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A Golden Age

  • Date Submitted: 07/09/2012 12:30 PM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 49.1 
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Christine Pyle
English 3080
Essay 1
February 26, 2010
Symbolism in A Golden Age: Rehana as Bangladesh
In her novel chronicling the dramatic events of Bangladeshi independence, Tahmima
Anam focuses on the microcosm of a single family: a widowed mother, Rehana, and her two
children, Sohail and Maya. A Golden Age tells the story of Rehana’s struggle to keep her family
and her nation together during wartime chaos. Despite repeated desertion by other male
protectors, Rehana preserves her family through the wartime love of a faithful man. The story of
this brave woman, in particular how she relates to the men in her life, parallels the tumultuous
story of the Bengali people from before Partition to the formation of a distinct nation.
Rehana’s Indian childhood and hasty marriage mirror the Bengali experience during
Partition. Growing up in pre-partition India, Rehana was the neglected last daughter in her
family. She felt alienated from her wealthy father, a “handsome, polished” gentleman with
British tastes, such as Thackeray, piano music, and fashionable parties (138, 144). By the time
Rehana reached marriageable age, her father had died, and family fortunes had turned upside
down, so she escaped into an arranged marriage (137). Similarly, the Bengali had grown up
among other “sisters”—the future Pakistanis, the Hindus, etc.—under the paternal hand of Great
Britain, a distant, foreign father. When the British government left India, the Bengali regions
were united with distant West Pakistan, without much forethought.
Rehana’s life with her husband, Iqbal, was a peaceful, prosperous period, during which
she was surprised by love for the stranger she had married. Iqbal treated her with attentive love
and respect, lavished her with expensive saris, and watchfully guarded the safety of their family.
This happy interlude in Rehana’s precarious life does not correspond directly with the rocky
Pyle 2
transformation of Bengal into East Pakistan. Anam...

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