The Ramayana


R. K. Narayan

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The Ramayana: 13. Interlude Summary & Analysis

Rama sends Hanuman to fetch an overjoyed Sita. Hanuman instructs Sita to dress herself beautifully before meeting Rama, and she does so. Sita finally sees Rama, surrounded by a great crowd. She feels awkward, but doesn't understand why Rama seems cold and distant. She bows at his feet and waits for him to address her. Rama finally says that he's accomplished his goal by freeing her, but it would be improper to accept her back as his wife after her time in Ravana's house. He tells her that she's free to go wherever she'd like.
This is another strange and disturbing moment in Rama's story. The reader knows that Sita has remained true to her husband, but Rama seems to fear that Ravana's attempts at manipulation were too much for his wife to resist. He's taken Viswamithra's initial warning to heart, and this shows that Rama fully believes that women are more inclined to behave in evil and dishonorable ways.
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Sita breaks down crying and orders Lakshmana to light a fire. Lakshmana hesitates, but finally does as she asks. Rama does nothing as Sita bows before the fire and jumps into it. Moments later, the god of fire steps out of the fire with Sita. He presents Sita to Rama with a blessing, and Rama is happy that Sita passed this test of fidelity. He accepts Sita as his wife.
Sita's goodness is too much for the fire god and her own loyalty insures that she makes it out of the fire alive. Now that she's proven that she remained true to Rama, Rama can move forward and continue to be the ideal husband. The deadly nature of this “test,” however, cannot help but call into question just how ideal Rama really is.
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