Suggested Essay Topics

Part One, Chapter 1
1. Rukmani’s relatives are not happy with the match between her and Nathan because Nathan is of a lower class. However, because Rukmani’s family has no dowry for her, he is the best match they can get. From Rukmani’s own description of her marriage to Nathan in this chapter, do you think that his class mattered to her? If so, does her view change over time, and if so, what accounts for the change?

2. The chapter opens with Rukmani as an old woman looking back at her life. How does the opening paragraph work to entice the reader to read further

Part One, Chapters 2-4
1. The arrival of the tannery brings big changes to the village and prompts many reactions. Compare the reactions of Rukmani, Kannan the cobbler, Kunthi, and Nathan to the arrival of the tannery. How are their reactions different? What accounts for their differences?

2. Although all of the construction workers at the tannery site are Indian, the foreman of the tannery construction is white. As Rukmani observes, the foreman treats the villagers like strangers in their own village. “In our maidan, in our village he stood, telling us to go,” she incredulously notes. The foreman is, presumably, representative of British interests in India. How does the author use his presence to symbolize the British presence in India?

Part One, Chapters 5-11
1. In Chapter 11, Rukmani says, “It is true, one gets used to anything. I had got used to the noise and the smell of the tannery … had seen the slow, calm beauty of our village wilt in the blast from the town … so now I accepted the future and Ira’s lot in it … only sometimes when I was weak, or in sleep while my will lays dormant, I found myself rebellious, protesting, rejecting, and no longer calm.” Throughout the novel, the characters are confronted with severe economic and social hardships, yet Rukmani does not complain, but instead...

(The entire section is 814 words.)