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Nectar in a Sieve by Kamala Markandaya-Online Book Summary


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The protagonist of a story is the main character who traditionally undergoes some sort of change. In this novel, the protagonist is Ruku, an Indian woman from a rural village who struggles to find and hold onto joy in the midst of overwhelming tragedy and hardship. Ruku and her husband face flood and drought in trying to raise their rice crop and keep their land; eventually, nature wins and they are forced to leave the only life theyíve ever known.

Rukuís quiet village is disrupted by the arrival of a tannery and she must learn to survive in an unfamiliar city environment. Ruku also faces infertility and then the death of two children, the loss of two more to a far away move and another to drinking and gambling. Her daughter is rejected by her husband, becomes a prostitute and has an albino son. Faced with these trials, many would give up on life or become bitter and jaded. Rukuís quiet strength shines through the entire novel as she deals with these tragedies and still manages to find small moments of joy that make life sweet and worthwhile.


The antagonist of a story is the force that provides an obstacle for the protagonist. The antagonist does not always have to be a single character or even a character at all. In this story, no one character serves as the antagonist. Rather the forces of change and nature provide Ruku with hardships to overcome. Flooding rains, drought conditions, starvation and death all conspire to challenge Rukuís strength. Ruku must also face the disruption of her traditional way of life (by the opening of the tannery) and learn to adapt to new situations (such as life in the city or her illegitimate grandchild). The tannery proves to be the source of much of Rukuís hardship and ultimately costs her family their land. Kunthi and her attempts to blackmail both Ruku and Nathan are also part of the antagonistic force in the novel.


The climax of a plot is the major turning point that allows the protagonist to resolve the conflict. The end of Part I brings the climax of the novel - after years of struggling against nature and the tannery, Ruku and Nathan lose the battle and their land. Unable to pay the land dues, they are forced to leave the only way of life theyíve ever known. This greatest change brings Ruku her greatest challenge yet; because Nathan is old and unable to get employment elsewhere, they must travel to the city to find and live with their son Murugan.


The outcome, resolution, or denouement occurs when with their son Murugan gone and no way to live in the city, Ruku and Nathan decide to return to the village. Before they can earn the money to do so, Nathan dies. Ruku carries his memory back to the village to her remaining children, taking the orphan Puli with her and still carrying her hopes for the future of her children.

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Sinclair, Meredith. "TheBestNotes on Nectar in a Sieve". . 09 May 2017