Indian English fiction came of age and acquired a respectable status and remarkable momentum consequent upon the freedom struggle and the great personalities such as Mulk Raj Anand, R.K. Narayan and Raja Rao were writing, and also continued their writings till its maturity. Although it got its popularity and maturity in the hands of the above novelists, the contribution of Post-Independence novelists (especially the young generation) cannot be underestimated. Arun Joshi, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, Kamala Markandaya, Anita Desai, Raj Narasimhan, Bharti Mukherjee, Shashi Despande, Kamala Das and Vikram Seth belong to this young generation or Post -Independence English fiction. Ruth Prawer Jhabvala has raised the status of Post -Independence English fiction and has made herself a familiar figure among the greatest Indian novelisttts.In spite of being a European writer; she has given a definite shape of orient literary colours to the modern scene of Post- Independence English fiction. For this purpose she has adopted irony as the greatest literary weapon of English fiction. In fact, the use of irony in novels for the Post -Independence novelists is a fashion and a way to express their ideas and experiences clearly. Like them Jhabvala adopted and used it as an instrument for dissecting the intra-Indian reality in Phase One and the east-west encounter in Phase Two.

In an earlier time, however the ironic method did not demand so much from the readers as today it does. Satire was more popular than humour and irony. Today in contemporary fiction humour often deepens into irony, even vitriolic satire especially when a novelist chooses to expose the bankruptcy of our social and political system. Then the objects of ridicule and the satirist were distinct entities. Modern literature demands an extraordinary role of the writer and the reader. Today it is not enough to be continually alive to the ironic reversal in a poem or a novel but we must be careful about the distance between the poet and his narrative method. In this reference irony plays a great role and confers upon us the finite qualification and discrimination that distinguish a mature experience of the writer. It is visible everywhere in Jhabvala’s novels and emphasis reality and ridicule affections. We have chosen her novels before 1975 for our discussion. In her novels she has employed different kinds of ironies such as verbal irony, irony of situation, irony of characters, irony of setting and irony of life. In the treatment of irony she has been called -an Indian Austen.-1Double edged irony is also visible in her novels. It is seen that many writers have employed verbal irony and very rarely of situation in their writings but it is Jhabvala who employs all. In this connection Vasant Shahane points out that -the ironic mode in her world in not confined merely to verbal irony or the irony of the situation but rather to the total context of experience as artistically transformed into fictional art.-2

A close study of Jhabvala’s novels reveals that her novels have been divided into two phase and irony seems in a different way into two phases. In her early phase it seems going towards the pure comedy and in later phase it becomes bitter and moves

towards satire. In this way it swings between comedy and satire and acquires a new satiric pungent in her novels. In this reference Yasmine Goodneratne writes that Jhabvala’s reader -finds himself led far more frequently towards sympathetic understanding of a morally confused character than he finds himself pitched into easy laughter or tempted into rage and annoyance.- 3

On the basis of the above statements it can be said that irony is the sharpest tool by which she can express her perspective on life and on lived experienced.

Ironical situations abound in Jhabvala’s novels. In her earlier phase the five novels -To Whom She Will’ (1955), -The Nature of Passion'(1956), -Esmond in India’ (1958), -The Householder (1960), and – Get Ready for Battle’ (1962) are written. The novels -To Whom She Will’, -The Nature of Passion’ and -The Householder’ ironically deal with Indian marriage, business and domestic life, not with western characters. The novel -Esmond in India’ throws a light on Jhabvala’s European sensibility. In all these five novels irony in a comic vein flows but in the novels of later phase it comes to satire. In – A Backward Place'(1965), -A New Dominion’ (1972), and -Heat and Dust’ (1975) her Indian concern shifts towards a concern with Europeans in India. East-West encounter in her novels naturally appears. She has a great mind to present her experience of east-west with comic irony.

As a comic novelist Jhabvala has comic ironical view on ordinary situations of life and satirizes them for moral and social values of life. We go with her first novel -To Whom She Will’ in which an unmarried girl named Amrita suffers with her decision of marriage with a boy of her choice. She gives herself to whom she will but she is thwarted. She goes against the values of her family and says to her lover, Hari -what does my family matter? You know I would give up everyone and everything for you. Nothing matters. Only you.-29 (TWSW, )Hari does not go against his family and agrees to marry a girl of his mother’s choice. Sushila. Amrita gets frustration in love. The novel becomes a fine comedy of life when Amrita falls in love with Krishna Sen Gupta. On the one hand she becomes sad not for getting the married with a boy of her own choice and on the other she feels pleasure in getting the love of Krishna Sen Gupta. The situation becomes comic ironical when Krishna and Amrita discover their love for each other especially on the eve of the wedding of Sushila and Hari for whom Amrita went against her family and could kill herself. This reconciliation of Amrita with Krishna and of Hari with Sushila is done not for love, but for preserving the group values of family, community and religion. It is rather ironically conceived in the spirit of this New Comedy. In this way -the tradition of arranged marriage is reconciled with romantic love.-4

