Last Updated on July 21, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 321
The protagonist in this story, the narrator, is unnamed. We know he is a Bengali man in his early thirties, with a brother, who left his native land for Britain in 1964. He first lived with other Bengalis in the UK, before traveling to the United States after having received a job offer. By this time, he is married, but he will be spending some time in the USA alone before his wife is to join him. During this period, he works in a university library in Boston, and becomes lodger to an elderly lady with whom he develops a bond.
The narrator's elderly landlady, Mrs. Croft, is a former piano teacher. She is now 103 years old but still fiercely independent. Although she is forgetful—she returns over and over to the topic of the moon landing—she will not entertain the idea of anyone making her food for her, insisting on heating her own soup. She is old-fashioned, wedded to traditional ideals, and thinks the narrator "a gentleman." She dies not long after the narrator moves out of her house.
Mrs. Croft's daughter, Helen, visits the house once a week to bring her mother the tins of soup she will heat. She is sixty-eight years old, and she tells the narrator that her mother has a high opinion of him.
Mala is the narrator's wife. She is a plain woman who has reached the age of twenty-seven without being married. At first she cries a lot, missing her parents and feeling out of place in the world. When she comes to the United States, she speaks little English, and she and her husband have little to talk about. However, Mrs. Croft, when she meets Mala, approves of her, which in turn helps her and her husband to connect with each other. By the end of the story, they are very happily married, with a son who is attending Harvard.
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