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Personal details:
Born Leong Siew Yue, Kuala
Lumpur, 17th December 1940.
Married Dermot Killingley 1963
First visited Britain and the Republic
of Ireland for six months in 1965;
lived in Britain since 1968.
Died Newcastle upon Tyne, 8th
June, 2004.
Education
St Mary’s School, Kuala Lumpur
1947-1957 Victoria Institution, Kuala
Lumpur 1957-59.
University of Malaya 1960-66.
School of Oriental and African
Studies, University of London 1968-
70.
Languages
Bilingual in English and Cantonese, fluent in French and Mandarin, able to read
Old English, Middle English and Latin,some German, Sanskrit and Hindi.
Degrees
BA (Hons) in English (Upper Second),
University of Malaya, 1963.
MA (Linguistics), University of Malaya, 1966.
PhD (Linguistics), University of London, 1972.
Performing Arts
Royal Academy of Dancing Certificate in Ballet in Education, Grade V Honours,
1957.
Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music Pianoforte Grade 3 (Merit), 1991
Flute Grade 8 (Merit), 1992.
Teaching:
• 1961-7: Taught English language, literature, phonetics, and linguistics at
various schools in Selangor, Malaysia and at the University of Malaya.
• 1970-2: Tutorial Assistant in Linguistics and Phonetics, School of
English, University of Newcastle.
• 1972-80: Lecturer in English (Senior lecturer 1979), St. Mary's College of
Education, Newcastle.
• 1987-8: Tutor in Community Interpreting and Bilingual Skills, College of
Arts and Technology (now Newcastle College).
• 1988-2002: Tutor in courses on linguistics, language and the community
in the Centre for Continuing Education (now Lifelong Learning),
University of Newcastle. This included course in Chinese Language and
Culture, 1994-2002.
• 2002-2004: Tutor in Chinese Language and Culture, Workers’ Educational
Association.
Voluntary work
Interpreting in Cantonese and English at
various times in Newcastle and
Northumberland.
1991-7: Editor of monthly British Linguistic
Newsletter and ex-officio Committee
Member of the Linguistics Association of
Great Britain.
Publishing
1981: Founded Grevatt & Grevatt, non-
commercial publishers.
• An Indian girl, Sivasothie was going to
be engaged & married to a young man,
Thiruchelvam who was chosen by the
family.
• Thiruchelvam was a doctor.
• Sivasothie’s parents were preparing
dowry, a sum of twenty thousand
dollars to the bridegroom’s family.
• They even had a gold necklace as a
personal present to their daughter
when she was going to be wedded.
Plot summary
• Problem arose when Sivathosie’s
father, Mr. Ramachandran told his
wife that they cannot afford to give
the dowry and the necklace.
• This is because the wife’s piece of
land was disvalued to be sold & it
was the only way to pay the
dowry.
• Mr. Ramachandran called the
future son-in-law to come to their
house.
• Mr. Ramachandran told
Thiruchelvam the truth about the
dowry matters.
• Knowing this, Thiruchelvam
rejected the marriage because
the bride’s family could not afford
to give the dowry as promised.
• Sivasothie felt sad & hurt for she
had to forget the marriage & after
all, she began to like
Thiruchelvam.
CULTURAL
SOCIALGENDER
Dowry
• In India, dowry or dahej is the payment in
cash or/and kind by the bride’s family.
• Originated in upper caste families as
wedding gift.
• To help with marriage expenses and a form
of insurance in case her in-laws mistreated
her.
• Although dowry is legally prohibited in 1961, it
continually to be highly institutionalized.
• The groom usually demands a large sum of
money, farm, animals etc.
• Eg: In the story, Thiruchelvam’s family
demanded twenty thousand dollars as the dowry
from the bride’s family.
–E1: “Twenty thousand dollars is not to be scoffed at
– that’s more than I can say what Thangathurai gave
his daughter when our son married her..” pg 31.
• However, they could not afford to pay the dowry and
the necklace for they had only a piece of disvalued
land which cost them less than the amount they
wanted it to be sold.
– E1: “Come now, wife!..Don’t you remember? We have only
one piece of land left from your dowry – we sold the other
two for our third and fourth sons’ weddings.”pg 32.
– “About the land, I’m afraid it is impossible to sell it at a
quarter of its former price. You see, water has been
seeping out from some well for about ten years and so the
land is now too marshy for house-holding.” pg 32.
Arranged Marriage
• Indian generations are traditionally
engaged in an arranged marriage by
their elders.
• Marriage is not only necessity for girl but
a religious sacrament as well, since it
was believed that a female virgin could
never attain spiritual enlightenment in
this world.
