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Despande's Vision in Her Novels
Shashi Deshpande’s major
concern is to depict the anguish and conflict of the modern educated
Indian women caught between patriarchy and tradition on the one hand,
and self-expression, individuality and independence for the women on the
other. Her fiction explores the search of the women to fulfill herself as
a human being, independent of her traditional role as daughter, wife and
mother. She has examined a variety of common domestic crisis, which
trigger off the search. Deshpande’s concern and
sympathy are primarily for the woman. While revealing the woman’s struggle
to secure self-respect and self-identity for herself, the author subtly
bares the multiple levels of oppression, including sexual oppression
experienced by women in our society.
In the changing scenario of post colonial Indian society that observed
crosscurrents of traditional ideals and newly imported ones, Shashi
Deshpande’s was burdened with the task of giving then women characters the
specific roles that would fit in the socio-cultural modes and values of
the changed society. A new generation of women emerged, embracing the
changed values according to which women have a voice of their own, a voice
that had been suppressed for centuries. These women, who have the capacity
to make free choice and need not therefore depend on the choice of the
male, are portrayed in the novels of the new generation women novelists.
These new women characters are not however the same everywhere dilemmas
are exposed accordingly.
In her novels, we get the theme of poverty stricken, hardworking,
sincere and silent women of India who live like animals, embrace
intolerable sufferings for survival, and yet hope for a better future for
their issues only to be crest fallen at the end. Nothing happens in their
life but series of disappoints along with humiliation, torture and
repeated displacement. Besides the rural mass, there are middle class
woman in the innumerable towns and cities of India who are often unable to
enjoy the legal status conferred on them. Women are now treated on equal
terms by law as far as inheritance of property and opportunities of jobs
are concerned. But on the social level, these women who have been
struggling since ages to assert themselves, are still being heckled by
their male counterparts and forced to remain silent. The voice of this
newly emerged class of woman, who have the same education as the men are
having and are sometimes given the opportunity of supporting themselves
financially, is heard in the writings of Shashi Deshpande. A voice of
protest against the marginalized condition of women as a class is also
audible in her works. The bold heroines, having moral courage necessary
for self-assertion replace the meek and submissive heroines who were
accepted as the standard women characters.
In Shashi Deshpande’s novels, we can find the variety of characters too.
In Deshpande’s literary world there are characters taken from almost all
the sections of life. They are medical practitioners and writers, educated
housewives, uneducated ones and maidservants. Besides poverty, bereavement
and such other common adversities, there are some causes of suffering
exclusively for the female. Deshpande renders with sympathetic
understanding the variety of suffering a woman has to undergo. Sometimes
the suffering is attached to the social taboos, and sometimes the women
are silenced in the name of family honor, and are compelled to digest
Shashi Deshpande usually describes Indian women in her novels. That is why
the condition of women in our families. Shashi Deshpande’s sincere attempt
to break the silence of women has been widely acclaimed in home and
abroad. Her clear understanding of human relationship, her close
observation of the way of the world, her unbiased attitude to dogmas and
movement enforced me to do the present attempt in this direction.
Shashi Deshpande, in her works, defines freedom for the Indian woman
within the Indian socio-cultural value system and institutions. She has
steadfastly resisted the temptation of creating strong, glorified female
heroes, and has presented the Indian woman as facing the very dilemma of
having to choose between modernity and convention. Deshpande bares the
subtle processes of oppression and gender differentiation operative within
the institution of the family and the male centered Indian society.
Deshpande’s feminism does not uproot the woman from her background but
tries to expose the different ideological elements that shape he. These
include religious and cultural elements (such as myths, legends, rituals
and ceremonies) and social and psychological factors (such as woman’s
subordinate position in the family and her restricted sexuality). The
protagonists of Shashi Deshpande’s novels are modern, educated,
independent women, roughly between the age of 30 or 35. Their search for
freedom and self-identity within marriage is a recurring theme.
While analyzing her novels, I realize that a similar progress in the
protagonists life is portrayed in them. All her protagonists- Indu, Saru
and Jaya are shown to be in a state of confusion at the beginning. Slowly
as the novel unfolds, they go through a process of introspection,
self-analysis and self-realization. At the end, they emerge as more
confident, more in control of themselves, and significantly more hopeful.
The collections of Shashi Deshpande prove her a real fiction genius. Her
fiction work is as follows:
1. Roots and Shadows Indu, the heroines, is on a visit to her
ancestral home after a long period of absence. This is where the story
begins, the novelists unfolds the thoughts and emotions of this singular
Indian Girl. Indu, married to Jayant, now stays in the city.
The Dark Holds No Terrors: The
protagonists Saru is a doctor. She, too, is on a visit to her parental
home in the small town. This home has not changed since her childhood.
Away from the professional milieu, she becomes an ordinary housewife
temporarily. Away from the hectic pace of her city life, she reviews her
life and her relations with her brother and her husband.