Irony also appears on the part of Hari Sahani who has real passion for Amrita and regards her -a goddess,-30 -The nightingale of- his heart, -the stars of ,-his eyes -the juice of-145his liver -all day- his -soul sings and dances for-30 her and -every moment of the day- he – thinks of her-145(TWSW) and feels himself unworthy of her. He confuses when his friends suggest him for an arranged marriage with Sushila Anand, a pretty singer. He finds himself swinging between his love for Amrita and his love for his family. He loves Amrita and cannot marry Sushila.Then his sister’s husband, Uri tells him that -It is only a game and we all play it. After marriage you will forget and you will laugh at yourself for taking it seriously.-17(TWSW) In -The Nature of Passion’ we meet a sympathetic as well as satirical portrayal of two Punjabi families of Narayan Das Verma(Lalaji) and of Dev Raj settled down in Delhi.Lalaji plays a central role in the novel and tries to adopt new environment. His passion and consciousness for his dearest daughter, Nimmi and for the power and value of money make the novel a social and domestic comedy which is Jhabvala’s main concern in the early phase of her career as a novelist.Lalaji’s concern for Nimmi shows an element of human relationship between father and the daughter .He considers her the finest achievement of his life. He represents old generation but his love and passion for Nimmi compel him to adopt new culture and new environment. The combination of both culture Old and New makes him a humourous character. Like her father Nimmi’s quest for culture of the newly rich class in Delhi also produces the comic irony. She is blessed with good looking, intelligence, loving family and plenty of money. These blessed things develop a sense of pride in her. She appears saying -She is only the daughter of a newly rich Punjabi contractor.- 47(NP) She exposes herself a girl of manners and becomes a comic character in the novel. She cuts her hair short for her boy friend,Pheroze Batliwala and goes to a selective night club with him to see and to be seen.Jhabvala throws a light on the businessmen who adopt the culture of the newly rich class and go the clubs through the conversation between Nimmi and her boy friend who has different attitude about these businessmen while Nimmi belongs to the culture of the newly rich class and goes to the clubs like them. Pheroze ironically says, -One the Intimate was quite a nice place and the people who went there were gentlemen and ladies. But now you cannot imagine what kind of people go there they are all businessmen and are very bad and crude and have no nammers-132(NP) and further comments on the manners of the new rich in Delhi, -The businessmen come into all the best places and spoil them for other people, and sometimes they even bring their educated wives.It is a good pity.I do not know why such people cannot stay at home, or why rules cannot be made to keep them out.-132(NP) The lines present a comic irony against the nouveau rich and Pheroze who himself likes to live with the newly rich girls like Nimmi and considers the act of kissing a girl a part of his manners. Both frequently produce this kind of comic situation. In -The Householder’ Jhabvala’s ironic mode can be seen with the complexity of situations and characters specially with Prem who becomes an ironic character because of his sensitivity and idealism on the one hand and of his maturity on the other. In the beginning as a responsible person he makes very sensitive remark. While talking to Mr.Khanna Prem tells him, -How can he support so many people on Rs.175 per month?-He further remarks, -Poverty and want are terrible things. In the Panchtantra it is written, -It is better to be dead than poor.-15(H)In Peggy’s party he attacks a European lady who tells him, -you may be Indian by birth but we are all-Indian by convictions88(H).At this he strongly says- All through our long struggle for Independence, our convictions.-88(H) The comic mode arises out of his immaturity. In fact,his immaturity causes a confusion, a conflict and a separation in his married life. He feels that he is married to a lady who – was not only quite different from what he had wished and hoped for but who also opposed him in his wishes?-31(H) In spite of his money problem he insists his wife,Indu on keeping a servant only for showing his self-importance as – the son of a Principal of a college and himself a profession, or man of education.-36(H) Indu is a practical girl and needs no servant because she does not believe in false pretense.The different attitude of both makes the situation critical and ironical as the lines reveal:

What do you think people will say if they come here and find we

have no servant?

-But nobody comes-, Indu pointed out.He made a sound of

impatience.How completely she missed his point! She really

seemed to be rather stupid.-36-37(H)

His insensitivity and immaturity make him irritate and he is always found against his wife.When Indu wants to visit her maternal house,he,at once forbids.Indu does not care him and goes by saying -who are you to -forbid’?-68(H)Later on his marital dissonance dissolves into experiences of real affection and love. Like an emotional lover he writes to her:

The house is empty without you and my heart also is empty

I want to stroke you and kiss you everywhere with my mouth

and then I wantto be inside you. When I think of this,I feel I

shall die with longing so much for you.-142(H)

He expresses his love towards his wife through this letter but it is comic irony that it is never dispatched because he,as a lover, thinks that his mother may read it.With this fear he burns it.Sometimes he reacts as an immature person.When he hears his wife’s pregency,he gently touches her growing belly and tries to feel the baby in her bomb.Suddenly a feelinf of shame entries him and he feels that it will reveal to otherpeople what he was doing to her at night? In this way he is a very complicatedperson.Nobody can easily understand him what he actually wants to say?- is true that he creats comedy in the novel time to time by his foolish longings and actions.He tries to raise his position but fate is clearly against him. It is the irony of the novel that the novel ends with the tragic scenes and characters. In -Get Ready for Battle’ the comic and ironic context flow in the complex web of human relationship between Kusum and Gulzari Lal,Sarla Devi and Brij Mohan,Vishnu and Mala and Brij Mohan and Tara.Gulzari Lal and his wife,Sarla Devi are opposed to the values of the spirit. In the middle of the novel Gulzari Lal develops an intimate relationship with Mrs.Kusum Mehra and wants to marry her.Sarla Devi is a modern lady who is willing to accept divorce her husband’s mistress.In India a divorced woman is no respected. It is the irony on the -art of woman that Sarla Devi easily accepts not only divorce but her husband’s mistress.Besides she has been entitled as – The Ideal of all women by her son’s friendGautam tells her son,Vishnu: How I admire your mother-she has shaken off everything,all the thingsthat due to her station in life had been piled on to her-your mother for me is the ideal of women.-16-17(GRBI) The novel shows that divorce is in the air.Vishnu and his wife, Mala love each other but can easily talk of divorce.Mala easily speaks that – we have divorce-and looks at Vishnu and Vishu also replies -Any time I am ready.-13(GRB) The matter of love and divorce in the novel is ironically and comically discussed. On the one hand the characters talk of divorce on the other they appear on the bed.Jhabvala portraits Vishnu and Mala’s love relationship skillfully in the following lines:

