Social Alienation in The Strange Case of Billy Biswas: A Contemporary Approach

  • Nitin Bhatnagar, Mukund Kumar Misra


Indian English novels take an inward turn with the emergence of Anita Desai and Arun Joshi. Whereas Anita Desai is psychological in her orientation, Arun Joshi’s novels deals with identity and existential issues of the characters. The protagonists of Arun Joshi’s novels face identity disintegration due toalienation from society, self or the world. The paper presents a study of identity crisis in Arun Joshi’s novel The Strange Case of Billy Biswas. The protagonist, Billy, comes from the upper crust of Indian society with all claims of aristocracy, but he is never at home in it. He goes to America to study engineering but his instincts instigate him to renounce it and study something which can give him a path to identify with a sense of belonging. After returning to India, Billy leaves the elite class of society and finds himself at home with primitive people.

Although the novel is written in the Indian social background of 1970s, yet the discussion is relevant to the contemporary social scenario. The present paper is also an effort to understand the struggle for identity in the contemporary modern society. The Billy, the character, is able to escape from the modern set-up; but in reality, the contemporary society is a witness to several cases of identity crises, who struggle hard to prove their existence in the society.