2. That Long Silence: In this novel, the protagonist Jaya, a
housewife and an occasional writer, leaves her comfortable church gate
apartment and comes to stay in a small flat in Dadar along with her
husband. This is a far cry from her tastefully furnished, elegant church
gate home. Yet, she seems completely at ease her. She can relate easily to
her neighbors and servants, though her fastidious husband Mohan cannot
adjust to the filthy surroundings. Again, away from the routine, Jaya is
confronted with difficult truths about her past.
This in all the three major novels, the story takes the protagonists back
to her simple childhood home, where nonetheless she is comfortable and
even happy. Indu, Saru and Jaya are all facing problems in their adult
married lives, and a return to the parental home is their reaction.
Thus, Shashi Deshpande herself has strong convictions about feminism.
Apart from her belief in the equality of the gender and in the right of
both the gender to live their lives the way they want, she also believes
that “until women get over the handicaps imposed by society, outside and
inner conditioning, the human race will not have realized its full
potential.” In a society as traditionally male dominated as the Indian
society is , women have to try harder to find their identities. But the
modern Indian women, as portrayed in Shashi Deshpande’s novels, are
definitely working towards that goal.
According to the
novelists, the statement of emancipation is the freedom and responsibility
of choice. She is certainly a feminist writer, but this is not her
feminism that sees the male as the cause all troubles. According to her:
The fault lies with the woman who submits to the male’s sense of
The Scheme of Study
Ø Chapter 1 : Portrayal of Self-Revelation
Ø Chapter 2 : Social Reality
Ø Chapter 3 : Spiritual & Traditional Image
Ø Chapter 4 : Feminine Emancipation
Ø Chapter 5 : Social Dogmas – Romance & Lust
Ø Chapter 6 : Family Relationship
Ø Chapter 7 : Conclusive point at issue.
Summary of Chapters
Chapter 1 : Portrayal of Self-Revelation The strong point about
Deshpande’s fictions is her delineation of the woman’s inner world. Her
protagonists are woman struggling to find their own voice and continuously
in search to define herself. Her major theme is ‘quest for identity’ Her
main concern is the urge to find oneself, to create space for oneself, to
grow on one’s own.
Chapter 2 : Social Reality Despite imaginative flashes and the
role played by memory in her novels, Deshpande is, at heart a realist. She
presents a plausible story of authentic characters and not shadowy
abstractions- “airy things” without “a local habitation and a name” She
believes in presenting life as it is and not as it should be. In the words
of Engel: “Besides truth of detail, the truthful representation of typical
characters under typical circumstances.”
Chapter 3 : Spiritual & Traditional Image Her writing is
clearly part of Indian Lit. and emerges from her rooted ness in middle
class Indian society. Hindu tradition plays a big part in her fictions.
Hindu values a son over a daughter. She shows how the silence imposed on
women is partly of their own making, though society and tradition have a
hand. She employs a kind of stream of consciousness technique. Almost her
novels with a crisis in the heroine’s life. The narrative goes back and
forth in time, so the narrator can describe events with the benefit of
hindsight. Women characters in Deshpande’s novels try to assert themselves
as independent individuals through confrontations with the traditional
constraints in Indian Society.
Chapter 4 : Feminine Emancipation The statement of emancipation
is the freedom and responsibility of choice. She is certainly a feminist
writer, but hers is not the strident and militant feminism, which sees the
male as the cause of all trouble. The fault lies with the woman who
submits to the male’s sense of superiority.
Chapter 5: Social Dogmas – Romance & Lust Marriage locates
itself in Romance, sexuality and Social environment. Several Marriages in
the novels of Deshpande are built around the initial principle of
attraction and in themselves indicate a rebellion on the part of the
Chapter 6: Family Relationship Deshpande’s novels show a
concern with families and space. The ambivalence that is built into family
relationships. Work at several levels and pulls the individual in
different directions. on one hand the need for independence and on the
other the need to belong. The individual responds to these needs
differently at different stages of life. Social roles and social
constructs influence family relationships in multiple ways. Paradoxically
just as the woman is at the centre of the quality of family life, she is
enclosed within it. The movement from and towards her is both centripetal
and centrifugal. Familial roles denote enclose or confine the man in any
Chapter 7: Conclusive point at issue
I have resolved to make research on the world of Shashi Deshpande’s
fictions. I have taken recourse to the following methods.
1. Eliciting the literary material on the fiction of Shashi Deshpande from
the study of Books and treatise of erudite scholars available for the
study of the researcher.
2. The study of various literary journals published in India and Abroad as
incorporated in the corpus of the bibliography.
3. The study of various News- Papers in English in India and Abroad.
4. By inviting valued opinions of critics and scholars at present living
in India and abroad to authenticate my research work.