It was a long timebefore they were spent,and then he lay

naked against her naked, his face pressed in to her

enjoying her smell.She lay on her back,breathing

softly, and he smelt her and tasted her with wet,satisfied


The above quoted lines present the domestic intimacy between husband and wife.This intimacy is full of romance and sensuousness and makes the characters comic ironic.In -Esmond in India’Jhabvala has presented many scenes of ironic mode.Esmond and his wife,Gulab as a fine interior decorator before Har Dayal’s daughter,Shakuntala who visits his apartment.On the one hand he expresses his unbounded love towards his wife on the other we see him fighting with her on the dining table .Jhabvala’s characters are very conscious about the fool. In almost her novels we find her characters having a strong liking for the sumptuous food.In -A Backward Place’ food becomes the weakness of Mr. Gupta.In -To Whom She Will’Raj bahadur Tara Chand as an elaborate lunch with his daughter.In -Esmond in India’ Esmond’s wife, Gulab likes to take spicy In dian food but Esmond hates and prefers to eat cheese salad -at his smart little dining table in his smart little dining corner. – He and his setting looks rather like a beautifully photographed full page advertisement in an American magazine.It was very different from Gulab’s – spicy meal eaten on the floor out of brass bowls.- 33(EI) His different taste causes his separation from his wife because she is,too much crazy about the food that she thinks of nothing else but food and in the absence of Esmond she takes a great amount of food and feeds her son too.It is a great irony, whenever Esmond visits her mother,he finds mother daughter engaging in working and eating food.It is an irony of life that both marry for love but get disappointment and unsatisfaction. Sometimes it appears Gulab marries for the wrong reasons and also leaves him for the wrong reason.Her married life becomes a puzzle for her.She regards her husband as a good and to follow him is her duty.As an ideal wife she points out:

It was a husband’s right ,so her instinct told her to do, whatever

he liked with his wife.He could treat her well on badly pamper

her or beat her, that was up to him and it was not her place to

complain. But in returnthere was one thing,only one that be

owed her and that was his protection;was his duty to see that

she was safein his house and that no stranger could cast

insulting eyes on her.Esmond had failed in the duty;so now he

was no more her husband Nor she hiswife: since she considered

herself defiled she could not remain in his house any longer but

had to return,as was the custom to her own people.- 199-200(EI)

In this way it is a novel of despair cast in an ironic mode concerning the value of life of east and west.Gulab is an ancient ideal woman for whom marriage is a sacred thread that cannot be broken at case and husband is a symbol of god. Esmond is a modern European for whom marriage holds no inescapable conditions and can only be based on a combination of sophisticated living and an elegant, intelligent companion.Thus they get Separation from eachother.In a state of despair Gulab goes back to her own place and Esmond goes to Shakuntla.Esmond plays a negative role in the novel and sells Indian culture to earn his living.He teaches Shakuntla about Indian culture and art and falls in love with her.His passion forhakuntla comes to light in the garden of the great movementof love,Taj Mahal under the moon light their love begins to swell and Shakuntla falls for Esmond and says:

I do love you.From the very list moment I saw I loved you.

I cannot hide it any longer if I do, it will break me , my heart

will burst Esmond, I know you are married and -also you have a

child’out I tell you this means nothing to me .Only I know you

have come into my life and now it is my duty to give everything

I have to you,to adore you and to serve you and to be your slave.-


Jhabvala’s treatment of love is ironicalbecause esmond’s love for Shakuntla is skeptical and uncertain.Jhabvala portrays Shakuntla as an inexperienced girl who fall in love with Esmond and Esmond as an experienced man for whom kissing the girls and sharing his bed with girls are the norms of love.He is a Hypocratic who deceiveshis wife and runs after behind the girls.As an image of an ideal woman Gulab bears everything till the very end.Pointing out their relationship Meena Belliiappa writers:

It is then that you sense the tonal layers operating in the seemingly

matter of fast non-partisan narration and see the contrast, the

incompatibility of two individuals who are as unlike each other as the

ways of living they represent there is hardly a meeting point between

the two.5

In fact,neither Esmond and Gulab nor Esmond and Betty nor Esmond and Shakuntla nor any other pair in the novel has the genuine feeling of love that binds them for ever.The encounter of eastern and western characters in Jhabvala’s novels is significant. She develops In dian characters with western attitude and western characters with the Indian taste.

