First 644 words of the document:
A number of the characters from the Opening Worlds short stories are
something of a pariah in their society. In two different stories of your
choice, explore how and why this happens, and compare how the
character responds to it.
"He lay down...silence by a terrible sense of his insignificance."
A common theme throughout the anthology is the conflict between society and the
individual and, whereas The Winter Oak, for example, shows the victory of the individual,
in most of the stories, it is society which wins. The Young Couple and Games at Twilight
are both examples of this, with Ravi and Cathy falling prey to the superior power of the
society in which they live.
Cathy begins the story confident in her own autonomy and independence. She will not
bow to pressure from her inlaws she will not allow her husband to rule her home she
will not fit into the mould of the Indian woman all of which left her "thrilled" at the
prospect of returning there with Naraian. Even the solitude of her new flat soothes her
at first, as, comfortable in her own nearnakedness, she "let the hours slip happilt by".
This is a woman at ease with her own individuality, and any attempts by her husband to
rein her in simply ended up with them "lying on their bed together, fervently forgiving
Similarly, Ravi manages to find comfort and security in his own private cocoon the
"dark and depressing mortuary of defunct household goods". Once in there, he
"chuckled with astonishment at his own temerity", and then "shivered with delight, with
selfcongratulation". Like Cathy, Ravi, too, has found a place which is his own, and within
which he can enjoy the sensation of being "left unconquered", his own individuality and
social status resolutely intact.
However, by the end of The Young Couple, Cathy's strength has disappeared, under the
tremendous force of the machinery of Naraian's family. Oppressed by the smell which
pervaded their whole house and garden overwhelmed by the "big fuss" made of her
when she falls pregnant saddened by Naraian's increasing dissatisfaction with their flat
gradually but systematically, she begins to surrender to what appears to be the
inevitability of his family's victory, even as early as when "in despair she heard his
footsteps running away from her down the stone staircase". Almost as soon as they
arrive in India, Naraian and, with him, Cathy's individuality and independence start to
Conversely, Ravi's defeat happens more suddenly, as he dashes across the yard in a
desperate attempt to touch the den in victory. He wanted to be the winner to stand
out from the crowd of "older, bigger, luckier children but he fails so that he breaks
down "with rage and pity at the disgrace of it all" and, rather than the "thrilling"
sensation of victory he had sought, he is, instead, "flooded with tears and misery".
Unlike Cathy, therefore, Ravi does not take his defeat quietly, but fights powerlessly
against a `society' who "had quite forgotten him". Also unlike Cathy, Ravi "would not join
them now", such is the extent of his ignominy and isolation. He took on society, and
society, unequivocally, won.
Savushkin achieves the rare feat of retaining his independence from society, perhaps
because he is emotionally detached from it, and even more a part of the natural
Other pages in this set
Here's a taster:
Cathy and Ravi do not manage this detachment. Ravi wants
desperately to be a part of the society of his siblings, and this desperation makes his
isolation even more painful to bear. Cathy simply succumbs to social saturation she
fights until she can fight no more, and then she submits, and resigns herself to her