Writer Style Discussion India - Shashi Despande

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Shashi 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 torture.

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.

Research Programme
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.

2. 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 superiority.

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 women.

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 comparable manner.

Chapter 7: Conclusive point at issue

RESEARCH METHODOLOGY 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.

Primary Sources The works of Shashi Deshpande
1. Fiction 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
House, 1982
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)

2. Non-Fiction
“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

“Shashi Deshpande’s 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

3. Interviews
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

Secondary Sources

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:
Blackwell, 1992
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
Books, 1998
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 in English, Janta Vedic College MEERUT, U.P. [email protected]





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