By eight he was at his desk in his "room," which was only a corner in his father’s dressing-room. He had a table on which all his things, his coat, cap, slate, ink-bottle, and books, were thrown in a confused heap. He sat on his stool and shut his eyes to recollect what work he had for the day. (3)
The imagery of Swami's room represents a muddled workplace. Through the disorganization, a reader discerns that Swami is not proficient at organization, which leaves him confused when he endeavors to sort out his items and complete his assignments at the last minute.
The Board High School
The wizened spectacled man was a repulsive creature, with his screeching voice; the Head of the Albert Mission had a majestic air about him in spite of all his defects...The bell lacked the rich note of the Albert Mission gong; there was something mean and nasal about it. (144-145)
The imagery around the Board High School vividly captures the details of Swami's diminished opinion of his new school in comparison to the Albert Mission. His teacher is painted as physically infirm, elderly, and screeching. These qualities even figure in the built environment itself, with Swami noting the "mean and nasal" quality of the bell. This imagery evinces a class judgment of the school and offers a visible and aural figuration to Swami's disapproval.
Swaminathan’s Reality at the Board High School
Work was rather heavy in the Board High School. The amount of home-work given at the Albert Mission was nothing compared to the heap given at the Board. Every teacher thought that his was the only subject the boys had to study. Six sums in arithmetic, four pages of "hand-writing copy," dictionary meanings of scores of tough words, two maps, and five stanzas in Tamil poetry, were the average home-work every day. (173)
The lists of sentence fragments creates the sense that school is an endless, exhausting burden for Swami. This description echoes the description of homework in the very beginning of the novel when Swami wakes up on a Monday morning and mentally lists out all the homework he must complete before school begins. The plentiful assignments necessitates that Swami dedicate substantial time to polishing all the tasks.
He (Swaminathan's father) told himself that it was unnecessary to enter the hospital, but in fact knew that he lacked the courage. That very window in which a soft dim light appeared might have behind it the cot containing Swaminathan all pulped and bandaged. He briskly moved out of Hospital Road and wandered about rather aimlessly through few dark lanes around the place. (183)
In this passage, Swami's father is out wandering through the town at night, desperately searching for his son who has not returned home. This is an example where the phenomenon is too traumatic and horrifying to truly be captured or dwelled upon with concrete, imagistic language, and therefore the incident is only briefly outlined in a speculative and vague form. Rather, the details given, in particular the window with the light shining through, are meaningful because they are indeterminate, holding both the possibility that his son is badly injured and dying and the possibility that his son is absent and in good condition elsewhere.
Swami and Friends Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Swami and Friends is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.