In the novels of Jhabvala’s later phase irony suddenly seems going to satire.The greatest irony or better say,the irony of ironies in the novel.A backward place is the theme itself.It deals with the life of a poor and helpless Judy who falls in love with Bal’s hansome face and his gay manners.Leaving her gay life of London she marries Bal and settles with him in a low middle class joint family house in Delhi.As all of us know,such a life is itself an irony.It is the irony of Judy’s life that she was impressed bythe B.A. of Bal.According to Jhabvala, she taught of the B.A. of Oxford and Cambridgeuniversities.Later on she realized that many peoplehad it but they could not be judged the more learned people.When Bal went to London,as an Indian delegate to attend a Conference of International Youth.She understood him an educated and a responsible person.Now she comes to know that he is an out of work,waiting for his big chance and a dreamer who lives on her wife’s earnings as secretary to the Cultural Dias.He is an Indian freak like Gino Carella in Forester’s -Where Angles Fear to Tread’ and Judy is the family’s bread winner.Throughout the novel Ball appears as an idle busy and Judy appears worried about the family -s bread.Thus ,Judy leads a miserable life and realizes that it is her fate.She tries her best to make her marriage work.The song becomes even more poignant when she visits a European girl Etta for whom marriage is nothing .She deeply needed a husband who can provide all comforts and luxuries. She has been married many times. Now she has an eye on Bal and asks Judy to break off her relationship with him.

Marriages, my dear, are made to be broken,that -s one of the rules

of modern civilization.Just because we happen to have landed

ourselves in this primitive society that’s no reason why we

should submit to their primitive morality.-5(BP)

Etta, the ageing beauty, married and divorced three times,fights a losing battle against alienation,old age and dreams of her admire.Jhabvala makes a sharp satire on her age:

She (Etta) had given up on husbands long ago for she had

come to the conclusion that, while she had no objections to

the institution of marriage as such a more flexible arrangement

was better suited to her particular temperament.In her twenties

and thirties she had had no difficulty in finding enough admires

to amuse and entertain her and to see to it that she had her

supply of necessary luxuries.44(BP)

In India marriage is a union between husband and wife and a divorced woman has no respect in the society but in America and Europe a divorced woman has right to live a life of dignity as a man has. Etta is a European girl,that’s why,she presents her western views about marriage and divorce that are different from eastern views.Judy is also a European girl but in the novel she represents Indian culture and conceders Sita her ideal.In this context Judy is more Indian than most Indian women like Mrs.Kaul in the same novel.

Jhabvala has spent twenty-five years of her life in India.That’s why,her novels make a fine synthesis of east-west encounter and bring out the difference between Indian culture and western culture.It is true that in the novels of her earlier phase she portrays Indian characters but in the novels of her later phase she portrays the characters of both.The last two novels -A New Dominion- and -Heat and Dust’ of later phase present both culture within an ironic view and give a picture of the stress of modern life especially in the east.The vital influence of the east makes her novels ironical as she looks at things and persons in west with her ironical attitude.She never hestitates to satirize the Swami of -A New Dominion’.In Indian context the swami must be religious and devotee but accordin to Jhabvala,he is a hypocratic and expert at dealing with thepeople and making them befool.In this novel three European girls,Lee.Margaret and Evie come to India for getting the spirituality.They try to get spiritual salvation under the guidance of this Swami,a holy man,who is the head of the Centre for Spiritual Rejuvenation but they become his prey.In the beginning he -creat(s) illusions of hope and happiness through a skillful manipulation of words,gestures and facial expressions6 of high level but later oo he seduces them.First he takes the girls as his disciples and bonds them to his will and then he destroys them exultantly. His real character comes to light when he tells Raymond -I want her (Lee) to be mine.She must be mine completely in heart and soul and yes,Raymond, in body also if I think it necessary.-146(ND )

The above quoted lines prove him a devil whose satanic glow and power terrify the girls.Jhabvala shows this terrible power working on Lee in the following lines:

He compelled her to look into his eyes.She was aware

of nothing but his eyes.They were quite different from

usual no longer narrow and shrewd,they appeared

enormous and glowed and burned with a supernatural

power.Looking into,them was more than she could bear,

but he would not let her look away.There was something

like an explosion in her mind and circles of light sparked

and revolved within its pitch black night.

And then this devil of a Swami -laid his hand on her small

breast and she -trembled and shuddered as he had never

done before for anyone.-126-27(ND)

According to Jhabvala, these swamis are hypocratic and a pack of rouges.She has visited,experienced ,and commented with an ironic detachment at the empty rituals that choke the real sense of spirituality.She describes the holy men who often pass through the town of Satipur in -Heat and Dust’:

I -ve seen them do the same with Indian holy men who often pass through the town with their orche robes and beds and begging bowls.On the whole they look a sturdy set of rascals to me some of them heavily drugged, other randy as can be ,all,it seems to me with shrewd and greedy faces.-63-64 (HD)

Through her novels Jhabvala wants to draw our attention on modernity which is revealed not only in the life of the peoplebut in the life of Sadhus,saints and priests also.In ancient time the sadhus and the Swamis lived in the forest and were full of virtues and intellect.Jhabvala’s Swami in -A New Domion’ is a man of high ambitions.He likes non-veg ,drinking and traveling by aeroplane and helicopters.He appears on TV and lives in an airconditioned Ashram.He leads a luxurious and comfortable life while an Indian Swami is considered to lead a simple life.Jhabvala’s Swami has different outlook towards life.He is fond of going from one centre to another in the U.S.A. and the U.K. and lecturing ,gathering newdisciples and establishing new centres in new countries. He likes his movement to -be a world wide religious uniting men of all creeds and all colours into one family and so bringing peace and harmony into the world-119(ND) His aim is to get his manuscripts published under the guidance of Raymond and his pamplets distribute so that his name would be on the lips of the common folk.He feels pride when he comes to know that his disciples want him to be their Guru.He says:

The Guru decides when the disciple is broken and remade.

