Coromandel Sea Change Themes
by Rumer Godden

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Coromandel Sea Change Themes

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The unity of creation that underlies Hindu mythology is brought out by the various animals that play an important part, from the humble donkey Slippers to Birdie the elephant and the little squirrel. Krishnan seems to have an almost magical relationship with these creatures, underscoring his mythological qualities.

The theme of marriage is another element in this novel. Mary's marriage is unhappy because her husband is insensitive to her needs, but the fault also lies in her since she sees her marriage as a trap, and strongly resents her husband and all he stands for. In contrast to this is the marriage of John and Lady Fisher, an old-fashioned union with a subservient wife who reminds Mary that she is not playing her part. Another marriage, referred to only indirectly is the unsatisfactory union of Dr. Coomaraswamy and his domineering wife, which leads him to dream of Kuku, a sensual wish-fulfillment which he, himself, considers to be ridiculous.

The conflict of good and evil takes several forms — the political conflict between the corrupt Indian political system of Mrs. Retty, the opposing candidate, and of Krishnan, her sincere rival. But India is not only spirituality and goodness. There is evil such as in the innocent cruelty of the boys torturing the squirrel and in Kanu's role as a spy. And there is the senseless, destructive joy of evil for evil's sake, which drives the despicable journalist, Mr. Menzies. Typically, he is not defeated by the idealistic goodness of Krishna but by the practical common sense of Auntie Sannie who uses Mencie's weapons of blackmail against him.

The innocent amorality of Kuku stands between the two worlds, not part of either but existing only for herself. She represents the sensuality of the ancient Hindu gods, self-justified and instinctive.