Indian Class System
India's rigid class system is the main theme of the novel. Every aspect of the characters’ lives are dictated by their social class. Even when Biju immigrates to America, he cannot escape his class. In India, it is acceptable to treat others as slaves if they are in a lower social class. The two classes do not trust each other; the upper class always suspects the lower class of stealing. They also believe that the lower classes do not experience emotions that are civilized. The lower class expects to be betrayed by the upper class, so they keep their lives separate. Constant anger underlies the characters' everyday behaviors and keeps the two classes separated. The upper classes realize that their social position, which had always been the root of their security, is what makes them vulnerable when the insurgents turn to violence.
Living in Two Worlds
The main characters—the judge, Sai, and Biju—live in two worlds: the Indian class system and the Western world. Every day they straddle these two worlds in their social interactions, their hopes and dreams, and their expectations. Biju goes to America to escape the class system because he was born into the lower, or servant, class in India. He has expectations that in the Western world he will be treated differently. However, he soon learns that America has its own type of imprisonment: economic enslavement. Despite his time in the United States, Biju does not abandon his Indian identity. Biju has seen the underground society in America and has a more objective vantage point by which to assess the two cultures.
The judge also expects to be treated like a Westerner. He left India to study in England when he was a young man. When he returned to India, he was treated like a foreigner. He looks Indian but acts like an Westerner, so he is treated like one.
Sai was raised outside of Indian culture, so she is more like Westerners...
(The entire section is 741 words.)