• As we read through the story, the daughter is going to
be engaged to a doctor.
– E: “Sivasothie, you are a very lucky girl. You’ll have a doctor
for your husband – and Mrs Muthu will have a fit from envy.”
pg 33.
• However, due to the incapability of the bride’s family to
fulfill the dowry as promised, the wedding had be
called-off.
– E: “Thiruchelvam, having less faith in Mrs Ramachandran’s
father, believed the news about the disvalued land…Mr
Ramachandran had to let his wife and daughter know about
the changed situation.”
• Though it is not stated directly in the
short story that the marriage is
arranged, logically we know the
bridegroom and the bride seem to just
meet and barely know each other.
• In addition, if the marriage is based on
love, the man would defend the
marriage instead of rejecting it because
of the dowry.
SOCIAL
Social Class
Comparison between the Groom’s and the Bride’s Social Class
Thiruchelvam (The Groom) Sivasothie (The Bride)
Well educated (example) Unstated education
Stable income Unknown income source
Doctor Jobless
Upper class family Middle class family
GENDER:
FEMINISM
Patriarchal Power
• Man is on top of the family pyramid
• In Indian beliefs, a marriage is arranged by the
father and if he died his role will be taken by a
girl’s brothers instead of the mother.
• In general, man insists that a women’s place is
only at home and she is satisfied by serving her
family and fulfilling the needs of her household
members.
• The short story itself contains a lot of
examples on man’s power ruling over
women’s.
• It is the women who are responsible for the
household and take as an example, in this
story, Mrs Ramachandran has worked hard
for the festive and preparation for the
engagement.
–E: “Mrs Ramachandran flew here and there, as
fast as her 160 pounds would allow her, and
helped with her commanding suggestions.”
• It is very important for the women to obey
the men in Indian’s tradition.
• Mrs Ramachandran has been mentioned to
be a respectful and obedient wife.
–E: “She went out dutifully, for she managed
her husband well – obeying him in the little
things with such readiness that he thought
himself as lord of everything as well.
• Even if it is not her willingness to call-off
the wedding, she still respects her
husband, Mr Ramachandran’s decision.
–E: “Well,’ commented Mrs Ramachandran
stoically, ‘there’s more than one doctor in
our community, and it’s up to you,
Ramachandran, to do your duty as a
father.”

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A Question of Dowries by Siew Yue Killingly

  • 1.
  • 2. Personal details: Born Leong Siew Yue, Kuala Lumpur, 17th December 1940. Married Dermot Killingley 1963 First visited Britain and the Republic of Ireland for six months in 1965; lived in Britain since 1968. Died Newcastle upon Tyne, 8th June, 2004.
  • 3. Education St Mary’s School, Kuala Lumpur 1947-1957 Victoria Institution, Kuala Lumpur 1957-59. University of Malaya 1960-66. School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London 1968- 70.
  • 4. Languages Bilingual in English and Cantonese, fluent in French and Mandarin, able to read Old English, Middle English and Latin,some German, Sanskrit and Hindi. Degrees BA (Hons) in English (Upper Second), University of Malaya, 1963. MA (Linguistics), University of Malaya, 1966. PhD (Linguistics), University of London, 1972. Performing Arts Royal Academy of Dancing Certificate in Ballet in Education, Grade V Honours, 1957. Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music Pianoforte Grade 3 (Merit), 1991 Flute Grade 8 (Merit), 1992.
  • 5. Teaching: • 1961-7: Taught English language, literature, phonetics, and linguistics at various schools in Selangor, Malaysia and at the University of Malaya. • 1970-2: Tutorial Assistant in Linguistics and Phonetics, School of English, University of Newcastle. • 1972-80: Lecturer in English (Senior lecturer 1979), St. Mary's College of Education, Newcastle. • 1987-8: Tutor in Community Interpreting and Bilingual Skills, College of Arts and Technology (now Newcastle College). • 1988-2002: Tutor in courses on linguistics, language and the community in the Centre for Continuing Education (now Lifelong Learning), University of Newcastle. This included course in Chinese Language and Culture, 1994-2002. • 2002-2004: Tutor in Chinese Language and Culture, Workers’ Educational Association.
  • 6. Voluntary work Interpreting in Cantonese and English at various times in Newcastle and Northumberland. 1991-7: Editor of monthly British Linguistic Newsletter and ex-officio Committee Member of the Linguistics Association of Great Britain. Publishing 1981: Founded Grevatt & Grevatt, non- commercial publishers.
  • 7.