It is difficult to be someone’s Guru? To take ovr this’

responsibility so that the other person needdo nothing

but have trust and faith? Only to say,now I am yours,take

me,do what you like with me and so this person is in Guru’s

hands and the guru carries this person over sticks and


He is very expert to attract the people towards himself.Indian people believe in making gurus because they think that gurus show them the path of salvation.In this context Guru becomes an important part of their lives.In -Heat and Dust’a young European boy Chief initiated by his Guru,is called Chidananda.He appears with his beads and begging bowls in which he collects his daily food from the charitable people. The people consider their giving act the custom of their religion.In -A Backward Place’ Jhabvala ironically presents the attitude of Indian people towards them.Yet the people visited temples,had their Guru and believed in the age old dictum that – God provides-84(BP) and -had faith that God provides and gives with both hands.-11(BP) In -Heat & Dust’Chidaranada falls ills and takes shelter in the narrator’s room. He must be thankful for the narrator’s polite behabiour. In place of being thankful he dreams of enjoying sex with the young woman who feeds him on food.Jhabvala beautifully portraits the true character ofthis hypocratic and false Sadhu.He -is always hungry and not only for food.He also needs sex very badly and seems to take it for granted that I will give it to him the same way I give him my food.-65(HD)

In jhabvala -s novels sexual behaviour is frankly and openly seen and as it destroys the religious theme and swami grossly misuses his sexual power.O.P. Saxena writes about Jhabvala’s attitude to the Swamis and the bais in the following lines:

The Swamis, the Sadhus of Jhabvala -s novels are not paragons of virtues and intellect or the embodiment of the true spirit. They are sometimes an odd combination of wordly wisdom and other worldy charm; they are of the earth. Westerners are attracted towards them not only because the East hasa message to give but also because they are tired of their material west.-7

The greatest irony lies in the fact that – Everyone knew that western girls were brought up on sex,lived on sex.-56(ND) Asha’s English governer, Miss Hart represents the earlier heneration of Britishners who believed,that -It was eating all that spicy food that made Indian boys andgirls grow up so quickly for it heated the blood and caused premature lust.56(ND) Here irony seems going against the west when Gopi,the spokesman of India,makes fun the Britishners and realizes the casual meaning of Lee’s apology for ignoring him:

Gopi was no longer as impressed by apologies as he had once been . Living with Raymond ,he realized that these people said sorry very quickly ,perhaps even took some pleasure in it.-33(ND)

In -Heat and Dust’ Jhabvala satirises the human relationship between husband and wife and the social aspect of sex and pregnancy,concerning the women in India.It narrates the story of a European couple in India.Mr. Douglas is an assistant collector at Satipur and always worries about his official duty.He has little time to spare for his wife who is waiting for him.The result of her waiting comes out her love for the Nawab.The irony displays when she becomes ready to bear the heat of summer in plains rather than go to Shimla,leaving Douglas behind.She says, -She’d irritable,she’d be hot, she’d quarrel with him all right!But please not to spend her away from him.-44(HD)These lines express her love for her husbandDouglas’neglection leads her to the Nawab.She starts enjoying heroutings with the Nawab and gets pregnant.Ironically Jhabvala says that she does not tell Douglas about her pregnancy but tells Nawab first.The novel shows that marriage is a compromise the couple haaas to follow.In the first few years Olivia and Douglas face emotional conflict and try to adjust themselves according to the different circumstances.The visiting of the Nawab bribgs happiness in Olivia’s life.She decides to leave Douglas and lives with the Nawab to leave Douglas and lives with the Nawab through out her life in India.Irony comes out of the ridiculous situation not from any specific point of view.The characters of Jhabvala writing reveal both eastern and western attitude and find themselves in the flux of changing values and assaulted simultaneously by the conflicting values of the esat and west.

Jhabvala’s novels are all conceived in irony.Irony runs through from first to the last novel.Infact ,the setting of the novel is in itself ironical.Eight of her twelve novels up to -Heat and Dust'(1975) which we are discussing here are set in India.In 1976 she had left India for good and settled in America where she wrote four novels: -In Search of Love and Beauty'(1983), -ThreeContinents'(1987), -Poet and Dancer'(1993 ),and -Shards of Memory'(1995).They are absolutely set in America but the glimpses of her Indian experiences continue through out these four novels.In her earlier eight novels the society of Delhi is almost reflected.During her stay in Delhi she had seen a number of social groups and individuals.In her first novel -ToWhom She Will’the actions are performed by the social groups and individuals represented by the Rai Bahadur,Vazir Dayal Mathur and Suri .In her next novel -The Nature ofPassion’ the setting ofliving style is changeable.Ironically Jhabvala marks the changeable style of Lalaji when he stepped in Delhi ,his financial condition was very miserable.Later he becomes a reputed personality in Delhi.First his room was decorated with -whitewashed walls and cracked cement floors,but now it shines with English furniture ,silk curtains and lampshades,novelity cigar boxes and coloured boxes.-The changing pattern of Lalaji’s life becomes ironical and is followed by Har Dayal in her next novel -Esmond in India’.Her fourth novel” -Ths Householder’ deals with the life of a lower middle class individuals in urban setting.It recalls India’s ancient past when Indians believed in Nirvana and throws a light on the exploitation of the innocent people such as Prem,a college lecturer in a private Delhi college is exploited by Mr. Khanna and Mr. Seigal.Her fifth novel -Get Ready for Battle’ opens with the scene of a wet party at the post New Delhi house of Gulzari Lal.Jhabvala satirizes the world of high class and fashionable social life of Delhi.Toto Saxena and his wife Ushi,Iqqi Singh and Premola,Pitu and Shila,Chuchu ,Bhat and Kimi,Bablu and Bibi belong to this world of high class.Gulzari Lal and Mrs. Bhatnagar are in the air. IN the sixth novel -A Backward Place’Jhabvala dominates the dominates scene of an Indian family. Irony is that a European girl named Judy performs her duty well and always attempts her best to sustain the marriage as well.She has to go out of the house for running her family,while her Indian husband always losts in his dreams and plans to be a hero like Kishan Kumar.The actions of other characters are domestic.Jhabvala’s best novels -A New Dominion’ is divided into three parts.The setting of the first part is in Delhi.It opens with Lee’s entrance to India.The western characters like Margarret,Evie,Miss Charlotte and Raymond,a tourist also appear. Later on Indian characters like Asha,Gopi,Rao Sahib,Swami and Banubai are introduced in second part.Then the scene of the novel shifts to Banaras.At last the scene of the novel shifts of Maupur in Rajasthan,Maupur is Asha, a middle aged princess’s native place.With the passing of the time all the leading characters such as Asha,Gopi,Raymond and Lee shifts to Maupur.In this way the whole novel is set in Delhi ,Banaras and Maupur in RAasthan.The setting of this novel becomes interesting because it has similarity with E.M.Forester’s -A Passage to India’ which is divided into three parts titles -Mosque-, -Caves- and -Delhi-. Her awarded novel -Heat and Dust’ comes at the nd of Phase Two and also deals with two paralled stories of British India as embodied in Olivia’s story and of Post-Independence India as reflected in the young narrator’s peregrinations and experiences are discussed in it. The setting of this novel is skillfully managed and reveals Jhabvala’s personal experiences: negative and positive or love and hate relationships with India.

