In her story “By Any Other Name,” Santha Rama Rau shows the influence of culture on personal identity through the contrast between the two sisters. Although both girls are students in the English school, Santha withdraws into herself while Premila actively resists the injustice that the teacher attempts to impose on them. The author initially implies that both sisters are having the same experience. By the end of the story, the reader can see the clear distinction between the ways that each of them experiences the school environment, and reacts to the teacher’s behavior in particular.
By setting the story in India during British colonization, the author shows the dominant attitude that the colonizers applied to the colonized. The school uses English as the language of instruction, so that even to begin studying there, the girls must already know the colonizers’ language. The teacher refuses even to acknowledge the girls’ names, but changes them to English names, Cynthia and Pamela. Rather than consider the individual needs of each student, she makes an unfounded generalization against Indian students, stating that they are cheaters. Premila simply refuses to tolerate this discriminatory behavior. Santha, however, experiences an internal alienation from the person the teacher expects her to be. When she accompanies her sister out of the classroom, she leaves "Cynthia" behind.