Novel Sing To The Dawn: Synopsis,Setting, Characters, Themes, Moral Values, Point of View, Tone and Mood, Language and Style, Literary Device
The story is about a village girl’s dream to further her studies in the city. Dawan’s life is not easy as she faces many challenges. Dawan’s wildest dream comes true when she is placed first in the scholarship winners’ list. But ironically she has to compete against her own brother who is equally interested in studying in the city. If she rejects the scholarship, her brother has a chance to go to the city. Dawan comes to know that her brother Kwai is placed second in the scholarship list. Kwai is resentful that his sister can go to the city while he may have to study in the village school. There is hostility and their normally-loving sibling relationship takes the brunt of it with the scholarship announcement.
Then there is her father who thinks that a girl does not need to study further. After all girls marry and bear children. Her place is in the kitchen finally. Of what good is an education? In addition, there are other people who warn her that there are many dangers and evils in the city. The city is no place for a girl.
Many obstacles torment Dawan who is torn with doubts. After much persuasion, Dawan’s father agrees to let Dawan go to the city for her education. It is interesting to note that Dawan’s grandmother is more forward-thinking and wishes Dawan to continue her studies in the city. Kwai comes around to the idea that his sister should accept the offer and continue her studies. He is also a little sad that he and Dawan will not get a chance to see the sunrise together as they usually do. Dawan considers everything and feels that she is capable of taking up the scholarship and the responsibility it entails. Perhaps she can prove something by taking the villagers out of the mental rut they are in. Girls too should further their education and improve their lot. She hopes that she will be the change that the family and her village need.
Girls are not given equal opportunity to study and further their ambitions. They must stay at home and raise their families. Tertiary education is wasted on them as they get married and look after their husbands and children finally. Noi stays at home to be with her family. To break that mindset is not easy as men like Dawan’s father wish to maintain that status quo. Dawan thinks she will bring about that change but it will be a tough journey. Not to give women the right to education and to deprive them of the opportunity to advance and explore their abilities and their talents is a social injustice. It must be corrected everywhere.
The importance of education
In this rural setting education cannot be taken for granted. Winning a scholarship is just about the only way to break the vicious cycle of poverty. Both siblings want that scholarship and it is very awkward that Dawan the girl gets the first place while her brother is placed second. Dawan has to convince just about everyone that she deserves to go to the city school. Her grandmother sees the importance of education and is willing to get help for her sake. Strangely it is Bao who is Dawan’s strong supporting force because she makes Kwai think and act rationally. Education will bring change to Dawan and to the family and, through her, the village.
The family unit is a stable force
– The children respect their elders and obey them generally. Dawan wants her father to give permission for her to accept the scholarship. She is hardly rebellious. She also wants her brother to be happy for her and that he is not hurts her greatly. – There is much gentleness in the relationship the siblings share. Dawan leaves the umbrella for him as she does not want him to get wet and sick. When they share the umbrella home, it is a special moment of reconciliation and renewal of their affection. They watch the sunrise together while Dawan sings to the dawn. It is very touching to know that Kwai feels that he will miss watching the sunrise with his sister.
– Her parents want the children to do well but the mother is afraid that Dawan will be disappointed if she can’t go to the city.
– The grandmother is still a force to be reckoned with as she takes the step to take Dawan to meet Noi. And in the end she is the one who convinces Dawan to accept the scholarship. When her father gives permission, it gives Dawan that thrust that she needs to go to the city. The family acts as a support for everyone is times of trouble. People survive their problems better when there is a strong family foundation behind them.
Victimization/Abuse of power
– In the village, the poor people who work hard on their farms are victimized by the landowners who take the sacks of rice as their tax. There is very little chance of escape from this feudalistic system.
– Even the army officer takes money from Ghan so that he will not have to be enlisted in the army.
– It is the same in the city where the bosses take the hard-earned money of the workers.
– The grip of the big, powerful man on the poor worker is harsh and vicious.
– Vichai hits his sister when he finds that she has not taken money for freeing the birds. That is abuse at the family level. Victimization goes on at many different levels and only education or strong governmental action can break this evil cycle.
1. Enthusiastic and vibrant, she is full of teenage energy in wanting to grasp at life.
2. She shares a special relationship with her brother and both are keen to further their studies. But as a girl, she knows that her opportunities are less and accepts that too.
