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Nectar in a Sieve Questions

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Nectar in a Sieve

1) Describe how to title is appropriate for the novel. - Nectar in a Sieve is an appropriate title for the book. A sieve is a strainer used to filter materials and liquids. In America, we most commonly use sieves (strainers) for spaghetti. If you put nectar in a sieve, there isn’t much of a point due to the fact that all of the nectar will pass through unchanged. The title of this book is symbolic, with nectar representing goodness and kindness, and the sieve representing the world. When you put nectar (goodness) in a sieve (the world) it will only last a short time before disappearing without a trace. In other words, enjoy what you have while it lasts, do not try to save what is in the moment.

2) Why might the author have chosen to have Ruku tell her story in flashback form? Is Ruku a reliable narrator? - The author might have chosen to have Ruku tell her story in flashback form because this way, Ruku can foreshadow and add thoughts about the events. When a story is told in flashback form, it is easier to focus on the main events and conflicts of the story rather than the minute details. Thoughts and feelings Ruku had after the events in the story occurred can be added in, which helps the reader to understand the plot. The story makes more sense being told after the fact, and makes you think about how things have changed since then. I believe Ruku is a reliable narrator. She was involved in all of the events in the story firsthand.

3) How does Ruku’s experience as a daughter, wife, and mother inform her relationship with her daughter Ira? - Ruku gained a lot of life experience through all of her trials. Her parents were supportive of her and she had a smooth marriage. Ira was Ruku’s first child and only daughter, so this gives them a special relationship. Ruku was unfortunately unable to bear a son with her husband, so she was forced to turn to prostitution to survive. Ruku was not happy to hear this, but knowing how important money and food was, understood and supported Ira’s decision. Ruku will always be there for Ira, and can connect to some of her difficulties, as both were unable to bear children at first.

4) What role does nature play in the novel? What do you make of Ruku’s statement that “nature is like a wild animal that you have trained to work for you”? - Nature plays a large role in the novel. In India, there are monsoon seasons, and during these seasons, storms and heavy rains cause much destruction. A monsoon destroys all of Ruku and Nathan’s crops one year. In the Muslim, Hindu, and Islam religious, nature plays a large role. These three religious are very prevalent in India, where this story is set. A big theme of the story is hunger. Many people went hungry in India because nature often made it difficult or even impossible to grow crops. Therefore, people have to try to use nature to their advantage to survive. For example, due to heavy rains, people decided to make rice paddies and grow rice in the especially wet regions. I think Ruku’s statement means that nature is unpredictable and hard to control. However, you can try to tame it and use what it gives you to survive and help you instead of hurt. Ruku says that if you look away for an instant, it will have you by the throat.

5) How does the arrival of the tannery affect Ruku and the rest of the village? - The tannery has a positive effect on the village, but Ruku does not like it. Merchants were able to sell their products for more money, and this helped the village. The bazaar prices did go up, and Ruku was not fond of that. She did not like how the white men came into the village causing clatter and disruption. “…and all is shouting and disturbance and crowds wherever you go.” The rest of the village enjoys the commotion and extra market that the tannery brings.

6) Discuss the relationship between Ruku and Kunthi. What motivates Kunthi to behave as she does? - Ruku and Kunthi have an odd relationship. Kunthi is not fond of Ruku, however, Nathan is the father of Kunthi’s children. Kunthi becomes prostitute and seems to be jealous of Ruku and Nathan’s relationship. Kunthi has a lot of contempt for Ruku, and thinks she is above her. Contempt and jealousy are what motivate Kunthi. It seems as if Kunthi enjoys disagreeing with Ruku. She even goes as far as to blackmail Ruku into giving her rice. At first, Ruku does not know of Nathan’s past relationship with Kunthi, and when Ruku learns of it, her disposition of Kunthi increases.

7) Discuss the character of Kenny. Why is he unable to understand Ruku’s view of life? Do you think he respects Ruku? - Kenny is a foreign doctor. He helps Ruku with her infertility, and Nathan is not usually aware of Ruku’s visits to him. Kenny is a presumably from Great Britain, and makes an effort to help people. He is unable to understand Ruku’s view of life because Ruku has a spiritual view and understanding of life while Kenny does not. Kenny views material possessions and satisfying every want as a necessity. Ruku believes it cleanses the soul to sometimes have an empty stomach, and Kenny does not understand this spiritual philosophy. I believe Kenny respects Ruku to a degree. He can see what problems she goes through and that she tries to do the best she can with what she has. He does not always understand her views, but he tries to help and level with her.

8) Discuss Ruku’s sons. How do their fates relate to and affect Ruku? - Ruku’s sons are all somewhat rebellious, and free thinkers. They are all considered normal boys, with the youngest being the smallest of them all. Their fates affect Ruku because they are her sons and she cares about them. Also, the sons bring in money that is at times necessary for Ruku and Nathan to survive. The crops do not always yield a good harvest, so any extra money Ruku can receive is greatly appreciated. When one of Ruku’s sons died from a tannery accident, Ruku understood the situation, and was saddened by it. She also supports her sons, as one wanted to work in a hospital as he learned he was not a very good farmer.

9) Why does Ruku become so attached to Puli? What does his character symbolize? - Ruku becomes attached to Puli because he becomes the only way she can survive in the city. He is a very nice boy, and she feels bad that he has leprosy. She connects to him because she had nothing, just like Puli. He does not give up on her, and becomes the sole reason she retains hope. Ruku treats Puli like a son, and even promises he will be cured of his disease if he comes with her out of the city. Puli’s character symbolizes purity and hope. Just by looking at who he is, you would believe he is a vile thief that is sure to die soon. However, he is a very nice boy who is appreciative of what he haves and takes pleasure in helping others. He is the shred of compassion and caring in an otherwise cruel world.

10) Why does Ruku tell her children Nathan’s death was a “gentle passing”? How does this symbolize their marriage as a whole? - Ruku tells her children that Nathan’s death was a “gentle passing” as to deliver the news in the gentlest way she could. In a way, his death was a gentle passing. His health had been slowly deteriorating over time, and he died in Ruku’s arms simply out of exhaustion from life. He died the way everyone thought he would. This symbolizes Ruku and Nathan’s marriage as a whole because everything was slow and simple in their lives. Every day was a struggle that they faced together.

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