images that are almost caricatures, only half-human. There is the beaten-down Sarla, whose glum expression reminds Deven of how ineffectual he is as a husband and father. There is the old crone Safiya, who vexes Deven by asking for fair compensation for Nur's contribution. And then there is the harridan/siren/Jezebel that is Imtiaz, whom Deven considers to be the greatest obstacle to his work.
Deven's Evening Walk
Desai paints a truly melancholy, hopeless image of the natural world to reflect how Deven feels inside as his project spirals out of control. She writes that "even the stars were smothered in murk. No message came whispering on a nocturnal breeze; every leaf on the neem tree hung still, lifeless. Out in the lane a bullock cart creaked by, the wooden wheels lacking oil and shrieking dismally. Across the canal a stray dog barked in a long monotonous howl of protest. Then there was silence" (131). Everything about the image is bleak and ominous, offering Deven—and the reader—little hope.
It is a small but powerful image: at the end of the editing process, "the bottomless box of tapes [was] at last reduced to just one" (180). It is easy to picture the many tapes Deven brought with him and the single tape that results—it is an image of wasted effort, failure, and crushed dreams. It shows the reader, once and for all, that there will be no miraculous turnaround for Deven: hoping that our antihero will succeed is a fool's errand.
In Custody Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for In Custody is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.