3. Sees social injustice and is angry that the landlord gets to collect the rice as a tax when the poor villagers had worked hard to cultivate it. She wishes to correct the system.
4. Wins the scholarship but is in a fix as her brother is keen to study too.
5. Very proactive and persistent, she seeks support from many people to convince her father to let her go.
6. She is very brave, stands up for Bao when Vicha hits her.
7. Courageous enough to speak up to her own brother to make him realise about her dreams and win his support.
8. She is happy when her father allows her to go and her brother says he won’t stand in her way – and is happy to see her brother waving to her when she leaves.
9. Caring and knows that she will miss her family and the village when she leaves.
10. Loves her family and wants their support and cooperation.
1. Kwai is the younger brother of Dawan and he wins the second place in the scholarship list.
2. He has a good relationship with his sister and enjoys watching the sunrise with her.
3. Dawan was given a chance to study because he spoke to his father into letting her go to school. He is farsighted.
4. He has some ideas about what he will do to improve life in the village.
5. He is tough and can be aggressive. He is very disappointed that he didn’t get the scholarship and is unable to be happy for his sister at first.
6. He acts selfishly and turns away from her.
7. He goes to defend Bao when Vichai hits her.
8. He is brave but he gets an earful from Bao for being selfish and not letting Dawan accept the scholarship.
9. He pushes Dawan in the scuffle with Bao and she hurts her ankle and bleeds. He tries to help her too when he sees her in pain. He cares for his sister and his family.
10. He is willing to change as he allows his sister to pursue her studies. Sits on the same old bridge and watches her leave.
1. He is a good teacher who stimulates his class with discussions of relevant topics. He provokes thought and encourages students to give their opinions. He wants them to help the community and gets their views on what is harmful and how changes will help.
2. He pretends to teach from the book when the headmaster comes by but what he discussed with the students earlier is also important and he shouldn’t worry that it is not from his text.
3. He cares about his students.
1. She is very supportive of Dawan and is the only person to express her pride in what her grandchild has achieved.
2. She strongly believes in what she does and decides to take Dawan to meet Noi, the cousin. The three kilometer walk is no problem for her.
3. But she is happy when her daughter decides to take Dawan and she can stay back to look after the grandson at home. After all that is the role of the mother.
1. He is fixed in his views – follows the old mindset in thinking that girls need not be educated.
2. He is very angry and disappointed that Kwai did not win the scholarship and scolds Dawan for taking his chance away.
3. Unwilling to discuss issues, expects children to obey without questions.
4. Changes at the end and permits Dawan to pursue her studies – a big change in him.
1. She takes a lesser role as she is more subservient to her husband.
2. She does not want her daughter to be disappointed so she does not encourage her.
3. But she takes her to meet Noi and her husband with the hope that they will help Dawan by talking to her father.
4. She walks three kilometers to go to Noi’s house. She too wants the best for her children.
1. A few years older than Dawan, married to Ghan and has a baby.
2. Burdened with financial problems, she is stressed out with work,
3. She talks negatively of the city and says that it is ugly and cruel. Businessmen profit from the labour of the workers and life is very tough. She says rural life is more healthy and peaceful.
4. Her husband supports her views too.
5. She helps Dawan when she gets hurt in the encounter with Bao. She is kind-hearted but has become hardened by her own problems.
1. A girl selling flowers in the market, she is friendly and very generous.
2. Willing to give her flowers to Dawan free. She has never been to school and is awed by the fact that Dawan is smart and has done well.
3. She is very supportive and encourages Dawan to take up the challenge and go for her studies.
4. She lets a bird free to tell Dawan that she too should set herself free like the sparrow.
5. Her brother hits her for it and she scolds him and lets all the other birds free too.
6. She is heartbroken when one sparrow dies in the scuffle between her and her brother.
7. Very courageous; she scolds Kwai for being mean and unfair to Dawan.
8. It is because of her that Dawan speaks up for herself to Kwai.
9. Bao made Kwai think and he thus gives in. Only then does Dawan accept the scholarship.
1. Brother of Bao and classmate of Dawan. He is mean and aggressive.
2. Money matters a lot to him and therefore he is nasty to his sister for giving the birds for free.
3. He is also very abusive and bad-tempered as he hits Bao for being generous.
1. The head monk is old and should be wise but is very fixed in his views. He does not help Dawan and thinks that studying is not for girls. He lets her down badly. He is not willing to change with the times.
