Characters

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Last Updated on August 5, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 548

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's novel One Amazing Thing tells the story of nine people trapped in an elevator in the basement of an Indian Consulate in an unnamed American city after a tragic earthquake. The characters, trapped and cut off from the world outside the elevator, tell stories to pass the...

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Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's novel One Amazing Thing tells the story of nine people trapped in an elevator in the basement of an Indian Consulate in an unnamed American city after a tragic earthquake. The characters, trapped and cut off from the world outside the elevator, tell stories to pass the time while waiting for rescue. As their stories are told, we learn about what has brought them to the consulate and about their past events that lead them to this point.

The two leaders in the elevator are Uma and Cameron. Uma is an Indian American studying English literature. She carries Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales with her and suggest that they tell stories, similar to how Chaucer's pilgrims told stories to pass the time on their journey. “We can take our stress out on one another… or we can focus our minds on something compelling … we can each tell an important story from our lives."

Cameron, an African American Vietnam War Veteran, carries memories and guilt from the war with him. He is on his way to India to meet an orphan named Seva. Cameron has been working to find redemption and hopes that the chance for a new life can be a positive step forward.

Jiang, an older Chinese grandmother of Indian descent, travels with her granddaughter, Lily. Jiang, who was at the consulate to get papers to visit her brother, tells her story about her forbidden, long lost love and her escape from the Indian and Chinese War. She admits that she had not thought about her past until she decided to visit her brother in Australia. Lily tells her story about how she began to play the flute. She laments that her parents paid all their attention to her older brother Mark. Once, when he was home for summer, she began playing the flute and realized her love and talent for it.

Malathi and Mangalam are also in the elevator. They both work in the consulate's visa office and are on the verge of having an adulterous affair. Malathi tells her story about living in India and her one brave action: standing up to her mean boss by burning her hair off in chunks with chemicals. Mr. Mangalam tells his story about his unhappy marriage. He explains that his wife is a spoiled daughter of a rich man in Delhi. Once married, she proved to be a selfish wife. She will not permit him to get a divorce, so they moved to America together when he received a new job.

Tariq, a Muslim American, tells about how September 11th changed his life. He tells how four days after the attack, his father was arrested for no reason. Even though the charges were dropped, and his father released, Tariq is angry and begins to embrace the Muslim religion, including in his dress and mannerisms.

Mr. and Mrs. Pritchett are also in the elevator. Mr. Pritchett tells about his abusive childhood. His love of numbers has allowed him to escape the pain and loneliness. Mrs. Pritchett explains that she is trying to visit India in hopes of finding peace and happiness. She carries guilt because she betrayed a friend when she was younger. Recently she attempted suicide and while in the hospital a nurse suggested the trip.

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