Keeping Corner Summary
by Kashmira Sheth

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In twelve-year-old Leela's rural village in India in 1918, tradition is all-important. A child of privilege in a Brahman household, Leela is married at age nine and is getting ready to move into her husband's family's house when he is killed by a rattlesnake. Suddenly widowed, the young girl is sentenced by culture to a "living death." Allowed to wear only the drabbest of clothing and forced to have her head shaved, Leela must "keep corner," being confined and isolated in her own home for a full year, and doomed thereafter to a barren existence, shunned by society and forbidden from ever enjoying a husband and children of her own. Fortunately, Leela's brother Kanubhai convinces the family to allow her to have a tutor during her year of confinement. Saviben, the progressive principal of the small local school, comes to the house every few days, and, in addition to helping Leela advance in academic subjects, encourages her to read the newspaper and observe every detail of her immediate surroundings so she can reflect on and write about them. With the help and support of Saviben and Kanubhai, Leela, who had never been so inclined, becomes an accomplished student. More importantly, she develops a world view and a sense of her place in the context of a wider experience. When her year of keeping corner is fulfilled, Leela has grown to the point to where she is able to successfully reason with her father, persuading him to allow her to take the examinations that may provide her with the opportunity to advance her education in the city. If she passes, she will be able to escape the stifling mandates of India's centuries-old caste system and pursue a career, taking her place...

(The entire section is 431 words.)