In the second part of the Apu trilogy, we find Harihar, his wife, Sarbojaya, and their son, Apu, in the holy city of Benares. Here, the father ekes out a living by reading the scriptures; when he dies, Sarbojaya first finds work with a rich landlord, but distressed by the menial position to which this reduces Apu, agrees to go and keep house for an old uncle, a priest, who begins training the child for the priesthood.
Apu, however, persuades his mother to send him to school. Advancing into adolescence he overcomes his mother's reluctance to send him to the university in Calcutta, where he works in the evening to support himself.New interests and the excitement of city life draw him away from the village and from his mother, with whom he finds little in common when he comes home for holidays. After he returns to Calcutta, her health begins to fail, and although she knows she is dying, she refuses to send for him as he is preparing for his examinations. When he eventually reaches home, she is dead. Rejecting his uncle's attempts to persuade him to stay in the village, he returns to Calcutta.