Tragedy in 'Fire on The Mountain' by Anita Desai

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About this sample

About this sample


Words: 973 |

Pages: 2|

5 min read

Published: Apr 11, 2022

Words: 973|Pages: 2|5 min read

Published: Apr 11, 2022


Table of contents

  1. I. Introduction
  2. II. Nanda Kaul's Tragic Existence
  3. III. Ila Das's Tragic Fate
  4. IV. Raka's Symbolism and Rebellion
  5. V. Conclusion

Anita Desai's "Fire on the Mountain" presents a masterful narrative that intricately interweaves elements of Greek tragedy with the complex lives of its characters. Through the lens of Nanda Kaul, her great granddaughter Raka, and their interactions with society and nature, Desai crafts a story that delves deep into themes of isolation, trauma, and rebellion, resonating with readers on multiple levels.

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I. Introduction

"Fire on the Mountain" introduces readers to the world of Nanda Kaul, a woman who has retreated into solitude following the death of her husband. Set against the backdrop of the Indian countryside, the novel explores Nanda's desire for undisturbed tranquility and her unexpected connection with her great granddaughter Raka. As the narrative unfolds, themes of tragedy, isolation, and rebellion emerge, drawing readers into a richly textured tale that transcends cultural boundaries.

II. Nanda Kaul's Tragic Existence

Nanda Kaul's character serves as the linchpin of the novel's exploration of tragedy. Following the death of her husband, Nanda chooses to live a life of seclusion, seeking solace in the quietude of her home. Her retreat from society is driven by a deep sense of loss and grief, as well as a desire to avoid further pain and suffering. However, despite her best efforts to isolate herself, Nanda finds her carefully constructed world disrupted by the arrival of her great granddaughter Raka.

Nanda's conflicting desires for solitude and connection form the heart of her character arc. On one hand, she longs for the peace and quiet of her solitary existence, yearning for the simplicity of a life untouched by the complexities of human relationships. On the other hand, her interactions with Raka awaken dormant emotions within her, challenging her preconceived notions of loneliness and isolation. This internal struggle serves as a poignant reminder of the human capacity for both resilience and vulnerability, as Nanda grapples with the conflicting desires of her heart.

Moreover, Nanda's trauma is palpably depicted through her interactions with the outside world. Despite her initial reluctance to engage with society, Nanda finds herself drawn back into the fold by her old friend Ila Das. However, tragedy strikes when Ila meets a violent end, leaving Nanda reeling from the shock and devastation of her friend's untimely demise. This pivotal moment serves as a catalyst for Nanda's emotional journey, forcing her to confront the harsh realities of life and the inevitability of tragedy.

III. Ila Das's Tragic Fate

In contrast to Nanda's self-imposed isolation, Ila Das's life is marked by a relentless pursuit of social contribution. Despite her disadvantaged circumstances, Ila strives to make a difference in the world, seeking to uplift those around her through acts of kindness and compassion. However, her noble intentions ultimately lead to her tragic demise, as she falls victim to the pervasive forces of patriarchal violence and societal injustice.

Ila's untimely death serves as a stark reminder of the harsh realities faced by single, poor women in Indian society. Her tragic fate underscores the systemic inequalities that pervade the social fabric, highlighting the vulnerability of marginalized individuals in the face of oppression and exploitation. Moreover, Ila's death serves as a catalyst for Nanda's own emotional journey, forcing her to confront the fragility of human existence and the profound impact of loss and grief.

IV. Raka's Symbolism and Rebellion

Central to the narrative is Raka, whose character symbolizes feminine autonomy and rebellion. Rejecting societal norms and embracing her connection with nature, Raka emerges as a figure of defiance against the constraints of human civilization. Her rejection of societal expectations and her affinity for the natural world serve as a powerful commentary on the limitations imposed upon women in Indian society, as well as the enduring struggle for autonomy and liberation.

Raka's act of setting fire to the mountain serves as a metaphor for the destructive and transformative power of rebellion. By challenging the status quo and advocating for change, Raka embodies the spirit of resistance and defiance that lies at the heart of the human experience. Her actions serve as a catalyst for transformation, inspiring others to question the oppressive structures that govern their lives and to envision a world free from injustice and inequality.

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V. Conclusion

In conclusion, "Fire on the Mountain" offers a compelling exploration of tragedy, isolation, and rebellion through the lives of its diverse cast of characters. Anita Desai's masterful storytelling weaves together intricate themes and complex characters, inviting readers to reflect on the profound implications of human existence and the enduring struggle for autonomy and liberation. Through the experiences of Nanda, Ila, and Raka, Desai presents a powerful commentary on the human condition, challenging readers to confront the harsh realities of life while also inspiring hope for a brighter future.


  1. Desai, A. (1977). Fire on the mountain. Penguin Books.
  2. Chakraborty, S. (2016). Women Characters in Anita Desai’s Novels. International Journal of Multidisciplinary Research and Development, 3(7), 188-191.
  3. Bhattacharya, N. (2018). The Portrayal of Women in the Novels of Anita Desai. The Criterion: An International Journal in English, 9(4), 159-164.
  4. Sinha, S. K. (2009). Trauma and Isolation in Anita Desai’s Fire on the Mountain. The Atlantic Critical Review, 8(1), 129-137.
  5. Sen, S. (2015). Anita Desai: A Feminist Study. Journal of Advances and Scholarly Researches in Allied Education, 12(5), 121-125.
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Tragedy In ‘Fire On The Mountain’ By Anita Desai. (2022, April 11). GradesFixer. Retrieved February 25, 2024, from
“Tragedy In ‘Fire On The Mountain’ By Anita Desai.” GradesFixer, 11 Apr. 2022,
Tragedy In ‘Fire On The Mountain’ By Anita Desai. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 25 Feb. 2024].
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