A close study of the characters of Jhabvala -s novels reveals irony on their parts.That’s why ,her characters are called types or worse skill,stereotypes but in Foresterian terms are only -flat’ characters because they donot show evidence of growing up or rounding of their angularities as the fictional drama requires.In -T o whom She will’ Amrita and Hari Sahani are very ironical characters who in the beginning of the novel,always remain ready to devote everything for their love but later on they willingly get separation from each other and search their separate partners.In -The Nature of Passion’Jhabvala ironically attacks on Lala Narayan Das (Lalaji) and his Samadhi,Dev Raj’s quest for money and power for which they go against the social and moral values and have been -counted among the richest men in Delhi.(NP) Like Lalaji Har Dayal in -Esmond In India’believes in polishing his life and feels proud of having foreign he wore kurta payjama or a dhoti.Now he wears English suits,eats English style and lives English style even at home.He is a culture vulture.In -The Householder’Prem is the best example of the irony of character.He is a college lecture in a private Delhi college run by Mr.Khanna. In spite of being educated he is shown an imperfect educated teacher for drawing the poor salary of Rs.175.He demands more but he is exploited.In -Get Ready for Battle’ Gulzari Lal is the representative of those who regard money their God. In spite of having impressive personality and good social backgrounds in society he is not regarded a good person by his family.His wife,Sarla Devi could not bear his condemnable life so she left him ten years ago.She gets success in making his image good in the eye of society not in the eye of his family.It is irony on his part .As a European writer Jhabvala portrays the European characters in her novels and tries to reveal her relationship with east west through these characters.In this way in her novels the east -west encounter is frequently seen and becomes an important theme of her novels.In -A Backward Place’ Judy is a European character who attracts towards Bal for his B.A. and good face looking and comes to India with him.The irony is seen when she comes to know that Bal does nothing but is a dreamer.Etta is a European character who is in search of husbands.Rich men are her weakness but this weakness becomes a great irony on her part when she falls in love with poor Bal who is himself dependent on her wife’s earnings.In -A New Dominion’Jhabvala ironically makes a fine fusion of Indian and western characters.Asha,a middle aged princess,Gopi, a student ,Rao Sahib, a former ruler and politician,Swami, a spiritual guide,Banubai,a prophetess,Bulbul,Asha’s maid,Bob, a go ahead young man are Indian characters.Raymond, a tourist, Lee, Margaret and Evie have just arrived India on a spiritual quest.Indian spirituality attracts them but becomes their misfortune as they come under the impact of crooked Swami. In her eight novel -Heat and Dust’ Douglas and his wife Olivia,Marcia,his sister, the Nawab, the nephew Karim,Malashri Lal,Beta Crawford,Dr.Saunders,Major Minnes,Marwar Prince and Dr. Gopal are major and minor characters.Jhabvala’s use of ambiguity and irony invests her character with multiple level of meaning and implication. Olivia is a tragic figure and her tragedy saves her from being a stereotype character.Lady Ram Prasad and Tarla Mathur in -To Whom She Will’Mrs. Bhatnagar and Mrs.Kaul in -Get Ready for Battle’ and Mrs.Das in -A Backward Place’ are the stereotype committee women who appear like monstrous creatures. Swamis of the early phase of her novels are the symbols of evil and spinister. The Lalajis,the Har Dayals,the Bhatnagars,the Khannas and the Kauls’ main concern is to make a world of money by using their meanness, selfishness, corrupt ideas and lust for sex.Jhabvala aims at throwing a light on the corrupt , the wealthy, the hypocritical and the exploiters by portraying the ironical characters.

