Nectar in a Sieve

Arjun Character Analysis

Arjun is Rukmani’s eldest son. While Nathan hopes his sons will join him on the farm, Arjun and his younger brother Thambi reject the idea of cultivating land they will never own, and find work at the new tannery that is propelling the town towards urbanization. There, they become involved in workers’ strikes and eventually lose their jobs. Arjun’s nascent political consciousness and discontent with the rural poverty into which he is born contrast markedly with his parents’ acceptance of the disasters that befall them. Eventually, Arjun leaves home to work on a tea plantation in Ceylon. His departure marks the beginning of the family’s disintegration.

Arjun Quotes in Nectar in a Sieve

The Nectar in a Sieve quotes below are all either spoken by Arjun or refer to Arjun. 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:
Suffering Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Signet edition of Nectar in a Sieve published in 2010.
Chapter 12 Quotes

I do not know what reply to make—these men are strangers. Nathan says we do not understand, we must not interfere: he takes my hand and draws me away. To his sons he is gentle. Into the calm lake of our lives the first stone has been tossed.

Related Characters: Rukmani (speaker), Nathan, Arjun, Thambi
Related Symbols: The Tannery
Page Number: 64
Explanation and Analysis:
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People will never learn! Kenny had said it, and I had not understood, now here were my own sons saying the same thing, and still I did not understand. What was it we had to learn? To fight against tremendous odds? What was the use? One only lost the little one had.

Related Characters: Rukmani (speaker), Arjun, Thambi
Related Symbols: The Tannery
Page Number: 65
Explanation and Analysis:
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Arjun Character Timeline in Nectar in a Sieve

The timeline below shows where the character Arjun appears in Nectar in a Sieve. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 3
Women and Sexuality Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Irawaddy is seven when Rukmani’s first son, Arjun, is born. She’s very interested in the baby and happy to have a companion, since... (full context)
Rural vs. Urban Poverty Theme Icon
Agriculture vs. Education Theme Icon
As Rukmani bears more and more children, the family’s resources are stretched thin. Irawaddy and Arjun are fed well during their childhood, but the succeeding sons—Thambi, Murugan, Raja, and Selvam—grow up... (full context)
Chapter 4
Rural vs. Urban Poverty Theme Icon
Agriculture vs. Education Theme Icon
...before, but what happens now in the village seems unusually fast and drastic. One morning, Arjun runs breathlessly up to the house with the news that dozens of men have arrived... (full context)
Chapter 9
Family Theme Icon
Agriculture vs. Education Theme Icon
In his teens by now, Arjun has far surpassed Rukmani in reading and writing. Even though he’s never been to school,... (full context)
Agriculture vs. Education Theme Icon
Arjun says that Kunthi’s son will procure him a job, but Rukmani counters that she will... (full context)
Rural vs. Urban Poverty Theme Icon
Agriculture vs. Education Theme Icon
Soon, Thambi joins Arjun at the tannery. Nathan is devastated, because he expected his sons to help him on... (full context)
Family Theme Icon
Still, Thambi and Arjun remain loyal to their parents, always bringing home their earnings. With the increased money, the... (full context)
Chapter 12
Rural vs. Urban Poverty Theme Icon
Agriculture vs. Education Theme Icon
On their day off from the tannery, Arjun and Thambi return to the farm to help Nathan. Nathan loves to see his sons... (full context)
Rural vs. Urban Poverty Theme Icon
On the other days, Arjun and Thambi work long hours at the tannery. Rukmani is proud that they bring all... (full context)
Suffering Theme Icon
Rural vs. Urban Poverty Theme Icon
Agriculture vs. Education Theme Icon
Arjun and Thambi say that the tannery workers asked for better wages, and the bosses retaliated... (full context)
Rural vs. Urban Poverty Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
As it turns out, Arjun and Thambi have been spokesmen in the workers’ disputes. Soon, the workers decide to go... (full context)
Suffering Theme Icon
Agriculture vs. Education Theme Icon
...the striking workers with others; most workers return to their jobs, and the strike fails. Arjun says that “the people will never learn,” echoing what Kenny has said to Rukmani earlier.... (full context)
Family Theme Icon
Arjun and Thambi are without work, as are Kali’s two sons. Kali frequently bemoans their lack... (full context)
Rural vs. Urban Poverty Theme Icon
...dwindle. Rukmani has to stretch her supplies to ensure they will last until the harvest. Arjun and Thambi spend more and more time in town, refusing to tell their mother what... (full context)
Suffering Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
...the house to announce that drums are beating in town. Rukmani remembers the morning when Arjun made a similar announcement about the tannery workers’ arrival, and feels a sense of dread.... (full context)
Rural vs. Urban Poverty Theme Icon
Agriculture vs. Education Theme Icon
...if their employers break their promises. Rukmani points out that money is not everything, but Arjun counters that they cannot make even a meager living as things stand in the village,... (full context)