A Suitable Boy

A Suitable Boy: An Exploration of Indian Society

A suitable boy is one of the most famous and widely read novel that is written by Vikram Seth, a renowned Indian writer, that explores the issue of love and arrange marriage, depicts the complex life of Lata, protagonist of the novel.

This sprawling novel, reflects the Indian culture, prejudice society, the idea of love and arrange marriage with a marvelous blend of satire in it. Before we delve into the novel I will introduce about the author of this remarkable novel.

About the Author

Vikram Seth, an Indian novelist and poet, who contributed outlandish to literature through his genius and creative writings. He was born in 1952 and has contributed a lot by his creative works to the contemporary literature. He had won many awards for his remarkable works, include Padma Shari, Crossword book award, Sahitya Academy Award and many more.

He enchanted his novels using in it a blend of poetry and prose. His most widely read works are A suitable boy, An Equal music, The Golden gate and Three Chinese poets including many other works.


“A suitable Boy”, is a well famous novel of Indian writer Vikram Seth. It was published in 1993 in English. It describes the post-independence circumstances of India during the early 1950s. The story of the novel revolves around the Mehra’s; a wealthy and influential family of North India, who want to find a suitable match for the 19 years old young daughter of family named, Lata. But she is determined girl and want to make her own choice in love and the matters of marriage. This novel explodes many things such as politics traditions societal expectations class dynamics and cultural diversity. Actually, it is presenting the evolving landscape of newly independent India.

About the Novel

As for as A suit able boy is concerned, an epic novel set in early 1950 in India and it was a time when India and Pakistan partition took place, a post-independence era, very crucial time in the history of India, depicting political upheavals, search for identity and social changes through which people undergoes at that time.

It highlights the story of four families and how Indian custom and political changes had changed the perspective of a girl for marriage. It a very lengthy novel, took more than a decade to complete, consists of 1400 pages.

Vikram Seth realistically has depicted the story of a young girl, Lata and her quest for a suitable boy. This novel of Indian landscape is written in 1992 in English language, published in one volume which is considered the longest one.

Setting of the novel

It set in 1950 during post partition of India, in a fictional town of Berhampur, near Ganges, Patna. Some parts of India like Calcutta, Lucknow and Delhi are also shown in this novel. The novel in divided into 19 parts and highlights the national political crisis, Hindu Muslim clashes and the idea of elite and middle class.

Story of the novel; “A Suitable Boy”

The novel follows a story of 19 years old girl Lata and her plight to choose between arrange marriage and love marriage. She lives in Berhampur with her mother, Mrs. Ropa Mehra, sister, seta and brother Arun. An elite class Mrs. Ropa Mehra tries for arranging marriage for her younger girl Lata according to their norms and culture that does not encourage love marriage.

But against her mother Lata resists against the societal expectations and decides to marry with her lover, Kabir Durrani, her university fellow and marked by his intelligence and passion for cricket. He is considered as the star of cricket in university.

Lata Mehra, the protagonist of the novel A suitable boy

Lata is of the view that a girl should be her own choice for love and marriage and at the marriage of her sister, seta with Pran who is a professor at a university and belongs to a wealthy and respected background, Lata cannot understand how her elder sister will live her life with a person whom she has no connection.

In fact, she had asked her sister privately whether they will live happily without knowing each other. When her mother does not agree she desperately ask Kabir to run away from here but Kabir refuses to do so. She feels anguish and goes with her mother to Calcutta to meet with her brother and his wife Menakshi. At train meets with Haresh, a shoe manufacturer.  

Menakshi is a prosperous Muslim girl and her brother ‘s wife. She is aware that her mother will not give her the same privilege as her brother to marry with a Muslim boy. Her mother introduces her various Hindu boys who are wealthy and seems perfect to her cast. One of the is Amit. He was a genius poet and write and seems perfect for Lata but unfortunately becomes gay.

Lata explores various romantic relationship and during this time also set up with Haresh but still she cannot stop her feelings for Kabir. As the story proceeds various things happen including political changes, Hindu Muslim clashes, challenges faced by Kabir Durrani and Amit Chatterjee, movements for equal rights, ending of zamindar system and romantic entanglement of Man Kapoor, Pran Kapoor ‘s brother, with Saeeda Bai, a prostitute.

