Fire traditionally symbolizes destruction and purification, both of which Raka seeks in setting fire to the mountain. Fire will burn away the traumas and terrors of the patriarchal world in which Raka and Nanda Kaul live, exorcise the demons of Raka's past, and cleanse the world of the grotesque party-goers from the Club who represent excess and abuse.
Symbol: Burnt House
The burnt house on the hill is symbolic of Raka and what has happened to her, which is why it draws her in so inexorably. A house is supposed to be a place of security and succor, but for Raka, it was a madhouse of abuse, fear, and impotence. This house being burnt shows Raka's devastated psyche but also the fact that fire can destroy and purify—exactly what Raka will do herself at the end of the novel.
The sea is a key motif in the book. Mountains are often compared with the sea and lights in those villages are compared to ships. The imagery of sea animals is often used to describe people like Nanda, said to hook Raka like a fish which strengthens and loosens. The frequent evocation of waves, ships, and being shipwrecked strengthens the association of Carignano with isolation and wildness.
Nanda Kaul desperately wants to be the eagle, but she is actually the cuckoo, whether she likes it or not: "She had wished, it occurred to her to imitate that eagle—gliding, with its eyes closed. Then a cuckoo called, quite close, here in her garden, very softly, musically, but definitely calling—she recognized its domestic tone" (19). The eagle is a symbol of freedom, power, autonomy, and ferocity, and Nanda Kaul wants this after her life of domesticity and denial.
Throughout the text, Nanda Kaul and Raka often remain silent. Nanda Kaul keeps her thoughts to herself, does not finish thoughts aloud, and objects to the loudness of others. Raka also refuses to talk much, keeping her interior closed off throughout the novel. Ila Das, though, refuses to be silent—and is eventually killed for it.
Fire on the Mountain Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Fire on the Mountain is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
Raka is left to Nanda after her parents, an abusive father and oppressed mother, move to Geneva while she is still sickly after having recovered from Typhoid. She is unlike other children and instead of looking for company of other children, finds...