Point of view 

Shabanu, the protagonist, narrates the story. She objectively reports only what she observes, but she shares her insights, ideas, and inferences about events and characters.


Shabanu speaks in a clear and simple voice. Her point of view reflects that she is a teenager, struggling to make sense out of the world around her and her changing role in it. She presents her story sequentially, filling in details of the past where needed.


Shabanu speaks in the simple present, lapsing into the past only to explain events to the audience.

Setting (time) 

1970s or 1980s

Setting (place) 

Cholistan Desert, in Pakistan, near the border with India



Major conflict 

Shabanu struggles to reconcile herself with the marriage her parents have arranged for her.

Rising action 

In anticipation of Phulan's wedding, the family travels to the town where the two brothers live. During the preparations, however, a greedy landowner, who has a great deal of power in the region, attempts to kidnap and rape Phulan. In the ensuing scuffle, Phulan's fiancé is killed.


Shabanu's parents decide that Phulan will marry Shabanu's fiancé. The landowner's wealthy and respected older brother has fallen in love with Shabanu, and, in order to ensure peace between the families, Shabanu's parents agree to let him marry her.

Falling action 

One night, Shabanu decides that she will run away to live with her aunt in the desert. She begins her treacherous journey, but her camel breaks his leg. Her father finds her and beats her mercilessly. She resigns herself to her fate.


At the fair where the herders sell their camels, Dadi sells the family's favorite camel, despite promising he would not do so. This foreshadows how the family "sells" Shabanu in order to preserve the peace. Shabanu knows of a young woman who eloped with her lover. Though she does not know for certain, she suspects that the woman was found and killed by her family. This girl foreshadows Shabanu's flight from home and her consequent punishment.