In the story ‘Pineapple Cake’ Desai vividly portrays Victor’s disappointment by using selective vocabulary, repetition and metaphors. The effect of her writing gives us the impression of a child who is disappointed in many things, not just the loss of a slice of pineapple cake, like the lack of affection from his mother and his unwanted role in the family.
From the very beginning of the story, we are told that Victor’s mother wanted a girl, not a boy. He was a mistake dressed in a “frilled shirt and purple velvet shorts”. This made him a very “nervous” child. Consequently, his mother coaxed him through life by making promises. However, “Victor hadn’t much faith in his mother’s promises.” Desai conveys Victor’s previous disappointments in his mother and it is obvious he has been let down before. Whatever faith he has left, is minimized by the use of the phrase, “hadn’t much”.
The way Victor acts shows that he does not feel comfortable or free in his family. “He felt he was being shoved out”. This is reflected by his mother’s actions, who displays that she does not trust Victor. She keeps a grip on him, “by holding him by the arm.” His inability to roam free or be trusted contributes to his general disappointment, and Desai shows us the coldness of his mother’s actions towards him by having her hold his “arm” as apposed to his ‘hand’. There is little love or warmth between them.
In addition, Desai uses the metaphor of Victor’s mother, “digging him in the ribs”. The word “digging” suggests that she is creating holes, or taking him apart piece by piece. I believe it is his confidence that she is attempting to disassemble with this metaphor.
Ultimately, it is the repetition of the promise, “pineapple cake for you”, that sets Victor up for his major disappointment. This disappointment is that even though amazingly this one time the promise was kept, “Take it, take the pineapple cake,” Victor realized it was not the cake he craved, but rather the love and affection that every child needs. After seeing someone die, the last thing Victor needed was cake. However, rather than be supportive toward him, Victor has to, “pull away” from his mother and make “a hesitant move towards the balcony”. His ‘hesitancy’ conveys his uncertainty of his mother’s feelings, will she care for him and comfort him, or will she be impatient and angry?
As Victor gathers his thoughts and, “stares down at the pastry as if it were the corpse”, his mother confirmed his fears of neglect and, “ate [the cake]…quickly.” Even though he is in deep emotional trauma, his mother still has the audacity to break her one promise in front of his own eyes. This act fulfils Victor’s disappointment.