5. By the analysis of her fictions after close scrutiny.
Bibliography Primary Sources The works of Shashi Deshpande
A Matter of Time, New Delhi: Penguin,1996
Come Up And Be Dead, New Delhi: Vikas Publishing House, 1983
If I Die Today, New Delhi: Tarang PaperBacks, Vikas Publishing
Intrusion and Other Stories, New Delhi: penguin,1993
Roots And Shadows, Hydrabad: Sangam Books, Orient Longman Ltd.,
Small Remedies, New Delhi: Viking, Penguin, 2000
Collected Short Stories, Vol. 1 New Delhi: Penguin, 2003
It Was The Nightingle, Calcutta: Writers Workshop, 1986
That Long Silence, (F.P. Virago 1988) New Delhi: Penguin, 1989
The Binding Vine, New Delhi: penguin 1993
The Dark Holds No Terrors, New Delhi: Penguin, 1990
The Legacy, Calcutta: writers workshop, 1978
The Stone Woman And Other Stories, Calcutta: Writers workshop, 2000
The Miracle And Other Stories, Calcutta: Writers Workshop, 1986
"Best Loved Indian Stories", Vol. 1, published by Penguin India, 1999.
"The Legacy" Writers Workshop, Calcutta, 1978
"The Inner Courtyard" Ed: Lakshmi Holmstrom, Virago Press, 1990
"Frauen in Indien" Ed: Anna Winterrberg, 1988
"The Narayanpur Incident" India Book House, 1992 Reprinted by Puffin
Books, Penguin India, 1995
"The Hidder Treasure" India Book House, 1980
"The Only Witness" India Book House, 1980, 1982
"A Summer Adventure" India Book House, 1978, 1980, 1983
"The Narayanpur Incident" German (1998)
“The Dilemma of a Woman Writer,” The Fiction of Shashi Deshpande.
Edited by R.S. Pathak, New Delhi: Creative Books, 1998
“No Woman is an Island”, The Sunday Times Of India, May 10,1992,12
“Indian English Fiction-1980-99”: An Assessment
“Being And Nothingness,” trans. Hazel E. Barnes, P.49
Adele King, “Shashi Deshpande: Portaraits of an Indian woman,” The
New Indian In English: A study of the 1980s, ed.. Viney Kirpal
“Indian Communicator,” 20 November 1994, P. II
“The Great Indian Tradition?” Literature Alive, Vol. 1 & 3
“Femina,” May 1993
“The Sunday Observer,” 11 Feb, 1990
“Contemporary Writers,” London: Hogarth, 1965, p.26
“Half the Sky: An Introduction to Women’s Studies” ed. The Bristol
Women’s Studies Group London: Virago, 1979, p.3
“Eve’s Weekly,” 18-24 June 1988, p. 28
Ibid. p. 26
fictional concerns,” R.S. Pathak(p.g. No. 312-335)
“Writing from The Margin,” unpublished Essay, to be includede in a
forth coming volume of non fictional prose titled Writing From The
Interview with Shashi Deshpande by Malini Nair “The Message is
Incidental,” Times of India, No. 25, Nov. 1989
“Wasafiri,” Laxmi Holmstorm, 17, 1993, pg. 25-26
“The Sunday Observer,” Stanley Carvalho, 11 Feb, 1990 Eve’s Weekly18-24
June 1988, p.28
Ibid. p. 26
“Femina” May 1993
Vanamala, Vishwanatha, Interview Literature Alive, 1:3(Dec.1987) 8-14
Beauvoir, Siman de, The Second Sex, trans. H.M. Parshley, New york:
Alfred Knopf, 1952; rpt. Vintage Books, 1989
Brown, Penelope, “Universal and Particulars in the Position of Women”
Women In Society: Interdisciplinary Essays, The Cambridge Women’s
Studies Group, London, Virago, 1981, rpt. 1985
Eagleton, Mary, ed. Feminist Literary Criticism: A Reader, Oxford:
Flavia,Agnes,“Violence in Family: Wife Beating” in Ghadially: 151-166
Das, Veena “The Body as metaphor: Socialisation of Women In Punjabi
Urban families” Manushi 28
Kirpal, Viney, ed. “A Feminist Study of her Fiction”, New Delhi, B.R.
Publishing Corporation 1998
Woolf, Virginia 1925, a Room of one’s own rpt. London: Granada, 1977
Jain, Jasveer “Gendered Realities, Human spaces”, Rawat Publications
Rao, Raja Ram, Kanthapura (1938) Delhi: Orient Paperbacks
Rani, T. Ashoka ed. Woman in Women’s Writing Tirupati: Sri Padmavati
Mahila Visvavavidyalam 1995
Mukherjee, Meenakshi “The Anxiety of Indianness” New Delhi: Vision
Desai,Anita Clear Light of The Day New Delhi: Allied Publishers, 1980
Bala, Suman, ed. Women in the Novels of Shashi Deshpande: New Delhi
Khosla Publishing House, 2001
Dhawan, R.K. ed Indian Women Novelists , Vol. 5. New Delhi: Prestige
Contributing Writer: Dr. Ram Sharma, Lecturer
Janta Vedic College MEERUT, U.P.