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Bring on the tough stuff - there’s not just one right answer.
Why does Markandaya avoid talking about any specifics of time and place in the novel? What does she accomplish by avoiding anchoring the novel in practical details? Is the story any more universal for lack of these details?
In times of utter desperation Rukmani turns to the gods, to her husband, to Kenny, and to others. How dependent is Ruku on other people and outside forces? On the other hand, what indications do we have about her self-reliance?
Rukmani despairs to learn that her first child is a girl. What does she feel about her own position as a woman? When she refers to her own feelings, how much does her femininity factor into how much agency she has? How does she regard women differently than men?
Why is the narrative told as a flashback? What’s up with the moments in the narrative that Rukmani tells in the present tense, namely Raja’s death, her travel away from her village, and Nathan’s death?
How present is colonialism in the narrative? Is it an issue of race, of power, of modernity? Why is India’s colonial transition never specifically referenced? Is Markandaya implicitly discussing colonialism by using individual characters and objects (like Kenny, and the tannery) as metaphors or stereotypes?