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Stories For Children, Histories of Childhood / Histoires d'enfant, histoires d'enfance. Tome II

 | 
Rosie Findlay
, 
Sébastien Salbayre

Deviation from or Adherence to Tradition: The Image of the Girl Child in The Dark Holds No Terror by Shashi Deshpande

Lalita Jagtiani Naumann

Résumé

Deviation from or Adherence to Tradition: The Image of the Girl Child in The Dark Holds No Terror by Shashi Deshpande
In many of her works the novelist, Shashi Deshpande, examines the status of women in Indian society and the conflict they experience as their search for identity directs them away from the traditional norms instilled in them as children. Therefore, the two main threads of the paper will be sociological and literary.
The images of children in Shashi Deshpande’s novels take two forms. The first centres mainly on the protagonists’childhood, which is described in flashbacks seen from the point of view of the adult as she calls to mind her younger self. Secondly, there are also images of young children, girls and boys, in the present time of the novel.
The phrase ‘girl child’ is a deliberate choice to highlight the Indian perspective in which the movements and thought patterns of children, especially girls, are controlled according to their gender so as to mould the personality of the adult. No attempt will be made to define boundaries between childhood and girlhood in the psychological or occidental sense. The process of socialisation begins at an age when the child is most malleable. The prevalent social mores are instilled in her, according to Parikh and Garg, in the first five or six years of childhood, (when) the female child is exposed to the cultural lore, which define her core identity.
This process continues throughout a woman’s life as her role is instilled into her and as she in her turn continues the traditions instilling them in her ‘girl’ children. The male child, as the one who will propagate the family lineage, has not the same restrictions imposed on him as his sister. To him will be entrusted the task of lighting his parent’s funeral pyre and performing the religious rites forbidden to the daughter. As he does not menstruate, he is not considered as one who pollutes. Furthermore, unlike his sister, the male child is not subjected to movement restrictions nor is he expected to perform household tasks. The acculturation of the girl through prescriptive codes of conduct will be discussed in the section on the girlhood of the protagonist of Shashi Deshpande’s novel The Dark Holds No Terror.

Texte intégral

1The novelist, Shashi Deshpande’s works examine the status of women in Indian society and the conflict they experience as their search for identity directs them away from the traditional norms instilled in them as children. Therefore, the two main threads of the paper will be sociological and literary.

  • 1 Parikh Indira and Garg Pulin, Indian Women: An Inner Dialogue, Sage Publications, New Delhi, 1989, (...)

2The phrase ‘girl child’ is a deliberate choice to highlight the Indian perspective in which the movements and thought patterns of children, especially girls, are controlled according to their gender so as to mould the personality of the adult. No attempt will be made to define boundaries between childhood and girlhood in the psychological or occidental sense. The process of socialisation begins at an age when the child is most malleable. The prevalent social mores are instilled in her, according to Parikh and Garg, in the first five or six years of childhood, (when) the female child is exposed to the cultural lore, which define her core identity.1

3This process continues throughout a woman’s life as her role is instilled into her and as she in her turn continues the traditions instilling them in her’girl’children. The male child, as the one who will propagate the family lineage, has not the same restrictions imposed on him as his sister. To him will be entrusted the task of lighting his parent’s funeral pyre and performing the religious rites forbidden to the daughter. As he does not menstruate, he is not considered as one who pollutes. Furthermore, unlike his sister, the male child is not subjected to movement restrictions nor is he expected to perform household tasks. The acculturation of the girl through prescriptive codes of conduct will be discussed in the section on the girlhood of the protagonist of The Dark Holds No Terror.

PART Ι: THE IMPORTANCE OF TRADITION

4In the framework of the male-centred Indian society, gender roles are established early.

5Indu, in another of Shashi Deshpande’s novels, Roots and Shadows says

As a child, they had told me I must be obedient and unquestioning. As a girl, they had told me I must be meek and submissive. Why? I had asked. Because you are a female. You must accept everything, even defeat, with grace because you are a girl, they had said. It is the only way, they said, for a female to live and survive.... I had laughed at them. (p. 158)

6This social insistence on the norms for women corroborated by the critic Isabel Garcia Marquez: is

  • 2 Isabel Garcia Lopez, “Mythical Reference in Desai and Mukhcrjee: Translations of Kali”, in Transla (...)

