Identify provoking questions from "A Devoted Son" by Anita Desai that can explore the theme through class discussion.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think that one question that can generate discussion into the theme would be whether or not Rakesh is a devoted son.  The larger issue here is whether or not devotion is something that trumps independence.  Essentially, Rakesh is devoted to his father's ailing health.  Yet, he becomes extremely controlling and repressive in response to this condition.  The question here is whether or not Rakesh's attitude is carried out by a zealous desire to see his father healthy.  Another follow up question could be whether Rakesh is using the illness to subconsciously or deliberately punish his father for the sacrifices that the son has made in deference to his parents.  Certainly, Rakesh could have continued his life in America, made money, and enjoyed the life afforded to him.  Yet, he comes back to India and does what his parents want in name of their devotion.  The question here is whether or not his tyrannical turn could be a way to get back at them for having to have made these sacrifices.  Within this discussion is how the role of duty and responsibility can take away from human autonomy.

I feel that another discussion point that comes out of the short story is what it means to be someone who straddles two worlds.  Rakesh is both of the modern and traditional construction of what it means to be a child. He honors his parents in the traditional notion by doing well and finding success as a testament to them.  In the modern capacity, this results in him going abroad and finding material success.  Such a condition collides with the traditional duties of adhering to his parents' wishes in marrying a chosen girl and living a life that has him living out what they wish.  This is where "devotion" is evident.  In discussing how traditional notions of devotion and collide with their modern counterpart, Rakesh's characterization is illuminated, and with it, a thematic element of the short story.

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