At the end of the novel Haresh sends proposal of marriage to Lata and she realizes that Haresh is a suitable boy whom she has quest and after some thinking she accept his proposal and decides that she will not marry with Kabir whom she loves but another suitable boy. The novel end with Lata and Haresh’s marriage.

Themes of the novel; “A suitable Boy”

Theme is a central idea of any work. A suitable boy contains many complex issues at the time of post-independence in India. Through this novel he wants from his readers to assimilate the traditional approaches and custom of Indian societies and the religious and political upheavals.

Arrange Marriage and societal expectations

The central theme of the novel is arranged marriage. Through the character of Lata, the writer emphasizes the concept of making her own choice about love. But the societal expectations were contradictory to Lata’s desire and passion.

Society in the form of her mother forced her to do arrange marriage because it’s a wrong to do love marriage in their culture. Society forced an individual especially a woman to conform their decision according to tradition and society. Lata has chosen arrange marriage over love because of the pressure of society and culture.

Cultural Diversity

The beauty of the novel lies in its cultural diversity that prevalent in India during post-independence era. Vikram Seth has skillfully examined the different culture and traditions and how this shape and influence an individual’s perspective and society. Lata, the main character of the novel is pressurized to follow her Indian tradition while preferring her life partner. The novel shows rich and colorful diverse cultures in India through characters.

Love and relationship

At its core, the novel exhibits a tale of love and relationship. Love is a spontaneous feeling but society has made it difficult and merged it with tradition. Any tradition shapes a society and people are forced to obey and follow the norms of society.

In this novel ‘A suitable boy ‘love and relationship is dependent on culture and the characters of the novel are struggling between the clashes of tradition and modernity. If we examine the main character Lata, she is a victim of society and the only way to establish her relationship with Kabir Durrani, a Muslim boy; is to elope with him, but Kabir refused his demand because of his religion and custom of society.

Maan Kapoor has faced difficulties and is forced to cut off his relationship with Saeeda Bai because of her profession of prostitution.


In the background of the novel, Vikram Seth highlighted the political riots between Hindu and Muslims. At that time when everyone struggling to assimilate new environment there were some groups of Hindu and Muslim who were trying to create harassment and bust among people.

Vikram Seth has foregrounded how these riots affected the relationship of families and changed their perspective. Owning to this Lata had decided that Kabir, in spite of an intelligent and a cricket star at her university, is not a suitable boy for her and had chosen Haresh over Kabir.

Dramatic presentation of the novel (A Suitable Boy) on TV serial and Netflix

This novel is dramatized by BBC drama miniseries which was directed by Mira Nair and produced by Andrew Davis based on Vikram Seth’s novel with the same name. Tanya Maniktala performed the character of Lata along with Tabu, Mahira Kakker, Ishaan Khatter, Rasika Dugal and many others.

It was first time presented in United Kingdom from 26 July to 24th August 2020 by BBC. And it was opened on the streaming platform of Netflix with 6 episodes in October 2020


At the end, we can say that Vikram Seth has presented human emotions and societal complexities remarkably. He had planned a really sensitive point of Indian society and got international fame through his novel ‘A suitable boy’. A suitable boy is compared to T. S Eliot ‘s Middlemarch due to its realistic way. The novel is an essence that explores the political and social changes during post partition. It’s a satirical investigation of religious intolerance and complex culture.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

An Indian writer Vikram Seth wrote this novel in 1992 and it was first published in 1993.

It is a romantic novel and family saga and its original edition has more than 1300 pages.

The title of the novel “A suitable boy” itself is a central theme which reflects search for suitable match for the protagonist, Lata Mehra. Besides Lata Mehra many other important characters including her mother, Rupa Mehra. Maan Kapoor and other potential suitors.

This novel is presenting the early years of India after getting Independence from British rule. It describes social, political and cultural context of Indian society of early 1950s.

This novel presents many themes like love, duty, traditions, politics, class dynamics, cultural diversity and societal expectations.

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