This study guide will help you analyze the short story “Chameleon” by Ranbir Sahota. You can also find a summary of the text, as well as inspiration for interpreting it.
Presentation of the text
Title: “Chameleon” (2003)
Author: Ranbir Sahota
Genre: Short story
Ranbir Sahota is an Indian writer born the UK. She graduated from the University of Sheffield and used to work as a teacher in Germany. She is currently living in London.
The social setting of the story focuses on cultural differences and generational gaps.
Tradition versus modernity
The story looks at the culture and values of traditional Indian families in the UK. Rita’s parents and their acquaintances (such as the Methi family) are very conservative regarding the way Indian children should act and speak, and about whom they should marry. Similarly, Mark’s Irish Catholic parents hold their own conservative views, wishing their son to marry someone white and preferably Catholic. Even though they are depicted as being “liberal, middle-class people”, they still turn out to hold some racist views and religious prejudices, as indicated by Mark’s mother refusing to speak to her son, unless he breaks up with Rita.
The conflict between these two cultures is what triggers Rita’s inner struggle and that of younger characters like Sanjay and Sunil Methi: how to obey their traditional parents while still living as they wish in modern Britain.