The characters of Heat and Dust are carefully designed and arranged to counterpoint and reflect one another, and this artful arrangement of characters is one of the novel’s most impressive achievements. Douglas Rivers, for example, is the very model of a “proper Englishman” in India: ambitious, absolutely dedicated to Indian service, but absolutely aloof from the Indian population he serves and the native culture of the country to which he has been assigned. His opposite is the “weak” Harry, the Nawab’s three-year houseguest, infirm of body and spirit, contaminated by Indian indulgence, and either unwilling or unable to extricate himself from the Nawab’s influence, even though he apparently wants to return to England. Olivia is Harry’s female counterpart, caught between two worlds and two cultures and strongly influenced by the Nawab’s charm and charisma. Since Douglas clearly “did not like Harry,” he could only be horrified by full knowledge of his wife’s behavior and attachment to the Nawab.
Mrs. Crawford and Mrs. Minnies are strong and “proper” official wives, determined to be “bright and cheerful,” and, like their husbands, aloof from Indian life and culture. Their counterpart is the sick Mrs. Saunders, who lives in fear of being molested by her Indian servants. Like Harry, she is “weak” and sickly, but her weakness draws her to European rather than Indian standards. She lacks the strength and the willpower to be “cheerful” about her lot. She despises India.
In the framing story, Chid is the equivalent of Harry, caught between two cultures, but...
(The entire section is 665 words.)