For centuries the social system has forced upon woman the three roles of obedient daughter, virtuous wife and elemental mother, established as social laws by Manu around the beginning of the Common Era.2

7Perpetually under the paternal authority of a male member of her family, her father, her husband and finally her son, an obedient woman does not lift up her eyes to look into the eyes of elders or men.

  • 3 Kakar Sudhir, The Inner World, OUP, Delhi, (reprinted) 1996, p. 11

8Sudhir Kakar speaking of ‘the values of continuity and cooperation in Indian culture’ says that cultural traditions... are internalised during childhood in the individual’s superego, the categoricalconscience which represents the rights and wrongs, the prohibitions and mores, of a given social milieu, (and) The ideologies of the superego (which) perpetuate the past, the traditions of the race and the people (change slowly).3

9This is borne out by the 1971 and 1974 national committees set up by the government of India that studied the position of women in contemporary India and reported that

  • 4 Status of Women in India, “A Synopsis of the Report of the National Committee (1971-1974)”, The In (...)

In the cultural understanding of the people, homemaking, like child bearing and child rearing, is identified with femininity (and this leads to) an inevitable effect on girls’ personalities and identities. They learn early in life the need for flexibility, adjustment and submissiveness, and hesitate to develop strong opinions and commitments which they may not be allowed to pursue after marriage. Apart from the economic reasons, there is also a lurking fear that education may alienate girls from their conventional roles and make them less submissive in the family.4

  • 5 Vaidyanathan T.G., “Authority and Identity in India”, in Daedalus, Vol. 118, no. 4, U.K., Fall, 19 (...)
  • 6 Idem, p. 151
  • 7 Idem, p. 151

10The traditional Indian male/female relationship is more complex than the Western philosophical, binary oppositional, hierarchical structure. The Indian interpretation of interpersonal relations as expressed by T.G. Vaidyanathan: ‘the Indian pursues not rights but adjustments that will lead to social harmony’5. An Indian’s idea of identity is in terms of his/her relation to others. ‘It is within the overall framework or network of these relationships that people situate themselves.’6 In traditional India ‘every female is born into a well-defined community of women within her particular family.’7

  • 8 Kakar, S., op. cit., p. 61.

11The existence of this exclusive sphere of femininity and domesticity ... (allows) women to experience autonomy and to exercise power learning the mandatory skills of householding, cooking and childcare ... these relationships and these tasks constitute the dailiness of girlhood in India.8

  • 9 Sita, the wife of Rama, in the Hindu epic Ramayana personifies the ideal of womanhood.

12In the myths and stories that form the character of women, the image of a chaste and virtuous wife is as often described as that of daughter and mother9. Being married becomes the goal of women. As one of Deshpande’s characters implies, dutiful daughter, loving wife are the texts written into the Indian female psyche. Saru, in The Dark Holds No Terrors, breaks these norms but cannot escape the feeling of guilt. She externalises this for the writer, ‘the guilty sister, the undutiful daughter, the unloving wife... persons spiked with guilts. Yes, she was all of them.’(p. 220).

13Traditional attitudes that govern the behaviour of Indian women are so deeply internalised that even the modern educated Indian woman defends the validity of restrictions imposed by these long-established mores. This becomes evident when we examine their willingness to accept arranged marriages. Sudhir Kakar claims there is

  • 10 Sudhir Kakar, The Inner World, OUP, New Delhi, 1996, p. 67

a formidable consensus on the ideal of womanhood which, in spite of many changes in individual circumstances in the course of modernization, urbanization and education, still governs the inner imagery of individual men and women as well as the social relations between them in the traditional and modern sectors of the Indian community.10

  • 11 These are well known to any Indian child through the narration of the stories from the Hindu epics (...)

14Furthermore, to insist on the importance of marriage, Manu, the ancient lawgiver, declared that an unmarried woman could not go to heaven. In marriage, the position of the wife is inferior to her husband’s. Mythological characters such as Sita, Savitri, Draupadi11 form her role models through their devotion to their husbands.

