Although Kunthi and Rukmani are neighbors in similar circumstances, Kunthi chooses a very different life path. Where Rukmani remains a faithful wife, Kunthi is unfaithful even as a young bride. She uses her beauty and her seductiveness first to lure Nathan and later to attract the attention of the young tannery workers. For Kunthi, the tannery means a town with excitement and luxuries, whereas for Rukmani, it represents the repudiation of beauty, health, and values. Kunthi transfers her own morality to Rukmani by assuming that Rukmani and Kenny are conducting an illicit affair. At first she merely threatens Rukmani with exposure, but as her conditions becomes more dire, Kunthi extorts food from both Rukmani and Nathan. Her power comes from their fear and is so strong and evil that Rukmani and Nathan risk their family’s starvation to satisfy her. Rukmani and Nathan finally break her power with truth. Truth is the transcendent Hindu value, and Kunthi stands in opposition to it.


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