Clear Light of Day Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1980

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Psychological realism

Time of work: Summer, 1947, and fifteen years before and after

Locale: the suburbs of Old Delhi

Characters DiscussedBim Das

Bim Clear Light of DayDas, a history teacher. The unmarried, eldest Das daughter, now over forty, still lives in the decaying family home situated on the outskirts of Old Delhi. Slightly heavy and turning gray, Bim is not particularly attractive and makes little effort to be so. Her energy and capability, along with her keen understanding, compensate for whatever she lacks physically. Shown through flashbacks in her younger years, Bim has always been at peace with herself and managed to convey that quality to others. She represents the old India: spiritual, peaceful, unselfish, unhurried, and sure of life. In some ways, though, she has not come to grips with the present and melded it with the past, and therein lies her flaw.


Tara, Bim’s sister, an Indian diplomat’s wife. Altogether the opposite of her older sister, Tara is attractive, sophisticated, and worldly, having accompanied her husband to various overseas posts. To an extent, her poise is merely an exterior quality, in spite of her seemingly successful marriage, her two teenage daughters, and her role as hostess and wife in diplomatic circles. Representing the new India that was created after independence in 1947, Tara finds herself torn between the past and the present, especially when she visits Bim at the family home and dredges up memories of another time, when life seemed surer and more settled.

Baba Das

Baba Das, Bim and Tara’s retarded brother. Although he is in his thirties, Baba is like a child, innocent and unaffected by events around him. He is fat, lethargic, and dependent on Bim, who caters to his every wish. For most of the day, he plays English-language records from the late 1940’s. Like his sisters, he is caught in the web of the past, even in his mindless state.


Bakul, Tara’s husband and a diplomat in the Indian foreign service. Handsome, successful, and aggressive, Bakul considers the family’s obsession with the past foolish and tedious. He has left the old India behind and entered the larger world, even though he gives lip service to the idea of Mother India as home.

Raja Das

Raja Das, the eldest son of the Das family. During the flashbacks to the gaining of independence in 1947 and the partition riots, Raja appears as a kind of romantic hero. He reads and writes poetry, dreams of heroics, and possesses the total devotion of his sister Bim, who nurses him to health during a long illness. Coming from a traditional Hindu family, he breaks tradition by marrying a Muslim woman, then leaves Delhi for Hyderabad, where he becomes a rich businessman. Although he does not appear in later sections of the novel, he is described by Bim as having become excessively fat, arrogant, and pretentious.


Mira-masi, the aunt of the Das children. A traditional Indian woman, she served as their nurse during childhood.

BibliographyChatterji, Partha. “The Nationalist Resolution of the Woman Question.” In Recasting Women: Essays in Indian Colonial History, edited by Kumari Sangari and Sudesh Vaid. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1989. A twenty-page article that gives a short but coherent summary of the nationalist use of the “woman” as a symbol in political rhetoric. Chatterji locates the present (modern) symbolizations of woman within the nationalist movement of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (colonial India).Chew, Shirley. “Searching Voices.” In Motherlands: Black Women’s Writing from Africa, the Caribbean, and South Asia, edited by Susheila Nag. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1992. One of twenty essays in this book that deal with how women express their racial and ethnic consciousness within categories of gender. Chew examines Indian women’s writing, giving a historical analysis of Indian “feminine” texts.Derrett, M. E. The Modern Indian Novel in English: A Comparative Approach. Brussels: Editions de l’Institut Sociologie, Universite Libre de Bruxelles, 1966. Traces the historical evolution of the Indian novel in English, comparing it to other postcolonial novelistic traditions (for example, the African novel) and the British novel.Hashmi, Alamgir. “A Reading of Anita Desai’s Clear Light of Day,” in International Fiction Review. X (Winter, 1983), pp. 56-58.Jain, Jasbir. “Airing the Family Ghosts: Anita Desai’s Clear Light of Day,” in World Literature Written in English. XXIV (Autumn, 1984), pp. 416-422.Kantikar, Helen. “Heaven Lay at Her Feet.” In Motherlands: Black Women’s Writing from Africa, the Caribbean, and South Asia, edited by Susheila Nag. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1992. Kantikar explores Desai’s use of maternal imagery in Clear Light of Day, suggesting a rhetoric of decay and degeneration attached to the maternal body. Kantikar argues that the maternal womb symbolizes the enclosed space of the Das house, cut off from all reality, moribund and claustrophobic.Mukherjee, Meenakshi. The Twice Born Fiction: Themes and Techniques of the Indian Novel in English. New Delhi: Heinemann, 1971. Explores the relationship of the Anglo-Indian novel to its progenitor, the British novel. Mukherjee argues for a postcolonial literary tradition born of two cultures: the Indian (the colonized) and the British (the colonizers).Naik, M. K. “The Asoka Pillar: Independence and After (Women Novelists),” in A History of Indian English Literature, 1982.Ray, Karen. Review in The Christian Science Monitor. January 28, 1981, p. 17.Tyler, Anne. Review in The New York Times Book Review. LXXXII (November 23, 1980), p. 1.Wiehe, Janet. Review in Library Journal. CV (October 1, 1980), p. 2105.
Categories: Characters