To begin with, Anita Desai explores the relationships of characters by referring to the motif of food. The quote, “Arun sits in front of his bowl of dhal. He stares at it, nauseated. He quite agrees with Melanie: it is revolting.” The words nauseated and revolting signify how disgusted Arun is feeling. Desai uses a variety of expressions and words to describe Arun’s feelings towards his relationships with the other characters in the passage. Also Mrs. Patton is the only one to stay with him for dinner, the quote “she smiles a bright plastic copy of a mother-smile that Arun remembers from another world and another time, the smile that is tight at the corners with pressure, the pressure to perform a role, to make him eat, make him grow, make him worth all the trouble and effort and expense.” This quote signifies how Arun visualizes Mrs. Patton when she is smiling, it reminds him of his own mother back in India, and he thinks that this ‘ bright plastic copy of a mother-smile’ is the same for every mother, that they put on this mask for their children to make them eat. The reader can feel that Arun is uncomfortable.
In addition the author also shows the theme of family by how distant the Patton’s interactions are. The quote, “Melanie is sitting on the landing as if to intercept him. She does not move her legs out of his way and he step over them gingerly.” This quote depicts that Arun is not very close to Melanie. In fact he knows very little about her, in the rest of the book Arun learns that Melanie is sick and that Rod knew about it but didn’t tell