Behind the Beautiful Forevers

Meena Character Analysis

The daughter of one of the Tamil families who built the slum, Meena is a teenager who longs to have a life and education of her own like her best friend Manju. Yet Meena is constantly beaten by her father and her brothers for having her own opinions. The lack of any options for her life other than becoming the property of her eventual husband pushes Meena to drink rat poison. Her death is a shock to the slum, but Boo shows that this awful suicide is a common occurrence among young, bright girls in India who are given no freedom or respect.

Meena Quotes in Behind the Beautiful Forevers

The Behind the Beautiful Forevers quotes below are all either spoken by Meena or refer to Meena. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Society, Competition, and Social Division Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Random House edition of Behind the Beautiful Forevers published in 2014.
Chapter 12 Quotes

…she kept thinking she saw smoke coming out of Meena's mouth and nose-as if the girl had set herself on fire from the inside. No, that was impossible. Rat poison only. Her mind was looping. If she screamed for help, the whole slum would know that Meena had attempted suicide, which would ruin her reputation.

Related Characters: Manju Waghekar, Meena
Page Number: 187
Explanation and Analysis:

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Meena Character Timeline in Behind the Beautiful Forevers

The timeline below shows where the character Meena appears in Behind the Beautiful Forevers. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 4: Manju
Society, Competition, and Social Division Theme Icon
Life and Death Theme Icon
...get any other education but Manju’s school. One of Manju’s secret students is her friend Meena, a teenager whose family believes that education ruins a girl’s marriage prospects. On this particular... (full context)
Chapter 12: Nine Nights of Dance
Permanence, Legacy, and Erasure Theme Icon
Life and Death Theme Icon
...their lives, especially oppressive marriages. Two women follow Fatima’s example by setting themselves on fire. Meena and Manju even discuss suicide methods one night. Manju is ashamed of her mother’s dishonorable... (full context)
Opportunity, Corruption, and Inequality Theme Icon
Life and Death Theme Icon
...days. This year’s Navrati festival will have extra DJs and lights, a fact welcomed by Meena who is dreading her imminent move to a rural village where she has been promised... (full context)
Life and Death Theme Icon
A week before Navrati, Meena and Manju meet at the public toilet to discuss Fatima’s “way out” of their worries... (full context)
Society, Competition, and Social Division Theme Icon
Life and Death Theme Icon
...so that she will have time to study and work on festival preparations. She ignores Meena waving from her house. When Manju finally finishes all her work, she goes to visit... (full context)
Opportunity, Corruption, and Inequality Theme Icon
Life and Death Theme Icon
Meena’s mother is inside making dinner when Manju tells her about Meena eating rat poison. Meena’s... (full context)
Society, Competition, and Social Division Theme Icon
Life and Death Theme Icon
Manju sees some women pass by Meena’s house. She quietly tells them that Meena has poisoned herself. The women ask Meena what... (full context)
Permanence, Legacy, and Erasure Theme Icon
Life and Death Theme Icon
Meena is admitted to Cooper Hospital and dies on the sixth day of Navrati. The women... (full context)