Nectar in a Sieve

by

Kamala Markandaya

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Kenny Character Analysis

Kenny is a British doctor who lives and works in the village. Rukmani first meets Kenny at her dying mother’s bedside, and she seeks treatment from him for infertility. A gruff man, Kenny claims to scorn the people of the village as backward and uninventive—he often chastises Rukmani for refusing to take action or feel angry in the face of suffering. However, he’s actually sensitive and compassionate—he frequently brings Rukmani food during hard times, and when visiting her household, he speaks her language and displays a cultural sensitivity that the novel’s other white characters lack entirely. During the novel, Kenny builds a free hospital that he hopes will provide desperately needed medical care to the region. His active nature and commitment to progress contrasts with Rukmani’s passive resignation, but the novel doesn’t prioritize one worldview above the other. Kenny’s projects help the villagers, but his restless nature has led to the collapse of his marriage and estrangement from his children, preventing him from enjoying the familial happiness that Rukmani possesses despite her poverty.

Kenny Quotes in Nectar in a Sieve

The Nectar in a Sieve quotes below are all either spoken by Kenny or refer to Kenny. 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 7 Quotes

“Times are better, times are better,” he shouts. “Times will not be better for many months. Meanwhile you will suffer and die, you meek, suffering fools. Why do you keep this ghastly silence? Why do you not demand—cry out for help—do something? There is nothing in this country, oh God, there is nothing!”

Related Characters: Kenny (speaker), Rukmani
Page Number: 43
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 18 Quotes

Have I not so much sense to see that you are not one of us? You live and work here, and there is in your heart solicitude for us and love for our children. But this is not your country and we are not your people.

Related Characters: Rukmani (speaker), Kenny
Page Number: 106
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 19 Quotes

Privately I thought, Well, and what if we gave in to our troubles at every step! We would be pitiable creatures indeed to be so weak, for is not a man’s spirit given to him to rise above his misfortunes? […] What profit to bewail that which has always been and cannot change?

Related Characters: Rukmani (speaker), Kenny
Related Symbols: The Hospital
Page Number: 111
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Nectar in a Sieve LitChart as a printable PDF.
Nectar in a Sieve PDF

