Explore the main characters in Keeping Corner.

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

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Leela is the central character in Keeping Corner.  Her narrative is the focus of the work.  Leela is a beautiful girl of nine years old.  Being a Brahmin, she is married at a young age.  Her husband dies of a snake bite.  Leela must endure the life of a widow at an unnaturally young age.  Her marriage bangles are broken.  Her head is shaved.  She must "keep corner" as a widow.  Denied the promise and possibility of life with her husband dead, it becomes clear that Leela must suffer in silence.  The development in her characterization is of vital importance to the story's themes.

Leela's brother is Kanubhai and his role is equally important.  He is the force of change in Leela's life. He sees how she is treated as a widow.  When he tells her “I know it is custom, but you don’t have you follow it," a significant moment emerges.  Kanubhai becomes an agent of change in his sister's life.  He recognizes that in helping her achieve an education, Leela can live a life and not be so tethered to a tradition that deems the widow's life as one without meaning.

Saviben is the tutor who educates Leela.  His presence enables Leela to recognize how she can change through education.  Saviben is an important character because he represents the liberalizing social force shown in the novel's social context of India.  Along these lines, Gandhi becomes an important character in the novel.  His stance of Satyagraha and open disobedience to injustice coincides with Leela's emergence in the narrative.  Her development on a personal level is reflective of the change that India embraces as it fights for independence from England.  Gandhi becomes a political extension of the change that Leela recognizes.  The theme of change is seen both subjectively with Leela and politically with Gandhi and India. 

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