Summary (Masterplots II: British and Commonwealth Fiction Series)
In the opening pages of the novel, the third-person omniscient narrator introduces Prem, struggling to maintain an illusion of dignity and beset with anxieties over how he will manage the family’s affairs. His marriage with Indu was arranged, according to Hindu custom, by his mother after his father’s death. He is in his first year as a Hindi teacher at Khanna Private College, a school for boys of wealthy families who need additional study before they can be accepted into better colleges. Although he has been married for a few months, Prem regards Indu as a stranger; she does little that suits him, and he is critical of even her visits with the Seigals, his upper-middle-class landlords who live in an apartment below his own modest quarters. Prem, characteristically lacking self-confidence, sees himself as a failure as both a husband and a teacher.
Prem defines his role as husband as only that of material provider. Embarassed by sexuality and Indu’s increasingly visible pregnancy, he thinks of the anticipated birth only in terms of higher salary, lower rent, or both. His bumbling, comic attempt to request a raise from Mr. Khanna, the aloof overbearing headmaster, ends without Prem having even made the request. When Prem attempts to ask the Seigals for reduced rent after the baby arrives, he suffers the same result: Prem cannot ask for what he wants, because he does not know what it is that he really wants. Isolated from his fellow teachers and...
(The entire section is 1282 words.)
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