A Suitable Boy By Vikram Seth

A Suitable Boy By Vikram Seth | A Suitable Boy Summary & Analysis

A Suitable Boy By Vikram Seth
A Suitable Boy By Vikram Seth


            A Suitable Boy is one of the famous Novels of English Literature. So far as ‘A Suitable Boy’ is concerned, it is written by a great Indian Novelist and poet Vikram Seth. It is a story of four families in India in the early 1950s after British occupation has ended and India and Pakistan partition has taken place. Over 1400 pages in length. It is a family saga. Critics praised ‘A suitable Boy’ for its panoramic look into India’s culture norms, as well as its combination of satire and romance. The novel took more than a decade to complete. Due to its length, social scrutiny, and realistic style. A suitable Boy, is often compared to George Eliot’s Middlemarch.

            The novel is, in fact, the idea of arranged marriage that is implied in the title. A great effort is put forth on the part of a family to find a Suitable Boy for their unmarried daughters. The central character of the novel, Lata Mehra question how a woman could marry and live with a man she could not love because she knew nothing about him.

About Vikram Seth

            Vikram Seth is among the most celebrated Indian novelists and poets. He was written several novels and poetry books. He has won several awards such as – Padma Shri, Sahitya Akademi Award, Pravasi Bharatiya Samman’ and Crossword Book Award among his world-famous novel included – A Suitable Boy, An Equal Music, and Two lives. In addition to The Golden gate, Seth has written other works of poetry including – Mapping, The Humble Administrator’s Garder, All You Who Sleep, Tonight, and Three Chinese Poets. His children’s book, Beastly Tales from Here and There consists of 10 stories about animals.

Themes of A Suitable Boy

            A Suitable Boy’s themes include the politics of personal prejudice and forgiveness, conflict amidst social groups and families, changing racial norms, unexpected violence, and inter-generational connectedness. The idea comes from the Indian tradition of arranging marriages for eligible young girls with several points that comprise the ideal math.

            First, the boy must be of the same religion as the girl. This becomes the main hind race between Lata, a  Hindu, and Kabir, a Muslim. The only way they could have married was to elope and marry without their parent’s permission.

            Another consideration is the caste or social standing of the boy and his family. Much of that is based on appearances.

Central Character of A Suitable Boy

            Lata is the central character of the novel. She is the younger daughter of Mrs. Rupa Mehra, a widow. She is first seen at the wedding of her sister Savita to Pran Kapoor. Lata is a student at university. She has a quick mind and is quite an idea of an arranged marriage like that of her sister where the couple knows nothing at all about each other. Her attitude is typical of the young Indian population after the separation of India and British. Although Lata is free to go to the university and shopping with friends unaccompanied, she recognizes that there is still limitations placed on girls that are not placed on boys.

The setting of The Novel

            The novel is set in the early 1950s. This was an eventful period for independence from the Britishers in 1947 and resolved several massive Hindu-Muslim conflicts that resulted in the new country of Pakistan being established. It is set in Brahmpur, India, a fictional town.

Summary Of A Suitable Boy

            A Suitable Boy concerns the fortunes and trials of four elite families over the course of 18 months: the Mehras, The Kapoors, The Chatterji, and The Khans. It especially focuses on the plight of 19-year-old Lata Mehra a talented student at the local Brahmpur University. Throughout the Saga, Lata must decide if she is willing to marry the young Muslim man Kabir Durrani. She loves and thus defies her stern, wealthy Hindu mother, Mrs. Rupa Mehra. While arranged marriages have been the norm across India for dozen of generations, in the more secular and learned society led by Jawaharlal Nehru, Lata is starting to feel that she can choose for herself who her husband would be.

            Lata recently saw her sister Savita, marry an up-and-coming professor at the local university. His name is Pran Kapoor and Rupa Mehra blessed the marriage only because Pran comes from a well–respected and wealthy family. Privately, Lata questions whether the two will ever be truly happy as they were forced into a marriage without ever getting to know one another.

Lata knows that Kabir, the Muslim man she loves, isn’t A Suitable Boy according to her mother and that the two will never be allowed to wed, still, she can’t stop feeling a great passion for Kabir. He is incredibly handsome and kind, and he has inherited great intelligence from his father Dr. Durrani, who is highly accomplished in mathematics at the university. Better still, Kabir is also a star on the university cricket team. Lata’s older brother Arun is married to Meenakshi, the daughter of a prosperous Muslim family, but Lata is all to aware that she is not afford the same privileges as a man, for a woman to choose to marry across religious lines is unprecedented.

            Only one day, one of Rupa’s spies reports to her that Kabir and Lata have been walking around Brahmpur University in public. Rupa is scandalized at this news – if word got out that her daughter consorted with Muslims, no prominent Hindu family would want to talk with her. To keep Lata away from Kabir, Rupa hastily plans a trip to Calcutta which is a hundred miles southeast of Brahmpur.

            In Calcutta, Rupa Mehra sets her daughter up with various Hindu boys who she deems worthy of their caste. Lata’s mother digs up are absolute duds. Not all of them are awful. Amit Chatterji, a well-known poet, and the writer gets along well with the worldly and cultured Lata but is probably gay. However, Amit’s father is a prominent judge and his mother is a polished socialite. Lata is also set up with Harsh a Hindu man who really likes her and whom she deems tolerable but slightly bring. He owns a thriving shoe company.

            In the background of Lata’s marital decision is the foreground for the rest of the world politics. There is a great controversy throughout the country when a Mosque is to be built near a Hindu holy site. After several riots, the project is abandoned. Various family members are also caught up in different political happenings, including the movement for equal rights for the Untouchables and the ending of the Zamindar System. Within the Kapoor family, the main conflict is that the youngest son, Maan Kapoor, has fallen in love with an infamous prostitute name Saeeda Bai.

            As the story concludes, Lata Mehra finally makes her decision. She will not marry Kabir. Instead, she marries another Suitable Boy – Someone who is good enough, but not someone she’s in love with Haresh.


            Thus, the novel A Suitable Boy is a Satiral examination of national political issues during the years leading to the post-independence national elections of 1952. The Hindu-Muslim strife case discrimination land reforms, the decline of feudal princes and landlords, and many such prevalent social issues are dealt with in the novel.

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