a) Dawan and Kwai sit on the old bridge above the river and watch the sunrise. There is an easy companionship between the two siblings.
b) Dawan asks Kwai what he would do if he won the scholarship. He mentions the things he would do, the changes he would bring to the village.
c) When Kwai suggests that Dawan might win the scholarship, she says that won’t happen. She is sure that she would not get the scholarship because she is a girl.
d) In class the teacher asks the students what they saw beneath their houses that morning. The students mention the sacks of rice that are stacked up beneath the house. They are for the tax collector but the students feel that the system is unfair. The poor villagers work but others benefit and rob them of their rights. The students discuss the need to change these bad and harmful systems that are entrenched in the villages.
e) A student spotted the headmaster heading to their class and the student shouted ‘he’s coming.’
f) The teacher and the students immediately pretend that they are having Geography lessons until the headmaster goes away
g) Then the teacher and students discuss what they should do if they won the scholarship.
h) The teacher asks Dawan what she would do to help the villagers.
i) She is surprised at the question but she refuses to answer it. Instead, she asks him who won the scholarship. He tells her that she did.
j) The classmates surround Dawan as soon as they hear that she has won the scholarship. They are pleased for her but Kwai is not among them.
k) Kwai is unhappy and sad that Dawan won the scholarship instead of him.
l) Dawan tellls her family that she has won the scholarship. Her father is displeased as he feels that Kwai should have won it. He is especially angry that she took her own brother’s chance away from him.
m) Dawan’s grandmother is supportive and says that she is proud of her. Her mother says that the grandmother should not encourage Dawan too much as her father will not allow her to go. That may lead to greater disappointment.
n) Dawan and her grandmother head to Cousin Noi’s house and but halfway, Dawan’s mother decides to go with Dawan instead of the grandmother.
o) Noi describes how difficult life in the city is. She advises Dawan not to go to the city.
p) In the meantime, an army officer comes to Noi’s house. Noi and her husband, Ghan, has made a deal with him so that he will allow Ghan not to join the army. For that they have to pay him a lot of money. It is another burden the family has to live with. q) Dawan and her mother find out that life in the city is difficult. Children work to be able to survive there. Older children hold all kinds of jobs just to manage their lives in the city.
r) Dawan says that she hopes to change things if she gets a chance.
s) But Noi tells her that the city will do more harm than good. Dawan realises that Noi and Ghan do not support her move to the city.
t) Kwai finds out from his teacher that he came in second in the examination. He now knows that if
2. Dawan does not go to the city, he can get to go. He believes that as a man he can do more for the people. Dawan is only a girl and will not be able to do the many things that he can do. She assures him that she can make this world a better place for the rest of the people.
a) Dawan’s father says that if Kwai had won the scholarship, he would have allowed him to go.
b) Dawan wants to fight for her right to study but realises that she needs more support. Thus she decides to talk to a monk to help her persuade her father to let her go to the city.
c) Dawan goes to the marketplace alone and meets a girl who is selling lotus buds and caged sparrows. Dawan realises that the girl, Bao, is the sister of her classmate, Vichai. They have an interesting conversation.
d) Dawan goes to see the old monk in the temple. He has already heard of her and her scholarship as he and Dawan’s teacher are good friends. However, he thinks that she need not go to the city school. He thinks that she should be satisfied with what she has and not crave for more. Dawan disagrees.
e) Dawan is hurt and she goes to the market place and sits there, tired and frustrated. She sees Bao again and she lends a sympathetic ear to Dawan. Bao tells her to ignore the monk and to think of what she can do next. She has rather progressive views and advises Dawan to free herself from the bonds at home and to achieve her dreams. She allows Dawan to free a bird for free.
f) Just then Vichai, her brother arrives, and is aggressive towards Bao. He notices that she has not collected money for the birds that have been freed and hits her. Dawan steps in to prevent further abuse. Kwai comes there and restrains Vichai. Bao thanks him and then scolds him for not being nice to his own sister. He is shocked at her reaction and in the scuffle that follows, pushes Dawan who gets a bad cut on her ankle. He tries to tend to her bleeding leg but Dawan scolds him for trying to take the scholarship from her.
g) Cousin Noi appears and helps Dawan with her wound.
h) Dawan goes to the riverside and finds Kwai there. He remembers vividly that she had called him a bully. They both talk and some of the tension between them eases. Kwai makes a decision and the two of them share an umbrella home.
i) Dawan’s father talks to Kwai and Dawan together and reluctantly allows Dawan to go to the city school.
j) Kwai knows that once Dawan goes to the city school, no one will be there to watch the sunrise with him.
k) Dawan too has some doubts. She knows that if she leaves, she will miss everything in her village. Her grandmother convinces her to go finally.
l) As she is boarding the bus to go to the city, Dawan looks everywhere for Kwai but he was nowhere to be seen. At last she sees him standing on the bridge and bidding her goodbye.
