What are the critical comments on the structure of the novel Kanthapura by Raja Rao?

Expert Answers
Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The primary structure moves along at a measured pace while the narrator introduces one aspect of Rao's story after another, something reminiscent of what an oral storyteller might do. Rao starts with describing the village ("I don't think you have ever heard of it") as a humble, ordinary, and insignificant place. He then reinforces this by introducing the people who drive "cart after cart" that "groan through the roads of Kanthapura."

The people of Kanthapura are followed by a description of their religion. Kenchamma is their goddess. They call to her for help and protection, especially, as the narrator shows, when the smallpox hits the village. Then they promise her that they "shall walk the holy fire on the annual fair, and child after child gets better and better." Now, Rao takes this perfect opening to discuss the social order of the village.

There are "four-and-twenty houses" and the people who dwell in them. This is the first break in the narrative for dialogue between these people.  Rao then expands the confines of the village proper by revealing that "people come to visit." One in particular is of importance, especially for the way he ties into the theme. This is Dore, who has "city ways" and identifies himself with Gandhi. The narrator makes it clear the thus far in the narrative, only the top caste, the Brahmin quarter, has been discussed. He states that the village has its Pariah quarter too, with its ninety to a hundred huts, huts that do not count among the houses, and inhabitants who do not count among the people.

The structure continues in a similar pattern, building one element onto another. In this way Rao combines Old India with new ideas in New India--such as those of Dore, "the university graduate," who "even called himself a Gandhi-man"--to establish his primary theme. Rao's thematic objective is to show the emergence in Old India of new ideas that flourish in the sense Gandhi taught: change must be of the soul; it is not good enough to change caste or social stratification (Magill Salem Press). Some of the structural elements Rao uses to do this are: mythological details; social and cultural details; historical details; details combing secular and sacred; Gandhism; and feminist ideology.

Read the study guide:

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question