Based on "By Any Other Name," What does Santha Rama Rau's story tell the reader about identity?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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This short story is an inspiring testament concerning the ways in which people can resist having their identity shaped by forces that seem to be bigger than they are. At the core of this story are two Indian girls who move to a new Anglo-Indian school where they are given English names by the headmistress and expected to adopt Anglo-Indian culture, leaving behind their Hindu upbringing. Santha, the narrator, is therefore given the name of Cynthia. It is the refusal of the two characters to do reject their Hindu culture that leads to the protagonist's sister's expulsion from this school and the resumption of their original way of life. The impact this expulsion has on the narrator is negligible, as the final paragraph explains:

I understood it perfectly, and I remember it all very clearly. But I put it happily away, because it had all happened to a girl called Cynthia, and I never was really particularly interested in her.

It is inspiring to note how the author was able to reject the new name of Cynthia she was given, and the way of life that was imposed upon her. Unfortunately, of course, history shows that in many other cases others were not so able to shrug off the identity that was forced upon them by those more powerful than they were. 

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