Dr. Rashi Sinha
(Today we present Dr. Rashi Sinha’s thought provoking article “Feminism and Voice of Feminist Writers in Indian English Literature; An Analysis”.)
Feminism is not a term but a belief that women are strongest creation, and again this is a movement to change the way the world perceives that strength. A movement, against this patriarchal society which talks about inequality between man and woman. In fact, this is an advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of equality and gender both in family as well as in society. However, with development of time, Feminism in India has been established through Indian English literature, though it travelled in three phases (mid 19th, 2nd phase from 1915 to Indian Independence and the 3rd is from post Independence to the running era). The women in India, who were thirsty to break all the barriers to give a full shape to their womanhood, came with their full literary contribution. Today, in Indian English Literature, these feminists writers are successfully projecting the existing social inequality with their different techniques, styles, and trends in their Novels, short stories etc. This paper is well focused on how in Indian English Literature, these feminist writers have dealt with feminism and other gender issues to support the feminist goals of establishing and defending their equal rights in every nook and corner of the society and families too.
Keywords: Feminism, womanhood, feminist movement, social inequality
The term Feminism, has a wide philosophical theory. Hence, it is difficult to identify in a single sentence. In fact, feminism defines how women are accepted as equal in all respect to men in sharing, defines how women are accepted as equal in all respect to men in sharing equality in every rights, opportunities and responsibilities. So, in literary terms, feminism is identified as the liberation of woman from the social taboos and the dominance of male.
Feminism is nothing but a concept of Womanhood which talks how in this patriarchal society, women are forced to, behave traditionally in a subdued manner. In its history, this womanhood has travelled in three phases of classifications, from the awareness of women’s rights to the protest for this and then in the final phase, to get individual identity; thus, going revolutionary against the established patriarchal society.
Those who fought for these rights vociferously, were called the feminists. These feminists gave rise to feminist writers in Indian English literature. With the advent of these feminist writers like Anita Desai, Kamala Markanday, Kamala Das, Nayantara Sahgal, Jhabwala, Rama Mehta, Gita Mukherjee, Jhumpa Lahiri and Shashi Deshpande, including male feminist writers like R. K. Narayana, Khushwant Singh and Amitabh Ghosh etc. these writers have played a vital role in voicing the feminism. They deliberately chose the theme of women sufferings and brilliantly highlighted it through the agony of their female protagonists.
The feminist movement produced feminist fictions, feminist nonfictions and feminist ‘s poetry which created new interests in women’s writing. It also prompted a general revaluation of women’s historical and academic contribution in response to the belief the women’s lives. But their effort, though worthy of congratulations, has been under presented as are their scholarly interests”.1
The voices of feminism with reference to the work of the feminist Indian English Writers:
Nayantara Sahgal often writes on issue of feminism. In her every piece of writing, she sees women as a victim of this traditional and conventional Indian society, where women are engaged in searching their individual identity. As a writer with feminine concern, Miss Sahgal often describes the sufferings of women caused by man woman relationship in the traditional society of India. “As a writer with feminist concerns, Nayantara Sahgal is a progeny of the tradition where in power itself is defined as Goddess ‘Shanti, a female symbol. Her theme is often combined to the theme of man woman relationship, their marital problems, their temperament, incompatibility,
the problem arising out of their submissiveness and finally the place women in society.
As a feminist , she has voiced the women inner and outer sufferings by classifying them into two groups; the one who faces problems in seeking happiness and acceptance in an Orthodox Hindu family and the women belong to the second group suffers lot to adjust in male dominance. In “The Day of Shadow”, she gives a sensitive account of the sufferings of middle aged divorced woman Simrit. By defending the attitude of Som, as a husband. ‘Be tough, Be Winner’s, Sahgal shows how patriarchal attitude is smashing the woman inside and giving a way to missing link of married life.2
To show women’s inalienable right of freedom, she has not only portrayed many of the characters only but has also used language as a tool of define this. Her, characters such as Simrit, in Shadow, Sarij, Storm in Chandigarh, Rashmi, In the Times Morning and Maya in A Time to Be Happy Sahgal seen deeply concerned with the need of women freedom.