  • 8. • An Indian girl, Sivasothie was going to be engaged & married to a young man, Thiruchelvam who was chosen by the family. • Thiruchelvam was a doctor. • Sivasothie’s parents were preparing dowry, a sum of twenty thousand dollars to the bridegroom’s family. • They even had a gold necklace as a personal present to their daughter when she was going to be wedded. Plot summary
  • 9. • Problem arose when Sivathosie’s father, Mr. Ramachandran told his wife that they cannot afford to give the dowry and the necklace. • This is because the wife’s piece of land was disvalued to be sold & it was the only way to pay the dowry. • Mr. Ramachandran called the future son-in-law to come to their house.
  • 10. • Mr. Ramachandran told Thiruchelvam the truth about the dowry matters. • Knowing this, Thiruchelvam rejected the marriage because the bride’s family could not afford to give the dowry as promised. • Sivasothie felt sad & hurt for she had to forget the marriage & after all, she began to like Thiruchelvam.
  • 12.
  • 13. Dowry • In India, dowry or dahej is the payment in cash or/and kind by the bride’s family. • Originated in upper caste families as wedding gift. • To help with marriage expenses and a form of insurance in case her in-laws mistreated her.
  • 14. • Although dowry is legally prohibited in 1961, it continually to be highly institutionalized. • The groom usually demands a large sum of money, farm, animals etc. • Eg: In the story, Thiruchelvam’s family demanded twenty thousand dollars as the dowry from the bride’s family. –E1: “Twenty thousand dollars is not to be scoffed at – that’s more than I can say what Thangathurai gave his daughter when our son married her..” pg 31.
  • 15. • However, they could not afford to pay the dowry and the necklace for they had only a piece of disvalued land which cost them less than the amount they wanted it to be sold. – E1: “Come now, wife!..Don’t you remember? We have only one piece of land left from your dowry – we sold the other two for our third and fourth sons’ weddings.”pg 32. – “About the land, I’m afraid it is impossible to sell it at a quarter of its former price. You see, water has been seeping out from some well for about ten years and so the land is now too marshy for house-holding.” pg 32.
  • 16. Arranged Marriage • Indian generations are traditionally engaged in an arranged marriage by their elders. • Marriage is not only necessity for girl but a religious sacrament as well, since it was believed that a female virgin could never attain spiritual enlightenment in this world.
  • 17. • As we read through the story, the daughter is going to be engaged to a doctor. – E: “Sivasothie, you are a very lucky girl. You’ll have a doctor for your husband – and Mrs Muthu will have a fit from envy.” pg 33. • However, due to the incapability of the bride’s family to fulfill the dowry as promised, the wedding had be called-off. – E: “Thiruchelvam, having less faith in Mrs Ramachandran’s father, believed the news about the disvalued land…Mr Ramachandran had to let his wife and daughter know about the changed situation.”
  • 18. • Though it is not stated directly in the short story that the marriage is arranged, logically we know the bridegroom and the bride seem to just meet and barely know each other. • In addition, if the marriage is based on love, the man would defend the marriage instead of rejecting it because of the dowry.
  • 20. Social Class Comparison between the Groom’s and the Bride’s Social Class Thiruchelvam (The Groom) Sivasothie (The Bride) Well educated (example) Unstated education Stable income Unknown income source Doctor Jobless Upper class family Middle class family
  • 22. Patriarchal Power • Man is on top of the family pyramid • In Indian beliefs, a marriage is arranged by the father and if he died his role will be taken by a girl’s brothers instead of the mother. • In general, man insists that a women’s place is only at home and she is satisfied by serving her family and fulfilling the needs of her household members.
  • 23. • The short story itself contains a lot of examples on man’s power ruling over women’s. • It is the women who are responsible for the household and take as an example, in this story, Mrs Ramachandran has worked hard for the festive and preparation for the engagement. –E: “Mrs Ramachandran flew here and there, as fast as her 160 pounds would allow her, and helped with her commanding suggestions.”
  • 24. • It is very important for the women to obey the men in Indian’s tradition. • Mrs Ramachandran has been mentioned to be a respectful and obedient wife. –E: “She went out dutifully, for she managed her husband well – obeying him in the little things with such readiness that he thought himself as lord of everything as well.
  • 25. • Even if it is not her willingness to call-off the wedding, she still respects her husband, Mr Ramachandran’s decision. –E: “Well,’ commented Mrs Ramachandran stoically, ‘there’s more than one doctor in our community, and it’s up to you, Ramachandran, to do your duty as a father.”

Editor's Notes

  1. Hamirah