Some men like Jack and some like Jill
I'm glad I like them both but still
I wonder if this freewheeling
Really is an enlightened thing,
Or is its greater scope a sign
Of deviance from some party line?
In the strict ranks of Gay and Straight
What is my status: Stray? Or Great?
Dubious from 'Mappings' (Writers Workshop, Calcutta, 1980).
In A Suitable Boy, Seth's traditionalism allows him to rediscover character. Mrs Rupa Mehra becomes too substantial, too vivid a presence to be confined within a novel: she is at once infuriating and endearing, a benevolent Indian version of Mrs Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, a comparison that Seth is typically careful to suggest by equipping her daughter with a Jane Austen novel to read on a train.
Like Midnight's Children, however, A Suitable Boy too is steeped in an awareness of and affection for indigenous literary and cultural traditions, most notably Urdu poetry, Hindustani classical music, the performed Ramayana, the Ramlila, Shia marsiyas or lamentations, Tagore's songs ('Rabindra Sangeet'), and, of course, Hindi cinema.
The diversity and range of Seth's work makes him somewhat of an enigma. However, for a writer who counts such diverse figures as Pushkin, T'ang dynasty Chinese poets, Chaucer, the Elizabethans, Tennyson, novelists like Hardy, Austen, George Eliot, R. K. Narayan, and modern poets like Timothy Steele and Philip Larkin among some of his literary influences, Seth's wide-ranging technique is conceivably not so surprising.
In portraying a domestic life constrained, disrupted, and transformed by civil violence, Seth draws on the nineteenth-century historical novels of Scott, Alessandro Manzoni, Theodore Fontane, and Leo Tolstoy.