Fire on the Mountain

Fire on the Mountain Literary Elements



Setting and Context

Late 1970s, India

Narrator and Point of View

Third-person omniscient

Tone and Mood

Tone: meditative, apprehensive, introspective, detached

Mood: desolate, somber, moody, lonely

Protagonist and Antagonist

Nanda Kaul, Raka, and Ila Das are the protagonists; an antagonist is Preet Singh, and perhaps the late Vice-Chancellor as well

Major Conflict

Will Nanda Kaul and Raka be able to reside together in peace at Carignano?


At the very end of the novel, Ila Das is raped and murdered.


1. In Part 1 it is said that single English women were not safe in India after Independence. The grain seller also tries to warn her that it's not safe for a woman to be outside in dark. Later, Ila Das is raped and killed.
2. As Raka is about to arrive, Nanda Kaul hits her leg and gasps in pain; this startling encounter foreshadows the painful, disruptive nature of Raka's visit.
3. Raka's fascination with the forest fire foreshadows her act at the end of the novel.
4. Nanda Kaul's musing that she will soon be gone from Carignano foreshadows the end of the novel.




1. Colonialism and imperialism: there are numerous allusions to English colonial rule, Christianity, the war for independence, independence itself, the exit of the English, etc.
2. The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon: a 1002 CE book of observations written by the attendant to the Japanese Empress Consort Teishi
3. Dead Souls (62): an 1842 novel by Russian writer Nikolai Gogol about provincial Russian life
4. Bridge on the River Kwai (71): a 1952 novel (and 1957 film) about the construction of the Burma railroad


See the separate "Imagery" section of this ClassicNote.




1. The three women were destroyed by broken marriages and patriarchy (Raka as the child of a broken marriage) and can't live the lives they want due to duty, patriarchy, or age.
2. Nanda Kaul and Ila Das are paralleled in the stories of the English women who lived at Carignano before, most of them enduring violence or carrying out violence, confronting death and destruction, and trying to come to terms with their upbringing.

Metonymy and Synecdoche

"She could not bear the thought of curious eyes that would see her, the loose mouths that would turn to each other and flap questioningly" (33)


1. The yellow roses are "sleeping and sighing all year" (8)
2. "Asha's large writing pranced" (14)
3. "The plain below opened wide its yellow mouth and it was its oven breath that billowed up the mountainside and enclosed her" (48)
4. Raka watches "the dense yellow haze gather and hurl itself across the if in rage at finding its way blocked..." (52)
5. "The hills were chastened and austere in the chilly light" (54)