Kenny Character Timeline in Nectar in a Sieve

The timeline below shows where the character Kenny appears in Nectar in a Sieve. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1 
Suffering Theme Icon
...“what’s done is done.” Puli’s hands have been destroyed by leprosy, but the local doctor, Kenny, and Rukmani’s son Selvam have prevented the disease from spreading to Puli’s limbs. (full context)
Suffering Theme Icon
Rukmani’s sight is fading, but she can still see the hospital where Selvam and Kenny work together. The hospital has been growing slowly over the year, constructed by “men’s hopes... (full context)
Chapter 3
Suffering Theme Icon
Agriculture vs. Education Theme Icon
...and her father summons a foreign doctor who has recently settled in the village. When Kenny arrives, Rukmani stares at him openly, having never seen a white man before. Speaking the... (full context)
Suffering Theme Icon
After her mother has died, Rukmani thanks Kenny, saying that her home is open to him always. Scrutinizing her, Kenny guesses that something... (full context)
Women and Sexuality Theme Icon
Rukmani had hoped that Kenny would come to the celebration, but he never arrives. Nathan notices her anxiety and asks... (full context)
Chapter 5
Suffering Theme Icon
Agriculture vs. Education Theme Icon
One morning, Rukmani is gathering dung from the fields for fuel when she sees Kenny approaching. In a gesture of respect, she bends to his feet, but he retreats quickly,... (full context)
Women and Sexuality Theme Icon
...that Irawaddy gracefully pours a bowl of rice water. Nathan is taken aback to see Kenny in the house, but when the white man greets him formally in his own language,... (full context)
Women and Sexuality Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Kenny becomes a frequent visitor at Rukmani’s house. She wonders where his own family is, but... (full context)
Chapter 7
Suffering Theme Icon
On her way home, Rukmani runs into Kenny, who looks pale and grim. When he enquires after her welfare, she says bravely that... (full context)
Chapter 9
Family Theme Icon
...parents will never blame her for something that isn’t her fault. She decides to visit Kenny and see if he can help. (full context)
Agriculture vs. Education Theme Icon
...that Kunthi’s son will procure him a job, but Rukmani counters that she will ask Kenny, since she doesn’t want to be indebted to her neighbor. However, Arjun doesn’t want to... (full context)
Chapter 11
Suffering Theme Icon
...few days to attend a family funeral. Rukmani takes advantage of his absence to consult Kenny about Irawaddy’s infertility. She doesn’t think Nathan would approve of seeking medical care from a... (full context)
Suffering Theme Icon
Rukmani reaches Kenny’s office at the end of the day, when he’s “grim and tired” from long hours... (full context)
Women and Sexuality Theme Icon
Walking home from Kenny’s office, Rukmani encounters Kunthi in the path. Kunthi remarks insinuatingly that Rukmani keeps “late hours,”... (full context)
Women and Sexuality Theme Icon
After Kenny treats Irawaddy, Rukmani visits her daughter’s husband and entreats him to take her back. The... (full context)
Chapter 12
Suffering Theme Icon
Agriculture vs. Education Theme Icon
...jobs, and the strike fails. Arjun says that “the people will never learn,” echoing what Kenny has said to Rukmani earlier. She doesn’t understand what either man is talking about. To... (full context)
Family Theme Icon
Agriculture vs. Education Theme Icon
...family dispersing. Murugan is leaving as well, to be a servant in a nearby city; Kenny has procured the job for him. Nathan says that Rukmani “broods too much,” and that... (full context)
Suffering Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
After Murugan has been gone some time, Kenny brings good news of him; he is succeeding in his new job, and Rukmani shouldn’t... (full context)
Chapter 14
Suffering Theme Icon
...hut and keeps the other part in the granary. Sometimes she thinks of going to Kenny for help, but she hears that he has gone away from the village. (full context)
Women and Sexuality Theme Icon
...Nathan won’t believe anything she says, but Kunthi points out that she’s seen Rukmani visiting Kenny illicitly in the city, and that he often gives her milk and food, presents that... (full context)
Chapter 18
Women and Sexuality Theme Icon
...whom she despises. Still, she sees him in the street, and he tells her that Kenny has returned to the village. She points out that this is good news for everyone,... (full context)
Suffering Theme Icon
Women and Sexuality Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Rukmani decides to visit Kenny and buys a garland for his cottage. She finds his house bare and caked with... (full context)
Suffering Theme Icon
Agriculture vs. Education Theme Icon
Rukmani says that it wasn’t right of Kenny to stay away from his wife for so long, but that his wife should have... (full context)
Suffering Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
As Rukmani stands to leave, Kenny asks after Irawaddy. Rukmani says that she is pregnant, but that the baby’s father is... (full context)
Chapter 19
Family Theme Icon
Agriculture vs. Education Theme Icon
...One day, he announces that he can’t stand to work on the farm, and that Kenny has offered him a job in the new hospital he is building. He can learn... (full context)
Suffering Theme Icon
When Rukmani next sees Kenny, she thanks him for helping Selvam and asks about his new project. He shows her... (full context)
Suffering Theme Icon
...for help, instead of learning to suffer their various burdens, which can never be alleviated. Kenny can tell that she disagrees with him, and points out that no “spiritual grace” comes... (full context)
Chapter 21
Suffering Theme Icon
Selvam spends less and less time at home now that he works for Kenny. The hospital encounters many delays in building, and Selvam and Kenny alternate between enthusiasm and... (full context)
Agriculture vs. Education Theme Icon
...does for once. Selvam has explained this to him, having learned about it himself from Kenny. (full context)
Suffering Theme Icon
...the hospital progresses, people begin to seek jobs and assistance from it. Rukmani knows that Kenny won’t be able to attend to even a tenth of the people seeking help, even... (full context)
Suffering Theme Icon
Selvam begins training as a doctor with Kenny, and by his second year treats some patients by himself. Kenny pays him a small... (full context)
Chapter 23
Agriculture vs. Education Theme Icon
Kenny tells Rukmani that Nathan needs to rest more and eat better, but they don’t have... (full context)
Rural vs. Urban Poverty Theme Icon
Agriculture vs. Education Theme Icon
Kenny asks if Rukmani thinks about the future, when Nathan will be too old to farm.... (full context)
Chapter 25
Rural vs. Urban Poverty Theme Icon
...clothing, approaches. Rukmani explains her plight, and Birla remembers that Murugan came to her on Kenny’s recommendation. However, he left her employ two years ago, and she believes he’s now working... (full context)
Chapter 30
Suffering Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
...quite remember the arguments she used, eventually she persuades him to accompany her home, where Kenny and Selvam can treat his leprosy. (full context)