Study Guide

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand Race

By Helen Simonson

Race

You wouldn't expect a tiny English countryside village to be a hotbed of racism, but in Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, that's pretty much what you're gonna get. Well, okay, Edgecombe St. Mary isn't exactly a hotbed—it's more like a lukewarm bed of racism. But that doesn't mean being the only Pakistani family in town is easy. It's kind of a double whammy, too: in a town this small, it's difficult to tell if the discrimination Mrs. Ali sometimes faces is the result of class differences or racial ones, or both.

Questions About Race

  1. Do the Major or Mrs. Ali have any racial prejudices they need to overcome?
  2. Is Mrs. Ali discriminated against because of her race or because of her social class? Or is it a combination of both? Alternatively, do you believe that she is not a subject of discrimination?
  3. Are the party-planning ladies truly interested in diversity when it comes to their India-themed party? Why or why not?

Chew on This

Most people in the village probably don't think they're racist, because they don't even notice Mrs. Ali exists. But failing to acknowledge a person isn't the same as "not seeing race."

We see very few examples of outright racism in the book, like the phrase "Pakis go home!" being shouted by teenagers. The rest of the racism in the book is subtler.