The Complexities of Feudal Order

A prominent theme that threads through this collection of stories is that of the complexity of feudal order and its influences on contemporary life. All eight stories are in some way linked to K. K. Harouni, an aging landlord whose family occupies high status in Pakistan. The stories show elements of the lives of Harouni himself as well as his employees, family members, servants, and acquaintances. The characters relate to one another based on the conventions of the social classes they occupy, and characters are careful to act within the confines of social order. For example, Husna is a distant relative of Harouni’s; although they are from the same family, Husna’s immediate relatives have ended up on a different social path. When she comes to the home seeking employment, Husna does not pretend that the circumstances of her birth are irrelevant—she seeks the mercy of Harouni. When Husna and Harouni develop a relationship, everyone around them looks down on the coupling because they are of different social classes. Harouni’s daughter Sarwat is appalled that her father likes Husna’s company, and although she cannot force her father to stop seeing the girl, Sarwat does demand that Husna not be brought in her presence when she is visiting the estate. Although Husna is deeply upset by Sarwat’s demands, Harouni does little to discourage Sarwat. Upon his death, Husna is not provided for by the family and is instead sent back to the village from which she came. In this society, social mobility seems virtually nonexistent.

Power and Influence

Corruption lies at the heart of the Pakistani society developed in these eight stories, and anything is possible when money is involved. In “About a Burning Girl,” the sessions judge openly admits that he is less than honorable and just, and when he accepts a bribe at the end of the story, it becomes clear that this is not the first—or the last—time he has accepted a bribe and finagled the judicial system. Similarly, in “A Spoiled Man,” when Rezak is taken by the police on suspicion, one of the officers says he does not think Rezak is guilty because the...

(The entire section is 896 words.)