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Is 'nectar In A Sieve' A Story "Without Hope"?

3417 words - 14 pages

The story 'Nectar in a Sieve' by Kamala Markandaya has a title which is an insinuation to the poem 'Work without Hope' by Samuel Coleridge. The lines in the poem "Work without hope draws nectar in a sieve, And Hope without an object cannot live" reflect a similar situation in the story by Kamala Markandaya. The epigraph of the novel also contains the same lines. The title and the epigraph suggest that the author feels that hope is a necessity in life. There is no life without hope and it is perhaps the central theme, along with optimism, in the story and is reflected through the different characters of the novel. The story is 'without hope' to a certain extent.

The story is basically about a woman, Rukmani, living in a poor village in Southern India. It is about the hardships and the struggles that Rukmani and her husband Nathan go through during their life with a hope of being stable and more secure one day. The first paragraph shows the calm atmosphere and the smooth setting by the author. This paragraph has many soft-sounding words which contribute to the setting. Words such as "tranquil", "gently" and "softly" are used to show the softness in the passage and a gentle start to the story. The author has started the story with a flashback and reflects Rukmani's early life. Rukmani is old but can see her son Selvam working with her 'benefactor', Kenny. Rukmani describes the building as one built not only by money but with "men's hopes and pity". This shows that money is not the only thing in life. Hope is a major aspect of life too. After the prosperous marriages of the three sisters, the mother feels that Rukmani cannot be married in the same manner because "Four dowries are too much for a man to bear". However, Rukmani takes the fact that they are not that rich, in a positive way. "I shall have a grand wedding", shows the optimism in her. But after optimism, pessimism does follow. This is one of the themes running through the entire story. In this case, the pessimism is when Rukmani realizes from her elder brother that her father is "of no consequence" as he was longer the village headman. She feels as if "...a prop on which I leaned had been roughly kicked away, and I felt frightened..." This is rather surprising because the fact that that made her important, now made her feel scared. However, Rukmani is married to a poor tenant farmer who is poor in everything but in "love and care" for Rukmani. Ironically, even though it was thought to be a 'poor match', it is actually a 'good match' as they often compliment each other and are best together as a team.

When she reaches her new home, she sees a "...mud hut, thatched, small, set near a paddy field..." Rukmani is rather disappointed on looking at her new home as she expected much more but she takes it in her stride and is rather optimistic about it. "Across the doorway a garland of mango leaves, symbol of happiness and good fortune, dry now and rattling in the breeze". This is an important...

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