List of Characters

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 508

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"Unaccustomed Earth"

Ruma—a young Bengali woman trained as a lawyer.

Adam—her Caucasian American husband.

Akash—Adam and Ruma's young son.

Ruma's father—a retired Bengali widower.

Mrs. Meenakshi Bagchi—the Bengali woman Ruma's father starts seeing after his wife dies.


Pranab Chakraborty/ Also called Pranab Kaku (uncle)—the Bengali friend of the narrator's family.

Deborah—Prenab's American girlfriend and eventual wife.

Usha—the female narrator, just a girl when Pranab enters her family's life.

Boudi—Usha's mother, who longs hopelessly for Pranab.

Matty—Deborah's little brother, who Usha gets high with at their wedding.

"A Choice of Accommodations"

Amit Sarkar—the lead male character, and the reason the couple are attending Pam Borden's wedding.

Megan—Amit's wife, a doctor.

Pam Borden—Amit's friend from childhood, she'd been a girl who reigned over and guided the boys when they were young.

Headmaster Borden—Pam's father, and the one who asked his daughter to watch over Amit.

Mr. Nagle—Amit's former English teacher and advisor at Langford.

Felicia—a friend of Pam's who plans to marry. Amit offends her by speaking honestly about his marriage.

Ted Schultz—Amit's old classmate, whom he offends by forgetting his name.

"Only Goodness"

Sudha Mukherjee—the female lead in the story, first the less successful sister, then the mother and near salvation of the family.

Rahul Mukherjee—Sudha's alcoholic brother.

Elaine—Rahul's older girlfriend, a waitress and would be actress.

Roger Featherstone—Sudha's husband. Older, British, and an editor at an art magazine.

Neel—Sudha's baby boy.

"Nobody's Business"

Sang—a young Bengali woman who's dropped out from Harvard and is going through a relationship.

Paul—a doctoral student whose failed first exam unbalances him, making him hesitant.

Heather—Paul and Sang's housemate, a single law student at Boston College.

Charles—Sang's friend who helps her move in.

Farouk—also known as Freddy, Sang's rather self-important and prissy lover.

Dierdre Farn—Freddy's lover, Dierdre calls repeatedly and often drunkenly.

Part Two: "Hema and Kaushik."

"Once in a Lifetime"

Dr. Choudhuri—Kaushik's father.

Parul Choudhuri—Kaushik's mother, more glamorous than Hema's, and dying of breast cancer.

Hema—a young girl, caught between cultures and pushed to the side by parental hospitality.

Kausik—a teenager, quiet, isolated, forever taking pictures and angry about the situation.

Hema's mother and father—Bengalis of lower class than Kaushik's parents, and less stylish.

"Year's End"

Dr. Choudhuri—Kaushik's father, now a lonely widower who drinks too much.

Chitra—a widowed school teacher who marries Dr. Choudhuri.

Rupa—Chitra's ten-year-old daughter.

Piu—Chitra's seven-year-old daughter.

Kaushik—now a senior at Swarthmore.

Jessica—Kaushik's lover.

"Going Ashore"

Hema—now a classics scholar in her thirties.

Navin—the physics PhD she agrees to marry.

Julian Hema's long term married lover, he led her on for years, claiming he would  be free.

Edo—a  friend of a friend of Hema’s who invites her to dinner.

Paola—Edo's wife who works with Kaushik and invites him to dinner.

Kaushik—now in his early forties, a news photographer specializing in tragic pictures.

Character Analysis

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 631


Ruma is one of the main characters in "Unaccustomed Earth." The other is her father. The two of them are going through a massive reorganization of their relationship. They are each aware of some of the main reasons for these changes--her mother's death, her father's aging—but each is also changing for reasons the other does not know, or does not fully understand. Ruma's father surprises her by being more modern than she has realized.  He is involved with a woman and travels frequently, two factors which free him from some expectations inculcated by his culture. Fundamentally changed by motherhood, Ruma has found herself reluctant to return to work. She is restless over the changes in both herself and her father and anxious to do the right thing.

Amit Sarkar

Amit is the main character in "A Choice of Accommodations." When his friend Pam Borden marries, this gives him an opportunity to revisit the boarding school of his youth. This means that as an adult, he gets to re-experience all at once the hesitancy and clumsiness he had known then. When he fumbles over a classmate's name, calling Ted Schultz "Tim," this sums up his outsider status he had known as a boy: always intending to say the right thing, but always saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. This is underscored in his talk with Pam's friend Felicia, when he lets slip a more morose and depressing view of marriage than she is prepared to hear.

Sudha Mukherjee

Sudha is the main character in "Only Goodness." What is interesting about Sudha is how she tries to balance all of her values, all her responsibilities, and all the demands upon her. Though the older child, she had been less favored than her younger brother, who was tagged as the academic star early on. Their positions eventually changed through her methodical work, and through his methodical, alcoholic self-destruction. Sudha feels intensely guilty for having given Rahul his first drink, and then for the combination of trusting him too much and keep his addiction secret from her husband Roger, thereby putting their son at risk.

Hema provides a great portrait of how character can be set in childhood. When she was a child, she was displaced from her own home when the Choudhuri came to stay and Kaushik was given her room. She falls for Mrs. Choudhuri as a vision of style, and for Kaushik romantically. She is too young and so her crush remains unspoken and hardly fully recognized. She resents what she has to give up, and yet she gives it up. Later, she accepts her position as the other woman, never fully possessing her lover Julian. She had been researching a school report on ancient Rome when the Choudhuri family visited; as an adult she is a classics scholar, and her life comes full circle when visiting Rome. She is still an outsider, but she and Kaushik become lovers, symbolically completing her life and self and freeing her to marry at last


Kaushik offers the other portrait of childhood character realized in adulthood. He was forever displaced as a child, first through the larger arcs of travel his parents followed, and then through his mother's illness. He first left his home, then never had one, as the house they bought in the United States, since it became little more than a staging ground for his mother's illness. He never settled there, but instead took refuge in the photos he was continually taking. As an adult, he moves continually, taking pictures of death and despair, forever at a distance from those around him. He finally connects with a woman when he and Hema make love; he can love her because she knew him before his mother's death.




Critical Essays