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Symbolism in “A Fine Balance” by Rohinton Mistry Essay

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Updated: Jun 6th, 2020

A fine balance is a novel by Rohinton Mistry. It was set in India in a town called Mumbai and was between the years 1975 and 1984. This book gives the story of four improbable persons whose way of living is brought together in the course of political chaos in the Indian Government. These include Dina, Ishvar, Omprakash and Maneck. Through periods of austerity and hope, their situations and fates become unavoidably linked in a manner that no person could have predicted (Mistry 754).

Mistry’s writing style is captivating with the long-term use of symbols to represent the themes in the novel. The use of symbols makes this novel stunning, splendidly textured, and influential. This paper will discuss the symbol “Chessboard” as used in this novel. It will discuss its relevance and significance in representing the themes in the novel. First, it is an academic ticket and a means of access to the higher planet of intellectuals and doers. It is also a symbol of an incompetent heritage lugged about and overlooked for periods though always prepared to return as a souvenir. The symbol of a chessboard in this novel is evident in character Maneck. At first, Maneck did not know how to use the Chessboard. He neither played it nor gave it to his blood relatives. He only loved it in a manner that was quite questionable and had no reason for loving it (Mistry 256).

When Maneck goes to college, he is assigned a room in the student’s hostel. He befriends his bedmate, Avinash, who is also the student leader. Avinash trains Maneck how to play chess after which they play it frequently. Avinash’s chessboard becomes extremely significant to the life of Maneck. In the novel, Maneck is seen jumping ahead of a train with the chessboard, possibly destroying it. The reader, therefore, gets surprised whether Maneck would have passed away without the chessboard. In this case, the chessboard symbolizes Maneck’s unproductive life. Maneck symbolizes an awful characteristic of Indian persons who identify the hideous but are not able to rise to face it even though they are capable of changing that situation. By using the chessboard, Mistry denounces these Indians and puts efforts to kill them.

Chess in this novel is understood as the game of life. This is seen in the fact that Chess rules always permit someone to become victorious though there are incidences where no one triumphs. The activities in this novel bear a resemblance to the various moves and points in chess. With kind realism, a chessboard in this novel incarcerates all the brutality, corruption, self-respect, and heroism of India. Chessboard signifies the fact that life is not forever fair with sometimes one being the winner and other times the loser. It, therefore, signifies people’s capacity to tolerate and keep moving in times of adversity. This is summed up in the quote “How was it that his heart kept beating instead of bursting, his sanity intact instead of shattered like a dropped mirror. Surely all this misery piled on misery must reach breaking point at some stage” (Mistry 754).

Chessboard, in this case, therefore, proves that nothing in the world can remain balanced forever. Life for all the characters in this book keeps on changing. Time, therefore, turns into both sadness and joy, just like a chess player who has just been defeated or has scored, respectively. Chessboard signifies both hope and misery in the novel. The fine balance, therefore, is the equilibrium between both optimism and disparity.

Works cited

Mistry, Rohinton. A Fine Balance. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 2002. Print.

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