What is the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of the narrative point of view in the novel Cracking India?
The novel is narrated by Lenny, an eight-year-old Parsee girl experiencing the partition of India following World War II and its independence. The title stems from the "cracking", or breaking up of India into different countries and areas of control. As a Parsee she is neither Muslim nor Hindu and this gives her the unique ability to analyze the many sides of the partition as it happens around her. She loses family, friends and her innocence during the story. The effectiveness of the narration by Lenny is wonderfully on point. It challenges the reader to recall their own childhood and compare the Lenny's insights to their own.
The largest drawback to Lenny as the narrator is her age, but it is ironically the biggest strength. The tenderness of it provides a dual-edged sword. Her ability to judge life through a naïve innocence is captivating, especially as she struggles with a disability related to polio. She has unique insight into the workings of society and sees things perhaps as they could be instead of how they really are in the world. However, one negative for the youth is the idyllic manner she approaches the relationships around her. The generic names given to Cousin, Electric-Aunt and Ice-Candy-Man demonstrates a childish reversion to nicknames rather than proper names. It can also be difficult to process the insights as coming from an eight-year-old rather than an older adult.
The disparity between age and wisdom lies at the crux of the narrator's point of view. The dichotomy of the two points challenges older readers to question the assumptions of young minds and their ability to comprehend the greater world around them. Perhaps the novel was written to give credit for mature evaluation to a juvenile thinker, or perhaps as we age we forget how perceptive young children can be. The age difference also allows the reader to experience the partition as an active participant through the eyes of a child. The emotional connections demonstrated draw the reader into the story much more than an adult narrator would have the power to do. The betrayal of Ayah, though accidental, touches on the dismay and hurt many have experienced believing in the goodness of the human spirit.