1. What was Britain's relation to India at the time "Mussumat Kirpo's Doll" was published? What experiences may have prompted Steel to write this story?
  2. From whose vantage point is Kirpo's plight viewed, and what qualities does she bring to her observations? (empathy, detachment, some familiarity with Indian culture)
  3. Is the story's opening paragraphs, what do the descriptions tell the reader about British teachers in India, and about Indian parents and students? What problems of communication seem to intrude?
  4. Why do the British teachers consider it inappropriate to award a doll to Kirpo? Are their assumptions upheld by the story?
  5. How do we learn about Kirpo's life? What information is given about her situation? What is her relation to her mother-in-law? What does Julia Smith learn from visiting Kirpo's family?
  6. Why does Kirpo wish to return the doll? What is the narrator's reaction?
  7. What finally happens to Kirpo? How is she treated by her family?
  8. Why do you think that in the final scene in which Kirpo speaks, she is represented as using older speech formations such as "hath"? (attempt to represent native speech)
  9. What is Kirpo's final wish, and what emotions motivate this unusual choice? What is the significance of the fact that her modest desire isn't granted in time?
  10. What may have been the author's purpose in writing this story? Is its content or tone disturbing? Which aspects of Indian society and/or the British presence does the author critique?
  11. Many non-first world writers have claimed that outsiders should not attempt to criticize the social practices of another culture. Do you think this story merits such a critique? To what degree does Steel's tale support an imperialist viewpoint?