The writers of many novels, short stories, and children book as a keen observer, miss Desai has explored the problems and chief cause behind the estrangement of the women and their families. In her first novel, Cry, the Peacock, she has very well explained how Maya, the main protagonist felt ignored and oppressed in her family by her practical husband Gautama. In, Voices of the city, Monisha loneliness and sterility stress of living in a joint family, facing too much traditionalism makes her alienated and aloof in family. In her, next novel Fire on the mountain, she has tried to explain how a woman is treated as a useful object only. This novel grapples with the theme of women sufferings due to lack of communication and lack of understanding. In this novel, she has well depicted how a woman even after being a center part of family, always engaged in raising the family and discharging the duties of mother, housewife and hostess, but no one cares for her. Even in her own home her entity is ignored. In every creation of her, Desai shows the women characters sufferings from inner psyche. Every characters of her, guided by fear, guilt, aggression, chasing for their individuality and existence in family. Even in many of her stories, a women is given primary importance and her relationship with man, in many cases the relationship with husband is most touched upon
Shashi Deshpande, Author of many novels, four volumes of short stories and number of children books has very subtly voiced the frustrations of women, generated by the process of oppression and gender discrimination. In family and male centered society. In her novels like The Dark Holds No Terrors, Roots and the Shadows, That Long Silence, The Binding Vine, A Matter of Time, and Come Up and Be Dead etc. She has explained how women of the age of 70s to till this age are forced to suffer this social taboos, old beliefs and superstitions of the society. By portraying, modern educated and career oriented middle class women she shows the identity denial of women in the traditional, male centered joint families and society. In the plot of her novels, we see a change corresponding to the change in contemporary society. In describing the plight of women she has told us the height of disaster where in joint family the freedom of woman was confined to a wall by the woman of traditional n conventional temperament. The women consciousness of Deshpande has not come by reading but from their Self-experience, once to consider herself feminist she admits:
“I know I have no doubt at all in saying that I am a feminist. In my life mean but not consciously as a novelist. I must also say that my feminism has come to me very slowly, very gradually and mainly out of my own thinking and experiences and feelings. I started writing first and only then discovered my feminism”.3
This brilliant, post-independent, feminist writer has given a bold attempt in giving voice to the disappointment and sufferings of women, “Kamala Markanday represents the beginning of early feminist aspirations in Indian English Writing. The Primary enquiries of modern feminism try to describe the strength of other sex. The feminists describe woman as a one half of the sky. This ideology is revolving because it is against status quo”.4 In revealing the early roots of the secondary status of the women of the country, she portrayed the protagonist like Rukmani Mira, Premala, Nalini, Lalitha and Sarojini etc. In searching the self assertion and self-affirmation, her heroine of these novels; like, Some Inner Fury, Possession, A Silence of Desire, A Handful of Rice, Two Virgins and Nectar in a Sieve, travel a lot from self -denial to self-assertion.
These feminists of India have raised their voices to show the sufferings of women at this male centered society. These feminists have shown how the traditional roles of ‘women in society’s and ‘women in family’ bring frustrations in their lives. By explaining the helplessness of inner psyche of the protagonists, these writers say, how the situation of a woman is set on a paradox, because at the one hand, a woman is at the peak of the success, climbing the ladder of it, but on the other hand at home she is mutely tolerating denial and rejections. The feminists have justified their role in both ways, as they have chosen the theme of feminists and as a technique handled this very beautifully too. They have fully justified to unmask the, instances of social exploration, revolt and violence of any age of the women in society which left incredible imprint on the readers like us.
- /ab Bain Virginia; Clements Patricia Grunfy :Isobel(1990) The Feminist Companion to Literature in English Women Writers from the Middle Ages to the Present. New Haven: Yale University press pp. Vii ISBN78 0-300-04854-4.
- Asnani Shyam M. Portrayal of Man-Woman Relationship in the Novels of Nayantara Sahgal. Kakatiya Journal of English Studies 3-1(1978) ;151-160-priat
- Sue Dickman, “In Conversation: Sue Dickman With Indian Woman Writers”; The Book Review, Vo 19,No.4April (1995), p. 32
- “New Light on Women in English, Vol iv, p. 8
© Dr. Rashi Sinha
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