Ice Candy Man Summary and Study Guide

Bapsi Sidhwa

Ice Candy Man

  • 51-page comprehensive study guide
  • Features 32 chapter summaries and 5 sections of expert analysis.
  • Written by an experienced high school teacher with a PhD in English Literature
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Ice Candy Man Summary and Study Guide

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature. This 51-page guide for “Ice Candy Man” by Bapsi Sidhwa includes detailed chapter summaries and analysis covering 32 chapters, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 25 important quotes, essay topics, and key themes like Religious Intolerance and Lust and Sexual Desire Cause Powerful Obsessions.

Plot Summary

Ice Candy Man is a heartbreaking story about the Partition of India and the 1947 upheaval that left countless people homeless, hurt and/or dead. This period of time has been documented from various viewpoints, but Sidhwa’s novel approaches the subject from the point-of-view of a little girl who lived through the troubles. Once precocious and seemingly innocent to the world, the main character, Lenny, finds herself altered forever from the reality unfolding around her, as India and Pakistan both form from the rubble of the Partition. The book has been so successful that it was also made into a film, titled 1947.

The main protagonist of Ice Candy Man is a Parsee girl named Lenny Sethi. Her narrative begins when she is only four years old, and ends four years later. Lenny details how the people around her react to the Partition by commenting on the various people in her life, including her Hindu Ayah, the Sikh zoo attendant, the Muslim cook and the ice candy man of the title’s namesake. Through her use of these colorful individuals, Sidhwa gives a breathtaking view of power, terror and heartbreak through the eyes of a young, naïve girl.

Lenny reveals how her ayah, a term which means “maid,” is romantically linked to the very charming ice candy man. Her ayah plays an important role in her life, and yet Lenny is initially unable to help her ayah when trouble begins. When the turmoil of 1947 breaks out in the form of the Hindu-Muslim wars, all bets are off the table, including love. The ice candy man actually turns on the ayah, abusing her due to her Hindu caste.

Over the course of the narrative, Lenny talks about other characters as well, including her brother, Adi, and her mother and father. Another integral character, however, is Rodabai, Lenny’s godmother. Rodabai is characterized as fat and stubby, and completely instrumental in the ayah’s rescue. With Rodabai’s help, Lenny is eventually able to track down her ayah, thus helping the woman who has always helped her in the past. Rodabai and Lenny rush to Diamond Market, where the ayah is being held, and confront the ice candy man.

In the end, the ice candy man finds himself the victim of religious/social intolerance, and is beaten up while Lenny’s ayah escapes. The ayah then says her goodbyes and heads to Lahore, to be with her family. It is revealed that the Parsees have lost everything at this point with the fighting and the Partition, and all sides of the struggle must move on and attempt to heal their wounds as best they can.

Ice Candy Man is a narrative both comical and heartbreaking. Told from a young girl’s point-of-view, the narrative often finds hilarious points-of-departure to comment on, and affords the reader the naiveté of a child’s point-of-view. As Lenny grows, however, and as the fighting between Muslims and Hindus hits closer and closer to home, Lenny’s insights are clouded with bloodshed and the very worst of the human condition. Even people she used to look up to or at least admire show their true nature.  Lenny’s coming-of-age is made all the more heartbreaking in that it is set against the backdrop of war. Lenny must find the strength to persevere and save her ayah, thus highlighting that her naiveté has grown into genuine concern, and a more comprehensive knowledge of others and their wellbeing.

The narrative is symbolic in its look at growing up and coming of age despite external factors that seek to hinder growth. Lenny’s character, including her trials and triumphs, reveals that the human desire for love, growth and compassion can far outweigh the effects of war and hate. The narrative also shows just how important community is, especially during tumultuous times. Lenny looks at her immediate family, extended family and family of servants, and in each of them, finds points of connection. These relationships help to inform her worldview, and allow her to make informed decisions based on newfound love and compassion.

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