Life offers a multitude of new opportunities and challenges to individuals. A challenge such as taking on a new role with new responsibilities is an inevitable part of aging. Encountering and surpassing new milestones often marks the start of a new chapter in ones life. In the short story “A Devoted Son”, education, marriage and a family members illness all contribute to the new roles assumed by the protagonist. The author Anita Desai develops the idea that change is the ongoing force that causes individuals to accept new roles in their lives.
In her short story, Rakesh and Varma essentially switch roles in their family as Rakesh ages and struggles to accept the difficult choices that come with maturity. From the very beginning there were high expectations placed on Rakesh by his parents. Being such a bright and respectful boy meant he never disappointed. He always had amazing grades and ended up becoming the most recognized doctor in his home town, but above all Rakesh remained loyal to his parents and continued to show them the same respect he had as a young boy.
The first major change faced by the protagonist was his departure from where he grew up to the United States where he studied and practiced medicine. Upon return Rakesh was welcomed with love from his family and plenty of jealousy from the town. This marked the beginning of his ever changing role as apart of his family. With knowledge came responsibility for Rakesh; he opened his own practice and became the main provider for his family. After years upon years of depending on his parents for monetary support it was his turn to show that his studies were not in vain.
Varma and his wife graciously accepted the new lifestyle supported by their son and took pride in the fact that they had raised him to be the near perfect doctor and son that he was. Rakesh took pride in his clinic and the sign above the door bore his name and qualifications establishing him as a man of power. Soon after returning to India from the United States Rakesh was engaged to be married. His new wife was a woman name Veena who had been chosen by his mother as the Indian tradition dictates.
Upon being married, she moved in immediately and “settled in like a charm”. The two began having children promptly and thus began the next role that Rakesh would assume: a father. Although careless was never a word that could describe the man, becoming a father made him immensely more tense. He continued with his usual routine of working and coming home to see and care for his wife and family but demanded more and more control over his Papas life each day.
The growth of Rakeshs new family and the passing of his mother marked his complete take over of the house which he grew up him. Although his father was still breathing, the signboard for the house no longer bore his name but rather his sons with all his qualifications written below, just like his clinic. This symbolizes the power that Rakesh now held in the household. He was no longer just the provider of the household but also the head of it too. All decisions went through him and everyday he became more of a father figure to his own dad.
Through fear of losing his father like he had his mother, Rakesh began controlling every aspect of Varmas life, such as his food intake, his interactions and his daily routine in general. Varma weakened everyday and was continuously denied his most basic desires. He was forced to take on a new role as once again the child because his son had taken over his role as the father. Rakesh can be interpreted as a selfish man because he refuses to let his father have his way on any subject. “Ever a devoted son…. eaching out to press his feet” is a quote from the final scene in the story and once again portrays Rakeshs love for his father and his well-being. The final role taken on by Rakesh is that of maturity and consideration. In the final scene he at last listens to his father, despite what medicine his mind is telling him to administer, and he allows him to slip into the peace he had craved for far too long. As stated by Sophocles, “A man growing old becomes a child again”. This is the theme upon which the story “A Devoted Son” is developed.
Rakesh begins the story as a young boy and as he ages he slowly takes over the role of his father. Varma on the other hand begins to weaken with age and loose all control over his life. He ends the story as a dependent child who needs approval and support from his son for all his decisions. Unfamiliar experiences force many individuals to accept new roles and challenges in life and this short story displays the many new roles that can be assumed and what the end result can be.