A Burning Summary & Study Guide

Megha Majumdar
This Study Guide consists of approximately 35 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of A Burning.
This section contains 594 words
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A Burning Summary & Study Guide Description

A Burning Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Quotes and a Free Quiz on A Burning by Megha Majumdar.

The following version of this book was used to create the guide: A Burning. Majumdar, Megha. Alfred A. Knopf, 2020.

Megha Majumdar writes her novel, A Burning, from the intertwined points of view of her protagonists, Jivan, PT Sir, and Lovely. The novel is divided into a series of first and third person accounts, one laid over another, and largely written in the present tense.

On her way home from work one night, Jivan stops at the Kolabagan train station near her home to smoke a cigarette and be alone. While on the platform, she watches as a train is attacked by terrorists and bursts into flames. Back home, she finds innumerable people commenting on the breaking story, wishing she could be as bold as them. After she posts her own comment on Facebook, she is arrested the next morning for being involved in the attack.

When Jivan's former school teacher, PT Sir, hears about her arrest on the news, he is shocked. Jivan was one of his favorite students. He was kind to her because he saw something of himself in her. However, Jivan disappeared after her board exams one year, never saying thank you to PT Sir, and never returning again. To distract himself from thoughts of her arrest, and his banal life teaching physical education at the girls' school, PT Sir begins attending Jana Kalyan political party rallies. He wishes he could be attached to a similar cause.

Lovely, one of Jivan's friends and English students from the Kolabagan slum, is similarly shocked to hear of Jivan's imprisonment. She wants to be able to help her, but the police have yet to contact her. She guesses it is because she is a transgender woman, or hijra, and they will not respect her voice. While she waits for news of the trial, Lovely continues attending her acting classes with Mr. Debnath. Having always dreamt of being a famous film star, Lovely thinks acting success will finally allow people to see her for who she really is.

Meanwhile, Jivan bribes the prison guard to let a journalist visit her in prison. She wants to give the reporter, Purnendu, an interview in order to prove her innocence. She thinks if he prints her story, the public will realize who she is and convince the courts to set her free. However, after weeks of talking to Purnendu, Jivan is distraught when she sees the article. Purnendu has twisted her account and cast her as a terrorist sympathizer. During the trial that follows the story's release, both Lovely and PT Sir testify. Lovely is the only person to speak well of Jivan. Because of her dubious activity online, and PT Sir's negative review of her character, the court sentences Jivan to death.

In the wake of the trial, Lovely feels guilty that she cannot do more to save her friend. However, if she continues advocating for Jivan, she risks losing the life she is creating for herself. Her work with Mr. Debnath, and the spread of her acting video online, has earned her several television roles, and she is rising to prominence. In contrast, PT Sir agrees when his boss demands he discard Jivan's mercy petition, in order to appease the people. He quiets his guilt by embracing his new government position, and the authority and status it affords him. After the mercy plea is denied, Jivan is executed by hanging. At a rally afterwards, PT Sir spots Jivan's ghost in the crowd, attempting to ignore the symbolic implications of her spectral presence.

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