A Fine Balance
Goodreads ratings
4.35 / 5

"A Fine Balance" Characters Analysis

By Rohinton Mistry

fiction | 624 pages | Published in 2010

With a compassionate realism and narrative sweep that recall the work of Charles Dickens, this magnificent novel captures all the cruelty and corruption, dignity and heroism, of India. The time is 1975. The place is an unnamed city by the sea. The government has just declared a State of Emergency, in whose upheavals four strangers--a spirited widow, a young student uprooted from his idyllic hill station, and two tailors who have fled the caste violence of their native village--will be thrust together, forced to share one cramped apartment and an uncertain future. As the characters move from distrust to friendship and from friendship to love, A Fine Balance creates an enduring panorama of the human spirit in an inhuman state.


Estimated read time: 6 min read

In Rohinton Mistry's critically acclaimed novel, "A Fine Balance," the author masterfully weaves together the lives of several characters against the backdrop of India's turbulent political and social landscape in the 1970s. This character analysis delves into the intricate lives of key characters, showcasing their roles, backgrounds, traits, arcs, and relationships.

List of Characters

Dina DalalProtagonist
Maneck KohlahProtagonist
Ishvar DarjiSupporting
Omprakash DarjiSupporting

Role Identification

Dina Dalal - Protagonist

Dina Dalal, a strong-willed woman in her forties, assumes the role of the protagonist in "A Fine Balance." As a widow, Dina faces numerous hardships and financial struggles. She represents the determined individuals who navigate life's challenges with resilience and grace.

Maneck Kohlah - Protagonist

Maneck Kohlah is a young student who moves from a small town to Mumbai to pursue higher education. He represents the hopes and dreams of the younger generation, seeking a better future in a rapidly changing society.

Ishvar Darji - Supporting Character

Ishvar Darji, a skilled tailor, is introduced as a Hindu untouchable. He comes from a long line of manual scavengers, facing discrimination and marginalization. Ishvar's character sheds light on the plight of lower castes in Indian society, striving to break free from the chains of generational oppression.

Omprakash Darji - Supporting Character

Omprakash Darji, Ishvar's nephew, also belongs to the lower caste. He is drawn to the city in search of a better life. Omprakash highlights the struggles faced by young individuals from marginalized communities as they battle poverty, inequality, and limited opportunities.

Character Descriptions

Dina Dalal

Dina Dalal is an independent and determined woman. Despite facing economic hardships, she maintains her pride and dignity. Dina is described as having a tall stature and strong features. Her internal strength is reflected in her unwavering determination to survive and protect those she cares about.

Maneck Kohlah

Maneck Kohlah is a thoughtful and introverted young man. With a lean frame and spectacles perched on his nose, he possesses a quiet demeanor. Maneck's appearance reflects his upbringing and education, which differentiate him from the other characters. His reserved nature hides a deep understanding of the world around him.

Ishvar Darji

Ishvar Darji possesses a wiry build, reflective of his manual labor and tough upbringing. He bears the scars of discrimination on his body and the weight of his family's history on his shoulders. Despite his difficult circumstances, Ishvar remains kind-hearted and hopeful, offering support to others even in the face of adversity.

Omprakash Darji

Omprakash Darji is a young, wiry individual who embodies the vigor and resilience of youth. His sharp features reflect his determination to improve his circumstances and challenge the societal constraints placed upon him. Omprakash's appearance serves as a reminder of the struggles faced by lower-caste individuals seeking a better life.

Character Traits

Dina Dalal

  • Independent
  • Strong-willed
  • Proud
  • Resilient
  • Caring

Maneck Kohlah

  • Thoughtful
  • Introverted
  • Observant
  • Intelligent
  • Conscientious

Ishvar Darji

  • Kind-hearted
  • Resilient
  • Tenacious
  • Compassionate
  • Hardworking

Omprakash Darji

  • Ambitious
  • Determined
  • Energetic
  • Adventurous
  • Resilient

Character Background

Dina Dalal

Dina Dalal hails from a middle-class Parsi family. After her husband's untimely death, she faces financial difficulties and struggles to maintain her independence. Despite her setbacks, Dina takes up tailoring to support herself, showcasing her resourcefulness and determination to rise above her circumstances.

Maneck Kohlah

Maneck comes from a small town in the mountains. His family runs a general store, providing him with a comfortable life. However, due to the changing economic landscape, Maneck's family business suffers, leading him to seek education and a better future in the city.

Ishvar Darji

Ishvar Darji comes from a long line of manual scavengers, subjected to the lowest rung of the caste hierarchy. He joins his nephew, Omprakash, in the city to escape the oppressive cycle of his family's profession. Ishvar's journey reflects the struggle for dignity and freedom from caste-based discrimination.

Omprakash Darji

Omprakash's upbringing in a lower-caste family exposes him to poverty and the harsh realities of life. Seeking to escape his predetermined fate, he travels to the city, hoping to find better opportunities for education and employment. Omprakash's background highlights the systemic challenges faced by the marginalized in society.

Character Arcs

Dina Dalal

Dina's character arc involves her transformation from an independent, self-sufficient woman to one emotionally invested in the lives of others. As she forms bonds with Maneck and the two tailors, her perspective expands, and she learns the value of empathy and compassion. This arc signifies her growth from self-preservation to communal support.

Maneck Kohlah

Maneck's character arc revolves around the loss of his innocence as he confronts the harsh realities of life in the city. Initially hopeful and optimistic, Maneck's experiences expose him to the dark underbelly of society. His arc highlights the loss of innocence and the struggle to find meaning in a challenging world.

Ishvar Darji

Ishvar's character arc centers on his journey from facing abject discrimination and despair to finding hope and purpose. Despite the oppressive system dictating his existence, Ishvar's resilience and compassion allow him to transcend his circumstances. His arc showcases the potential for personal growth and transformation even in the face of immense adversity.

Omprakash Darji

Omprakash's character arc portrays his growth from a naive and adventurous youth to a more pragmatic and resilient individual. The city exposes him to the harsh realities of life, challenging his idealized notions. Omprakash's arc demonstrates the maturation and adaptation required to survive in an unforgiving society.


Dina Dalal and Maneck Kohlah

Dina and Maneck form a close bond throughout the story. Their relationship evolves from one characterized by caution and distance to a genuine connection based on mutual support and understanding. Dina's maternal instincts and Maneck's need for guidance create a deep emotional bond between the two characters.

Ishvar Darji and Omprakash Darji

Ishvar and Omprakash share a complex uncle-nephew relationship. Ishvar's guidance and unwavering support become crucial for Omprakash's survival and growth. Despite the challenges they face, their bond strengthens, showcasing the power of familial love and resilience.

In conclusion, "A Fine Balance" presents a rich tapestry of characters whose lives intersect in a challenging and transforming society. Through their diverse backgrounds, traits, arcs, and relationships, Rohinton Mistry delves deep into the human experience, offering readers a profound and thought-provoking exploration of resilience, compassion, and the pursuit of a fine balance.