Desai has created a significant place for herself among the major novelists who
have made considerable contributions to the modern Indian English fiction. She
is considered as a great artist in almost all features in art of characterization,
displaying a psychological insight into the characters, painting a realistic
picture of Indian setting and background and in many other respects. Her novels
are materially different from those of the other eminent Indian women – novelists
writing in English such as Kamala Markandaya, Nayantara Sahgal and other
impressive novelist like Shashi Deshpande, Attia Hosain, Rama Mehta, Nergis
Dalal, Bhara hi Mukherjee, as well as Ruth Prawer Jhabvala and Shanta Ramarao
who concern themselves mainly with social and political themes of East-West
encounter. But Anita Desai’s serious concern is with the exploration of the
troubled sensitivity of her characters, especially women.


novels of Anita Desai seem to be purely subjective. As regards the autobiographical
element in her novels, she believes it to be inevitable. She admits that the
quality of one’s experience must show through one’s work. But she knows the
clear line of demarcation between the material drawn from real life and the one
from imagination. In an interview. Anita Desai explains to Yashodhara Dalmia:

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“In countless small ways the scenes and
settings certainly belong to my life. Many of the minor characters end
incidents are also based on real life. But the major characters and the major
events are either entirely imaginary or an amalgamation of several characters
and happenings. One can use the raw material of life only very selectively. It
is common among writers to pick out something from real life and develop their
situations around it. While there are other who start from some real experience
which continuously grows in their imagination.”1


Desai’s greatest strength lies in her command over the language. Among the
Indian novelists experimenting consciously with the English language, Anita
Desai has a unique lace. While the efforts of Mulk Raj Anand, Bhabani
Bhattacharya and other novelists have been onwards making English close to
Indian languages, to make it more adaptable to Indian needs, Anita Desai has
raised it to Lyrical heights, showing, as it were, that Indians are capable of
writing in a language which can be compared well with the best in the
English-speaking countries. She states about English:


“…………….I am very
glad to be writing in a language as rich, as flexible, supple, adaptable,
varied and vital as English. It to the language both of reason and instinct, of
sense and sensibility. It is capable of poetry and prose. I do believe it is
even capable of taking on an Indian character, an Indian flavor, purely by reflection.”2


Desai feels that it is difficult to write about those people who do not speak
English, yet she does not think it impossible for an Indian writer to convey
Indian thoughts in English language. Sometimes she finds it difficult to create
characters in Indian atmosphere through English language. However, she
skillfully and effortlessly overcomes these difficulties. She discovers a
marvelous elasticity and expressiveness in the English language. She polishes
her sentences, chisels her phrases and converts the rough-hewn stone into a
piece of art. Thus she uses the medium of English with a remarkable ease which
adds a new dimension to the Indo-Anglian novel.


Desai is often considered as a lyrical novelist. When Raja Rao brought out his The
Serpent and the Rope, it was hailed as an epoch-making, mahapurana,
combining poetry and philosophy. By writing, Cry, the Peacock, Anita
Desai has contributed a new kind of classic to the Indian novel in English –
“an extended ode in prose,”3
as Darshan Singh Maini calls it. It provides a rich feast of lyrical passages
and a ceaseless stream of sparkling images, testifying to the novelist’s poetic
genius. Anita Desai uses poetic prose as a pre-dominant element in her novel.
Instead of having tiring details, her novels abound in poetic descriptions of
objects and characters. B. Ramachandra Rao correctly depicts the poetic quality
of her novels and their perfect harmony in form and the unity of various
elements. He writes:


“Each novel of
Mrs. Anita Desai is a marvel of technical skill. Everything irrelevant or
superfluous is pruned out. So carefully is this pruning done that we have
little masterpieces, which possess formal perfection and poetic richness. This
perfection is not mere skill of a novelist obsessed with technique. It is the
product of a nature artistry which fuses the different and differing elements
into a remarkable unity.”4


is used by Anita Desai as a technique right from the beginning of her career as
an author. She has used lyrical language in all her novels. This quality of her
novels, often, separates her and her identity from other Indo-Anglian writers.