Nectar in a Sieve
by Kamala Markandaya
Analysis: Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis
Christopher Booker is a scholar who wrote that every story falls into one of seven basic plot structures: Overcoming the Monster, Rags to Riches, the Quest, Voyage and Return, Comedy, Tragedy, and Rebirth. Shmoop explores which of these structures fits this story like Cinderella’s slipper.
Plot Type : Rebirth
Booker’s plot structure doesn’t perfectly fit this novel because the story is not told in a usual style leading up to a single end or climatic event. There are elements of "The Quest," "Tragedy," and "Voyage and Return," but none is a single guiding aspect of Ruku’s life; instead, these are fairly incidental to the arch of the plot.
"Rebirth" is perhaps the most appropriate for this book among Booker’s plots, but even this classification is problematic. Arguably, not much has changed over the course of the narration. Ruku’s story is comprised of one hardship after another, and only punctuated sporadically with the little joys that characterize a typical rebirth story.
But we are hesitant to put it into this category because the rebirth trope relies on some miraculous redemption by another happening at the end of the story. There is no such miraculous intervention (though Rukmani does find a savior in Puli), and when she returns to her life in the village, the reader knows she will face the same struggles and difficulties she had known in the past. Ultimately, this is story of how Rukmani acquired grace and quiet acceptance in the face of great hardship. Unlike the rebirth trope, what’s most important is how Ruku has stayed her steady self in spite of all hardships. Her triumph in the end is not that she is born again, but simply that she continues to live.