The Legend of Ponnivala contains many interesting scenes that are essentially about family bonds and family disputes. The story’s fulcrum rests on the brother-sister relationship. This is true both in the second generation, where the “mother” of the heroes (Tamarai) has a bitter dispute with her own birth-brothers, and also in the next generation where the younger heroine (Tangal) has a similarly ambivalent relationship with her own twin siblings. The story Is also deeply concerned with dilemmas surrounding generational succession. In every generation the heroes and heroines worry about who will rule after they depart and whether or not the family’s high standard of living and preeminent social position will persist through the passing generations. We see parents struggle with how to “control” succession by controlling who their children marry. We see sons and daughters rebel and want to strike out into the world without restrictions. These topics are “as old as the hills” and can make for a very lively debate over who is right.
There are many ways in which this story illustrates the importance of independent thinking and of self-determination more generally. A wide variety of episodes can be used to discuss this “independence” theme with students. Many of the situations faced by various characters compare easily with the challenges posed by the desire for independence in modern life. It is an issue that people of all ages and both genders must cope with.