An analysis of the memoir excerpt “By Any Other Name” by Santha Rama Rau shows that the text has a chronological structure. The narrative focuses on an important event in the main characters’ lives, their first days at an Anglo-Indian school.

The main characters are Santha and her older sister, Premila. The sisters attend an Anglo-Indian school, where they are given English names. The two have different ways of dealing with the experience.

The setting is an Indian provincial town, where Santha and Premila’s father works. The focus of the story is the Anglo-Indian school that the two sisters attend. The school teaches lessons in English and does not celebrate the girls’ Indian culture.

The events are told by a first-person narrator who is also one of the main characters. The adult narrator offers more insight into the Anglo-Indian school system, while young Santha’s perspective highlights her child-like innocence.

The language highlights the condescending attitude of the school’s British staff towards Indian children like Santha and Premila. In Premila’s case, her style of speaking hints at her attempt to fit in at the new school, an effort she dismisses as soon as she is confronted with her teacher’s prejudiced attitude against Indians.

A full analysis of the short story can be found on the following pages.

Excerpt from the study guide:

The climax is reached when, a week later, Premila bursts into Santha’s class and tells her that they are going home:

The door opened sharply and Premila marched in. At first, the teacher smiled at her in a kindly and encouraging way and said, ‘Now, you’re little Cynthia’s sister?’ Premila didn’t even look at her. She stood with her feet planted firmly a part and her shoulders rigid, and addressed herself directly to me. ‘Get up,’ she said. ‘We’re going home.’ 

Premila’s outburst is explained at the end of the text when she reveals she was insulted by her teacher’s prejudiced attitude toward Indians: 

Premila said, ‘we had our test today, and she made me and the other Indians sit at the back of the room, with a desk between each one.’ Mother said, ‘Why was that, darling?’ ‘She said it was because Indians cheat,’ Premila added. ‘So I don’t think we should go back to that school.’ 

The text’s ending shows Santha overhearing her mother and sister talking about the incident at school. Santha dismisses the event, as “it had all happened to a girl called Cynthia, and I never was really particularly interested in her”. The ending shows that Santha has remained faithful to her identity and, just like her sister, has refused to change for the sake of fitting in. 

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