While discussing the domestic problems and individuals consciousness among her female characters such as Amrita,Nimmi,Niddi,Chandra and Kanta Jhabvala’s ironic method comes close to Jane Austen and becomes an interesting matter for us to know where the characters of Jane Austen grow out of their natural reactions to the situations and circumstances,Jhabvala goes so much further in stripping her characters of not affections, but ideals,ambitions, hopes and duties.In Austen’s novels the theme of husband hunting goes on but Jhabvala ,in her novels, stresse on wife hunting as on husband hunting.In this case parents also play an important part. In -Pride and Prejudice’ Mrs.Bennet always appears in search of suitable husbands for her younger daughters.In Jhabvala’s -To Whom She Will’Hari appears searching the wife and falls in love with Amrita. Amrita also dreams of marrying him and goes against her family.In this reference she does not hesitate in breaking the tradition of arranged marriage by marrying a man of her own choice and going out,work. This situation becomes ironical on their part because Hari belongs to a different community, a different world.That’s why,he cannot be a suitable husband for Amrita in the opinion of her mother,Radha who herself married to a man out of her world.

Here Jhabvala draws our attention on the social consciousness based on caste, class, status and race barriers while in love they have no place. Amrita’s mother also warns Hari not to have connection with her daughter.Hari follows her and leaves the idea of marrying with her daughter.The result comes out that he again starts searching the wife.Above all he cannot resist family pressure and agrees to marry Sushila Anand, a girl of her mother’s choice.Jhabvala’s characters believe in comparing the horoscopes of boy and girl for marriage and considering family status,caste ,relative affluence and future prospects while Jane Austen’s characters believe in free love. Amrita’s romance with Hari resembles Austen’s Lady Catherine.Jhabvala’s characters portrayals of Krishna Sen Gupta and Amrita in -To Whom She Will’Viddi and Kanta in -The Nature of Passion’Sudhir Banerjee in -A Backward Place’ Ram Nath in -Esmond in India’ Raymond,Asha and Gopi in -A New Dominion’ and Major Minnes in -Heat and Dust’ bring Austen’s Fanny Dashwood or Fanny Burney’s young Mr.Brangthton of Evelina, Henry Tilney,Mr.Darcy,Mr. Knightley,Captain Wentworth,Elizabeth Bennet, mind.Jhabvala -s novels resemble not only in directing a good deal of satire at marriage in middle class society but also in being a novel about growing up. Haydn Moore Williams has pointed out that Ruth Prawer Jhabvala -Like her literary ancestor,Jane Austen likes to develop plots in which romantic love is less than adequate.-8

Jhabvala’s early novels have the impact of Jane Austen’s ironic detachment.Her habit of ironic undercutting within a sentence frequently in such novels as -The Householder’, -The Nature of Passion’, -To Whom She Will’ and -Get Ready for Battle’ brings Jane Austen to mind. It -Get Ready for Battle’ an Indian party is arranged in which many people come with their wives and enjoy the party. Jhabvala in the style of Jane Austen, describes the manners of wives -who sat in a semi circle at one end of the room and sipped pine apple juice.-in -To Whom She Will’ Krishna’s wit and good sense of voice recalls Austen’s Henry Tilney (Northanger Abbey) and the angry activity of Phuphiji,Lalaji’s widowed sister reminds of Mrs. Norris or Sir Thomas Bertram in Austen’s -Mansfield Park’.In -Esmond in India’ Ram Nath resembles Mr. Bennet in -Pride and Prejudice’ and its heroine Shakuntla is handsome,clever and rich but her manners resemble the heroine of Austen’s novel -Emma’.Jhabvala’s main characters are generally lovers, victims and self-deceiving while Austen’s characters are called very complex by different critics. In this case Ron Shepherd has pointed out that:

Jhabvala -s ironic method is similarly double directed so

as to constitute a critique of the aberrant individual, and

more importantly,of the rigidly coercive society.But

Jhabvala’s fiction slso goes beyond a concern with

conformity or unconformity, with pride or prejudice or

with sense or sensibility, those values closely associated

with position and class.9

In the connection of ironic mode Ruth Prawer Jhabvala is called -an Indian Austen.-10 In this reference she presents her views in an interview with Ram Agarwal in 1974:

I haven’t consciously modeled myself on anyone.

Unconsciously (or does one say sub consciously?)

more or less on every writer I have loved and admired.

Any writer who had deeplythrilled me and there have

been many, many has influenced me The reasonal used

to be compared to (Jane Austen) is because my earlier

books dealt with the same sort of society as hers did.i.e.,

the leisured middle classes,mostly concerned with eating

and marrying.Also perhaps my way of looking at thinks

may have been somewhat similar to hers a sort of ironic

detachment? May be Anyway ,that was in my earlier books.11

It is significant to note that Jhabvala’s novels have been concerned with the double edged irony while describing life in the Indian princely states in the nineteenth century.She comes close to Forester and J.R. Ackerley whose novels present the description of Indian princely states .The description of Dewas in Forester’s -The Hill of Devi’ and of Chhatarpur (renamed Chhokrapur in the book)in J.R. Ackerely’s -Hindoo Holiday’ is very remarkable and is enough to tell Indian culture and Indian history.After the publication of -Heat and Dust’ in an interview with Yolanta Maji Ruth Prawer JHabvala herself commented that -the people who used to go furthest into India, who understood it best and become closet to it,were English homosexuals like E.M. Forest and Joe Ackerley, because their emotions were involved ,even their passions.-12

