Two contrasting characters in Unaccustomed Earth show how sacrifice, surrender, or forfeiture may function differently for individuals of different generations and upbringing. These are two women, Boudi and Sang.
Boudi, in the story “Hell-Heaven” had surrendered to her parents’ wishes when she entered into an arranged marriage. Living in the United States, she and her husband welcome a new Bengali migrant to their community. When she develops feelings for this man, Pranad, Boudi does not act on them. Instead, she represses her emotions and desires, remaining faithful to her husband. Boudi sacrifices her own feelings and possible fulfillment because she values duty—to both families—and loyalty to her husband and the institution of marriage.
Sang, one of the main characters in “Nobody’s Business,” has grown up in the United States. Her parents, who emigrated from India, want her to marry a Bengali man and constantly try to connect her with Bengali suitors. Sang decides to forfeit—although perhaps only temporarily—her relationship with her parents, because she does not prioritize dating or marrying someone primarily because they are Bengali. Sang leaves her parents’ home and goes to live in a shared house. She also opts not to complete her studies at Harvard. Her decisions show that she values her independence and asserts her right to choose her own partners.