Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

The story shows the birth of new ideas in old India. The arguments against change which in the Gandhian sense is a change of soul and not simply of caste or social function are made forcefully by reactionaries who point to the disorder, corruption, and arrogance of pre-British rule. As the old government man puts it, the British have come to protect dharma, or duty. Playing upon raw fear in the populace, the antinationalists argue that reform will mean the eventual corruption of castes and of the great ancestral traditions.

Although this novel does not have the profound philosophical nature of The Serpent and the Rope (1960), Rao’s most massive novel, its thrust is certainly didactic in that it glorifies the idea of revolt. It is surprising, indeed, that the author was not incarcerated for his views.