Discuss major women characters in Raja Rao's Kanthapura.

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

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I would say that any discussion of female characters in Rao's work has to start with Achakka.  She represents the fundamental force of both social and cultural change within Kanthapura, and India, in general.  She ends up buying into Moorthy's, and by extension, Gandhi's, call for self- rule.  Achakka is representative of how Indians at the time were torn between accepting reality as it was or reinvisioning it as it can or as it should be.  She is also representative of how women, despite being mired in traditional ways, can embrace change and be an active agent of reconstructing reality.  Another example of this would be Rangamma, who takes it upon herself to lead others and take an active role in fighting the Status Quo in the name of change.  Rangamma suffers greatly, like Achakka, for her beliefs, being beaten and imprisoned for them.  It is interesting to note that Rao was radical in making the argument that if India was to embrace the concept of change, it could only do so if all of its citizens, men and women, were joined in this quest.  Rao also presents that some women were more concerned with keeping the Status Quo, so long as it could benefit their own status, as seen with  Kamalamma, who is more concerned with seeking socially acceptable alliances and maintaining the caste system.  The women shown in Rao's work help to bring forth the idea that independence for India would only be accomplished in its purest sense if all forms of stratification, both externally provided by the British and internally initiated by Indians themselves, were reexamined and the role of women in the novel help to illuminate this.

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