It is set in a village in Thailand. There is a river flowing through the village and it has a rickety old bridge. That is the favourite haunt of both Dawan and Kwai who sit there and watch the sunrise. Dawan comes from a poor family. The family has few luxuries.
– The family is a strong unit and there is love and a show of kindness among the members. The children respect the father and generally obey his wishes. It is essentially a male-dominated society as it is the right of boys to get an education. Girls appear to be thought of as inferior and not as equals to men.
– The people are trapped in a society where the landowners take all the earnings of the workers and leave them poor and miserable.
It is set in modern times but speaks of a village where the mindset goes back several decades. Women are not considered equal to men.
Compassion and kindness
– It is compassion that makes Dawan feel uncomfortable about accepting the scholarship as her brother is very keen to study too. If she were totally selfish, she would just accept it and go off. But she can’t. This is a brother she cares about. It is compassion that makes Dawan leave her umbrella for her brother when it rains. She worries for his wellbeing.
– Kwai too feels torn about blocking Dawan’s chance to improve herself. When Bao tells him off for being selfish, he realises his mistake and rectifies it. His better self takes over and he wants her to grab this chance she has.
– Bao is full of compassion and kindness. She tries to cheer Dawan by giving her the lotus bud and allowing her to free the bird. She takes a beating from Vichai for it. She also tells off Kwai so that he will allow Dawan to accept the scholarship. She has a natural sense of justice and fairness.
– With power and position comes responsibility. Dawan knows that she has to do a lot more for her family and society once she has finished her studies. Kwai too says he will improve the plight of the villagers when he can. They both see that there is much that needs to be done for their society and are willing to bring changes for the people. There is clarity of vision between them and that is commendable.
– The grandmother is a very responsible woman. She is quick to act and is willing to go the extra mile for her granddaughter. When she decides to take Dawan to meet Noi, the cousin, her daughter has no choice but to follow and take Dawan instead.
– The parents are responsible people, wanting the children to be educated. But according to the mindset of the people, the father thinks only males should be educated. But he too relents when he lets his daughter go off to the big city on her scholarship. It is the act of a responsible father.
– It takes courage to break out of an age-old custom and start anew. Dawan wants a chance to study in the city but the general custom is for girls to get married and stay at home, minding the children. She faces many obstacles and it is most frustrating for her when her father and brother stand in her way. She is brave and determined as she does her best to get support from others to make her way in the world. She is not afraid of Vichai and stands up for Bao in the marketplace. She also tells off her brother even though she is very close to him. Because of her persistence and strength she is able to get the chance to study in the city.
– Kwai is also courageous in his way. He is willing to fight Vichai when he hits Bao. He is also willing to accept the fact that he should not stand in Dawan’s way. That takes courage too – to accept the fact that he is wrong and should change his mind about her future.
Point of View
It is in the third person point of view, essentially that of Dawan, a young girl with big dreams. We see and understand her eagerness in wanting to further her studies and the pain of knowing that she may not get that chance.
Tone and Mood
The tone is gentle and thoughtful as Dawan cherishes her hope of winning the scholarship and leaving for the big city. She has no intention of hurting her brother and the conflict that arises causes her pain. There is a touch of anticipation and nostalgia as she looks forward to the changes that will surely come while she knows she will miss her village and its people.
Language and Style
The language has cameo descriptions of the village and the river which come alive as the story unfolds. The lotus plays a central symbolic role for it rises out of muddy water and blooms in all its glory. It is offered at the temples by devotees. The flower is like Dawan just waiting to grow and bloom.
The caged bird soars and flies to freedom. There is hope yet for Dawan to spread her wings and do her thousand things. Literary devices like similes and metaphors appear in many points of the story and create vivid word pictures.