It was Forster’s -A Passage to India’ that moved Jhabvala towards India and developed a desire in her to visit India.Her marriage to an Indian was a golden opportunity for her.It is an irony on her part that decided to leave India and settled in America in1976.In her earlier years in India she felt heavenly pleasure on earth and described the beauty and culture of India in her writings.During writing her novels the impact of Forster -A Passage to India’ continued in her mind.His sixth novel -A Backward Place’ is the best example.We can quote some lines from this novel:

-this was not Europe.The houses,true enough,were built

from jazy pictures in European or American magazines,but

the surrounding landscape was not really consonant with

anything those magazines might know of.Vast barren

spaces, full of dust and bits of litter,flowed around and

between the smart new hoses,there was not a tree in slight,

and the only growth to spring spontaneously out of this soil

was, here and there, little huts patched together out of mud

and old boards and pieces of sacking. 7(BP)

]The lines present a beautiful Indian landscape in Forstian style.Standing on Etta’s balcolony Judy enjoys the beauty of Indian landscape and notices Etta’s wonderful flat modeled on European lines and the general Indian landscape.The contrast between European picture and Indian picture is a wonderful example of Jhabvala’s artistic skill.This Forstian irony runs through her fiction.In her next novels -A New Dominion’and -Heat and Dust’ the Indian sky is seen as a strong symbol but in Forster’s -A Passage to India’ this sky appears as the snake.To prove it the lines may be quoted from -A New Dominion’:

Over the hutments over the snake holes, over the

flat barren landscape stretched the evening sky.100(ND)

The above passage displays the double edged irony that proves that no writer can write accurately about India without reading Forster’s -A Passage to India’.It is true that Jhabvala followed Forstian style but the ideas presented in her novels are her own.

A plenty use of verbal irony is frequently seen in Jhabvala’s novels. In this connection we can mark the dialogues that run between Prem and Mr. Khanna, Prem comes to request Mr. Khanna to raise his poor salary so that he may welcome his conceived first child into this world when it is born.He finds Mr. Khanna taking his breakfast on his dining table.The conversation between them is very comic and full of verbal irony.Mr.Khanna: – You see me enjoying my breakfast-and adds -It is very important to start the day with a good breakfast.- Prem thinks of -Sohan Lal eating his first humble meal perched on a little bench in the staff room- and further says ,-Mr. Sohan Lal lives in Mehrali he has to leave his house at six o’clock in the morning,without any food.-Mr. Khanna sympathetically says , -you should always take plenty of salt,with your food.It quickens the energies and adds a spoonful of salt taken in a glass of warm water is also very good for reflecting liquid strength lost through too much perspiration you see,in our climate we must take great care of the body.-14-15(H)

Mr. Khanna goes for the increment in his poor salary but forgets why he has come and talks of breakfast. In -Heat and Dust’ a fine example of verbal irony can be noticed in the dialogues of Harry and Olivia during the admiration of Olivia husband, Douglas.

Harry I like your husband.

Olivia Oh do you?-So do L .16(HD)

On the forgoing discussion it can be concluded that Ruth Prawer Jhabvala’s irony is sharp, gentle and sympathetic and it also arises from the ridiculous situations which are produced by the comic and humourous dialogues of her characters. She brings out the inconsistencies of her characters and their actions by her ironical treatment are humane and gentle not bitter.



TWSW : To Whom She Will, George Allen and Unwin, London, 1955.

NP : The Nature of Passion, George Allen and Unwin, London, 1956.

H : The Householder, John Murray, London, 1960.

GRB : Get Ready for Battle, John Murray, London, 1962.

BC : The Backward Place, John Murray, London1965.

EI : Esmond in India, Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1980.

ND : A New Dominion, St.Albans Publishing Ltd., Granda, 1983.

HD : Heat and Dust, John Murray, London, 1975.


1. Gooneratne,Yasmine: Silence, Exile and Cunning: The Fiction of Ruth Prawer Jhabvala,Orient Longman, Hyderabad,1983,p.16

2.Shahane,Vasant A : Ruth Prawer Jhabvala ,Arnold Heinemann,New Delhi,1976,p.84

3.Gooneratne ,Yasmine : Silence,Exile and Cunning : The Fiction of Ruth Prawer Jhabvala,Orient Longman,Hyderabad,1983,p.24

4.Hadyn Moore, Williams : The Fiction of Ruth Prawer Jhabvala,Writers Workshop,1973,p.14

5.Belliappa,Meena : A Study of Jhabvala -s Fiction Miscellany,43,1971,p.25

6.Saxena, O.P. : Spirtual Porn,Glimpses of Indo-English Fiction,Vol.11,Jainsons Publications,New Delhi,p.235

7.Saxena,O.P. : Spirtual Porn,Glimpses of Indo -English Fiction,Vol.11,Jainsons Publications,New Delhi,p.227

8. Hadyn Moore,Williams : Silence ,Exile and Cunning: The Fiction of Ruth prawer Jhabvala, ed.,Yasmine Gooneratne ,Orient Longman,Hyderabad,1983,p.33

9.Shephered, Ron : Yes,Something is wrong! Obscure Irritant in Ruth Prawer Jhabvala’s Short Story in Passage to Ruth Prawer Jhabvala ,ed.,Ralph Crane,Sterling Published Private Limted,New Delhi,Z1991,P.101

10.Gooneratne,Yasmine : Silence,Exile and Cunning: The Fiction of Ruth Prawer Jhabvala,Orient Longman ,1983,p.16

11.Agarwal,Ramlal : An Interview with Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, Quest91,September & October,1974,pp.33-34

12.Ruth Prawer Jhabvala in Conversation with Yolanta Maji,New Review,2,No.21,1975,p.54

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