Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

The Peacock Spring is a poignant story of love and loss set in postcolonial India, where a rigid social system has not been markedly altered by political independence. In selecting their associates, both Indians and British residents are still very much aware of class and, when it comes to marriage, of ethnicity as well. If even so powerful a person as Sir Edward Gwithiam meets with resistance when he crosses the established lines, it is obvious that two young lovers, still financially dependent, cannot hope to marry, no matter how sincere their feelings for each other. Rumer Godden’s novel is of special interest to young Western readers because it shows them what life can be like in an exotic world very different from their own and at the same time emphasizes the fact that, wherever they live, young adults have the same problems with teachers, parents, and their own emotions.

The story begins with a mystery. Two days into the term at their expensive school in England, Una Gwithiam and her younger half sister, Halcyon (or “Hal”), are told that their father, Sir Edward, has sent for them and that they must return to India immediately. While Hal accepts the news with equanimity, Una is appalled, since she is preparing for the examinations that will ensure her admission to an English university. She is even more disturbed when, on arriving in Delhi, she finds that the girls will be taught by a beautiful Eurasian woman, Alix Lamont, who Una...

(The entire section is 587 words.)