Nectar in a Sieve | Study Guide

Kamala Markandaya

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Course Hero. "Nectar in a Sieve Study Guide." February 6, 2018. Accessed September 19, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Nectar-in-a-Sieve/.

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Course Hero, "Nectar in a Sieve Study Guide," February 6, 2018, accessed September 19, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Nectar-in-a-Sieve/.

Nectar in a Sieve | Part 1, Chapter 15 | Summary

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Summary

One day Rukmani's son, Raja, goes out to forage as usual but never comes back. A few hours later two men carry home his body. They say he was killed by guards at the tannery after being caught trying to steal a calfskin. Rukmani cannot understand what her son would want to do with a calfskin. Irawaddy weeps for her brother, but Rukmani snaps, "What are you crying for? ... You have little enough strength, without dissolving it in tears." As Rukmani prepares the body for the funeral, she allows herself to feel grief. The next day the village gathers to offer condolences and burn the body. A few days later representatives from the tannery arrive to ensure Rukmani has no plans to file charges against the guards. Again Rukmani cannot understand what they're talking about. She has no concept of making a claim against the tannery. She accepts their version of events without question.

Analysis

Raja's death gives further insight into the family's desperation. As Hindus, theft, particularly of a slaughtered cowskin, represents the ultimate loss of dignity. Not even starvation proves a justifiable reason for such a heinous crime. When Irawaddy cries over her brother's death, Rukmani chastises her for wasting energy. Starvation has destroyed the one joy in Rukmani's life—her children, causing her to slip further and further away from her humanity. She does, however, allow herself to grieve momentarily for Raja's wasted existence as she prepares his "huddle of bones and flesh without meaning" for cremation.

Once again the tannery highlights the divide between rich and poor. The crude tannery official, who arrives at Rukmani's hut after Raja's death, comes to protect the interest of the tannery owners against a lawsuit. The man worries more about money than the tragic loss of human life. The interaction further highlights Rukmani's ignorance. She has no understanding of the man's legal terms, and no energy to waste trying to understand him.

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