Form and Content
A title such as The Bride at first might suggest a happy story, but it soon becomes evident that it contains an ironic twist. The novel opens with the wedding of the central character, Qasim, and an account of his and his bride’s shared humiliation on their wedding night. He is only ten, and his father has married him to a woman twice his age. The novel records with swift movement his maturation, the developing relationship between husband and wife in spite of their age difference, the deaths of his wife and children, his move from the Himalayan mountains to the Punjabi plains, and his life as a bank guard in that unfamiliar territory. Then what little security Qasim has found during his four years in the Punjab vanishes when independence comes to India and the subcontinent is divided into India and Pakistan. After murdering a man who has humiliated him, Qasim decides to flee India and take his chances in Pakistan; he boards a train loaded with refugees bound for Lahore, one of the major cities given to the newly created nation.
At the border, a group of marauding Sikhs attacks the overcrowded train and murders most of the refugees. Qasim manages to escape, and in the chaos he rescues a young girl whose parents have been slaughtered. With the help of Nikka and Miriam, a couple he meets in a refugee camp, he settles in Lahore and rears the child, whom he has named Zaitoon for his dead daughter. Mothered by Miriam—who has not borne children and thus is something of an outcast—Zaitoon rehearses the role for which she is destined: to become a bride. As well as receiving instruction from Miriam, Zaitoon spends much of her time in various zenannas—women’s quarters—where...
(The entire section is 693 words.)