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What does the word "duty" mean to the different characters in the story? 

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marisalandry5 | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 8, 2013 at 1:53 AM via web

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What does the word "duty" mean to the different characters in the story? 

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted November 9, 2013 at 12:27 AM (Answer #1)

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"Duty" for Shaila comes to mean different things in the course of the narrative.  On one hand, Shaila sees duty as being an honorable Indian wife.  In this light, she sees duty as something that keeps her bound to her husband, serving him in such a devoted manner that she cannot even bring herself to say his name.  Shaila sees duty as something that is associated with a lack of emotional articulation.  As the novel progresses, Shaila sees duty to her own sense of identity as a woman in becoming more assertive and vocal.  Shaila embraces this duty in different realms such as speaking out more and serving as a more vocal advocate for her beliefs.  It is in this light where Shaila sees duty as something that can exist "between worlds" as she seeks to better understand a condition of being that embraces both.

Judith sees duty as connected to offering help to others and seeing them accept it.  Her experience with the Sikh couple is reflective of this duty.  It is one in which Judith feels bound to offer help and to see it accepted.  Her sense of duty precludes her from understanding how another culture's conception of duty might collide with her own.  The Sikh Couple recognizes duty as one in which they must honor their traditions and their cultural identity.  Even if this means refusing help from the Canadian government which would make their lives easier, they understand duty as honoring their own identities and culture apart from "the other."  The collision between Judith's sense of duty and the Sikh couple's understanding of duty helps to establish how duty and consciousness exists "between worlds."

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