Cultures in Kiran Desai’s The Inheritance of Loss


This paper is a review of the article, Kiran Desai’s The Inheritance of Loss: Elements of American Dream and Globalization by Andhra Chandramani and Bala Reddy, which bases its discussion on the book, The Inheritance of Loss, by Kiran Desai. The article is mainly an analysis of what the authors think of Desai’s story. The authors present the element of conflict of cultures in Desai’s story with support from examples from the book and comments on the book from other scholars. They provide an analysis of the same by bringing forth the element of ambivalence in the characters. This paper analyzes the presumptions that the authors posit with evidence from the book as well as other scholarly sources with the aim of providing objectivity to the analysis.

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Article overview

Chandramani, Andhra, and Bala Reddy. “Kiran Desai’s The Inheritance of Loss: Elements of American Dream and Globalization.” IOSR Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences 11.2 (2013): 79-81. Print

This article contains an abstract in which the authors present their view of Desai’s book and they term the story as “thrillingly chaotic, pathetic, and a life infused with the great American Dream and Globalization” (Chandramani and Reddy 79). The authors also expressly state that their article addresses the sentiments and emotions of “her mute immigrant characters that neither speak nor display their inner beings” (Chandramani and Reddy 79). They add that their article aims at explaining and portraying the sacrifices and dedication of the heroes in the book as they strive to achieve the basic lives that they desire as well as the emotional journey that the characters go through in the book.

The article is mainly analytical in nature with the inclusion of a few descriptive elements. The authors pick on specific elements in the book and analyze the same using evidence from the book as well as sentiments from other authors on the same topic. For instance, they describe the ambivalence of a majority of the major characters in the book including the protagonist, Sai Mistry, Buji Saeed, and Jemubhai Patel. They explain that the ambivalence emanates from the interaction of the characters with colonization, local culture, and globalization. Although the authors take a serious tone to the explanation of events and characters in the book, they state that Majorie Kehe views the book as a work filled with comedy even in the state of conflict in the story. They also include Pankaj Mishra’s sentiments that Desai presents a skeptical view of the West, its multiculturalism, and consumerism as consistent elements of globalization.

Article’s point of interest

The article presents the view that Desai’s story revolves around conflict emerging from interaction amongst colonization, globalization, and local culture with India’s Kalimpong state as her case study. In a bid to elaborate the issue, the authors use various examples from the book mainly in the form of an analysis of the lives of characters in the book. The authors posit that the pressure to conform to western culture without compromising local culture creates a state of ambivalence for the characters in the book, thus forming the main theme in Desai’s story. The authors also suggest a connection between Desai’s story and her experience as an immigrant. They presume that she uses her story as an avenue to narrate some of her experiences through various characters. For instance, the character Buji represents the disillusionment that some immigrants experience in their quest to find and experience the American dream. Buji travels to the United States from India with the hope of a better life than that which he leaves behind in India; however, his dreams fail to materialize. His failure forces him to relocate back to India and withstand the disappointed faces of the community around him. However, he somehow manages to move on with his life.

Literature analysis

The premise that the authors present, viz. Desai uses the story to narrate her own experiences, is plausible in consideration of certain facts. One of the facts is that the setting of the book takes place in 1986. Desai was born in 1971, which puts her at the age of fifteen years during the occurrences of the book. According to Lawrence Kohlberg, a fifteen-year-old individual is old enough to discern and analyze events as they occur around him or her, which makes the accurate narration of the same events for Desai possible (Kohlberg 74). In addition, Desai chose to publish her book in 2006, which means that she had time to experience the transition from colonial India to its independence and later to its changes as it tries to conform to the changes that arise for countries due to globalization.

The book also contains personal life stories of different characters that represent the plight of an immigrant and the various possible phases that he or she has the possibility of experiencing. However, the evaluation of the authors in the article is lacking with regard to the source of the content in the story. The assumption that Desai only uses her own life experiences has flaws, especially considering that the characters in the story undergo utterly different experiences from one another simultaneously. A more logical premise would be that Desai’s story represents her experience as well as those of other immigrant with whom she had the opportunity to meet. Some of the elements in the story indicate observations and seem less of a personal life experience, such as Jemubhai Patel’s life story.

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Although the presumption of conflict between eastern and western cultures in the story presents an intriguing perspective on Desai’s story, it does not reflect the true essence of the story, which is the loss of local culture through conformity to globalization and integration into a multicultural society. The authors posit that the characters in Desai’s story struggle with the decision between the adoption of foreign culture and continued practice of local culture. For instance, Jemubhai Patel, a retired judge, adopts western culture and changes his entire perspective of his native Indian culture. He changes his behavior and completely assimilates ‘western behavior’. He eats his chapatti using a fork and knife instead of his hands.

His ‘new culture’ forces him to hate everything about his old culture, his parents, and even his wife. Although the assumption of the authors bears some truth, Desai’s story describes a society’s loss of cultural identity more than it does about conflict between cultures (Desai 52). The conflict that Chandramana and Reddy describe is that according to personal opinion based on an analysis of the book, more of fear and confusion owing to uncertainty of the outcome of adopting western culture. In the story, although the majority of the people in Kalimpong state exhibit hostility towards the adoption of new cultural practices, they look at western culture with awe and secret admiration.

The society that Desai depicts in her story frowns upon individuals who adopt western culture and abandon eastern culture by terming them as being ‘too westernized’. However, an objective look at the entire story reveals the normalcy with which people in the story act considering their environment. The confusion is just part of the adaptation process through which the people need to undergo. A current look at the Indian society gives evidence of the changes that have taken place over the years. People are more open to the adoption of new cultures now than they were at the time. Overall, the issue in the story is that the community is afraid of adopting new culture and Desai explains the reason behind the fear as loss of culture, hence the title, The Loss of Inheritance. Lastly, the authors’ reference of the characters in Desai’s story as ‘mute’ is inaccurate as the description leaves aspects such as consideration of the author’s style. The author chooses to present the inner feelings of her characters through a description by the protagonist, Sai, to increase the efficacy of the story’s impact while engaging the reader in every detail.


Although the article is mainly analytical, some elements of the analysis lack objectivity as they exclude some aspects of the story from consideration. However, some aspects of the story are indeed true and enlightening. Overall, the article is informative and it makes a good read with regard to a better understanding of Desai’s story, The Loss of Inheritance.

Works Cited

Chandramani, Andhra, and Bala Reddy. “Kiran Desai’s The Inheritance of Loss: Elements of American Dream and Globalization.” IOSR Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences 11.2 (2013): 79-81. Print.

Desai, Kiran. The Inheritance of Loss, London: Hamish Hamilton, 2006. Print

Kohlberg, Lawrence. The meaning and measurement of moral development, Worcester: Clark University Heinz Warner Institute, 1981. Print.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, March 20). Cultures in Kiran Desai’s The Inheritance of Loss. Retrieved from

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StudyCorgi. "Cultures in Kiran Desai’s The Inheritance of Loss." March 20, 2021.


StudyCorgi. 2021. "Cultures in Kiran Desai’s The Inheritance of Loss." March 20, 2021.


StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Cultures in Kiran Desai’s The Inheritance of Loss'. 20 March.

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