Choose from a range of different tasks about the short story "Good Advice is Rarer Than Rubies" by the renowned author Salman Rushdie.
- What made Miss Rehana go to the British Embassy for an immigration visa to Britain?
- What advice did Muhammad Ali offer her?
- In what way did she use his advice?
- How do you explain her behaviour at the embassy?
- Outline Muhammad Ali's assumptions about Miss Rehana's hopes and wishes and show how they are proved wrong.
Literary Analysis: Direct Quotations
Comment on the following direct quotations from the text:
- "Her innocence made him shiver with fear for her. She was a sparrow, he told her, and they were men with hooded eyes, like eagles."
- "Life is hard, and an old man must live by his wits."
- "When fate sends a gift, one receives good fortune."
Literary Analysis: Structure, Character and Theme
- How is this short story structured: Beginning (exposition), Middle (Complication), Turning Point and End (Resolution)?
- Muhammed Ali is portrayed by the narrator as a hardened swindler. Find evidence to indicate that he is not. Take care not to accept his own words at face value. How would you describe the other side of him?
- At the beginning of the story Miss Rehana is portrayed as innocent, respectful and polite. What evidence can you find to indicate that she may be critical, ironic and disrespectful?
- Read the opening paragraph again. How would you describe the mood? Then read the two short final paragraphs. How can we argue that the end takes us back to the beginning?
- Does Miss Rehana’s revealing to Muhammed Ali that she really does not want to go to England, come as a complete surprise to us?
- What is the main theme of this story?
- After her return to Lahore, Miss Rehana phones her fiancé in Bradford to explain that she has failed to get permission to join him in England. Work in pairs and act out the conversation. You may record it using e.g. Skype or Audacity.
- The day after Miss Rehana’s return to Lahore, she visits her friend. Act it out.
- Miss Rehana avoided entering into a pre-arranged marriage by deliberately failing to get a visa to Britain. Discuss:
- What objections are generally raised in the Western world to such a marriage practice?
- What can be said against Western style marriages?
- What makes it difficult for East and West to see eye to eye on the issue of marriage?
- Do you know of other areas which may lead to cross-cultural tension or conflict?
- Write a summary (about ½ page) of Good Advice Is Rarer than Rubies. Then go on to suggest what you regard as the central theme. Some stories are sometimes written simply for entertainment, others because the writer wants to address an important issue, often expressing his opinion on this issue in the shape of a message. Does Good Advice have a message to the reader? Conclude by stating your own opinion of the story.
- Write character studies of Miss Rehana and Muhammad Ali. How are they influenced by each other? How do they change in the course of the story? Account for the different actions of the two. Why do you think Miss Rehana actually seemed relieved at the end in spite of having her application for a visa rejected?
- Write a comment on the ways in which Miss Rehana deals with stereotypical expectations of female behaviour.
- Relate Miss Rehana’s story as you imagine she would have told it to her best friend after returning to her village. You may also present this task as a dialogue or a letter.
- The encounter with Miss Rehana puzzled Muhammad Ali a great deal. How would he relate the incident to his wife Ravina, at the dinner-table in the evening? Write the dialogue.
- Some people argue that Good Advice is mainly a story of an arranged marriage, others suggest that it is much more. Write an essay where you discuss what you think are the most interesting aspects of the story (e.g. themes, characters, setting).
- Write a literary analysis of the short story. Take into account how the author creates suspense and reveals the characters' feelings. Consider point of view, setting and the choice of words.
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