Heat and Dust

Topics: India, British Empire, British Raj Pages: 7 (1631 words) Published: February 26, 2008
Heat and Dust by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala

The plot
The events of the story take place in India, during the periods of the British Raj in the 1920s and the present day of the novel (the 1970s). A young English woman, searches for the truth about Olivia (1920s), the first wife of her grandfather. The narrator discovers that Olivia was a woman smothered by the social restrictions placed upon her by British society. She falls in love with a Nawab and becomes pregnant with his child. Her decision to abort the baby results in a scandal. In discovering the truth about these events, the narrator also comes to fall in love with an Indian man, understand herself better and develops an interest in India.

The characters
The narrator:
Comes to India in the 1970s to reconstruct her step-grandmother's life in Satipur has no difficulties in adapting to Indian culture
modest, tolerant, open-minded
gains an insight into Hindu life through Inder Lal's family
not oblivious to the cruelty, hypocrazy and condescending behaviour of Satipur prespective: analyses her surroundings
reasonable and rational
irritation at Chid's importunites in contrast to her objective behaviour towards the Indians any behaviour lacking reasonableness arouses her suspicion: Chid or the Hindus behaviour towards sick and dying people affair with the landlord: doesnt get emotionally involved, just an ambitious attempt to follow Olivia's footsteps becomes oblivious to India and its problems

turns indifferent
lacks compassion and comittment
becomes pregnant
gap between the thoughts and feelings of the narrator and the experience and judgement as a critical and distant observer

The narrator's development:
has not got anything or anyone to keep her in Britain → not settled in life, no family yet not used to life in India → finding out more about Olivia and life in India (feels a special kind of connection to the country), is interested in the secrecy of Olivia's life Inder Lal introduces her to the way of living in India

Close relationship with Inder Lal's mother and Maji → makes friends Time with Chid, gets to know a different philosophy of life
Dying begger → realizes and experiences the fears of the Indians Pregnancy → same like Olivia has experienced, new feelings, changes her view of having a family She`s still British, with British views, but adapts to India → „partly Indian-thinking British woman" Her development is still going on (p.157."[...]it will have to be some time because of my condition which will make it more and more difficult to get down again, even if I should want to.")

Comes to India in 1923 with her husband Douglas Rivers, a civil servant a young beautiful woman who sets great store by etiquette and a luxury lifestyle superficial, selfish, gregarious
naiv and immature
she is curious about her surroundings
eager to get to know her husband's circle of friends and acquaintances → realises soon that she is not at variance with the condescending behaviour and attitude of the English community towards India and its inhabitants does not correspond to the expectations of the English community and her husband she feels uncomfortable and bored by the community (defends the Saunders) Contrasting to the English, she is open-minded on India, its people and culture ignored/ misunderstood by her husband Douglas she gets involved with the Nawab sensitive and vulnerable

she misses a soul mate (Harry?)
Douglas becomes too normal and unattractive like other English men to her she is disappointed and blames him for not getting her pregnant → her feelings towards Douglas change she becomes pregnant, but undergoes an abortion

is lacking determination and orientation → tells both men they are the father There is no route back for her to the cosy English middle-class ( leaves Douglas not to bring disgrace upon his family) Disillusioned with England and English values

leaves the...
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