PART II: IMAGES OF CHILDHOOD

  • 12 Mukta Atrey, “The Girl Child in the Fiction of Shashi Deshpande”, in The Girl Child in 20th Centur (...)
  • 13 Mukta Atrey, op. cit., p. 246

15Deshpande is overtly intrusive in her authorial interventions. Mukta Atrey says, ‘Shashi Deshpande is, perhaps, one of the few Indian English writers, who has portrayed the girl child with deliberation.’12 She goes on to state that the protagonist’s girlhood is examined in detail as she ‘attempts to define her adult self identity by analysing her growing-up years.’13 She says that Deshpande

  • 14 Idem, p. 246

tries to understand and define her (the girl child) in the framework of the various factors that shape her. These include cultural aspects like myths and legends, rituals and ceremonies as well as social and psychological factors such as the family structure, the woman’s position in it, female sexuality and the traumas of menstruation, childbirth and abortion.14

16The images of children in Shashi Deshpande’s novels take two forms. The first centres mainly on the protagonists’childhood, which is described in flashbacks seen from the point of view of the adult as she calls to mind her younger self.

  • 15 It is not my intention to study here the stories written by Mrs Deshpande for children.

17Secondly, there are also images of young children, girls and boys, in the present time of the novel.15

18I will present a brief description of the writer’s narrative technique first.

19The writer’s sleight of hand in presenting this embedded childhood places this within several levels of the narration.

20We find

21-The adult protagonist is the narrator of her own story in a) the present, b) the past.

22-The narrator utilises a) the reversal to the past as a means of defining her adult identity, b) the implications of the innocence of children and therefore the truth-value of the narration.

  • 16 In the short story “Defend Yourself Against Me”, in Orphans of the Storm, ed. Saros Cowasjee and K (...)

23Paradoxically, the time shift calls into question the reliability and selectivity of memory. Memory can be triggered by trivial sense experiences, the choice of which, in effect, remains the writer’s prerogative. The narration is often in the words of the main character as an adult. If, for reasons of immediacy or sympathy gaining, the focalisation is the child’s, there is a direct statement to this effect.16 For neither the reader nor the protagonist can there be retrospective vision of a completed whole. For both, the narration is subjective, each is denied the creator’s omniscience. I have not asked the question whether the description of childhood is more important than the act of remembering, since I regard the return to the past in a convoluted narrative process as a technique, which affords the narrator the distance from the present to gain objectivity without losing subjectivity.

  • 17 Mukta Atrey, “The Girl Child in the Fiction of Shashi Deshpande”, in The Girl Child in 20th Centur (...)

24Statements about the girlhood of the protagonist are scattered throughout Shashi Deshpande’s novels. Strategically positioned to provoke an interpretation of the present of the main character, the flashbacks are offered piecemeal, as the process of analysing her growing years reveals the extent to which ‘her personality has been determined by her upbringing and socialisation in childhood.’17

PART III: THE DARK HOLDS NO TERRORS: THE STRANGLEHOLD OF NORMS INSTILLED IN A CHILD

25Although Shashi Deshpande’s novels are about the conflict of identity faced by women, she does not claim to be a sociologist. However, we find the same leitmotif running through her works as she treats the conflict that women experience that results from their confrontation with traditional norms and their profound need to find themselves. Rather than introduce many works by the writer I have restricted this paper mainly to the study of one of her works.

  • 18 Subject is an ambiguous term. For the moment let us presume that since the narrator is presenting (...)

26In The Dark Holds No Terror the double consciousness of the narrator, her ambivalence to life and the irony of the situation are repeated in the stylistic technique of the novel. Though every odd numbered chapter is in the third person, the focalisor shifts between the omniscient writer and the heroine as the present of the protagonist emerges. The even numbered chapters are in the first person and refer to the different pasts of the narrator. The past then becomes subjectively18 presented. The lens through which Saru sees the world is clouded by her dark feelings and can see only her viewpoint, interpret others only from her anguished position as a victim; the clinical scrutiny of the doctor is absent.

  • 19 Elizabeth Wright in “Thoroughly Postmodem Feminist Criticism” op. cit., says ‘science has been par (...)

27Sarita or Saru, for short, is the protagonist of The Dark Holds No Terrors. Despite her training as a doctor, which removes the mysteries of the human body and inculcates in Saru a more logical, scientific way of thinking19, she finds the influences of her childhood environment and the insistence on the silent acceptance of suffering as a woman cannot be easily shaken off. Consequently, she heaps guilt upon guilt on herself. The conflict between this character’s traditional upbringing and her choice of education makes her rebellious and defiant. We are told that Saru chooses and pursues her career as a doctor and she marries a man of her choice, stepping out of her caste. Saru is a Brahmin while her husband, although he is named Manu comes from a much lower caste. Manu was the name of the ancient Indian lawgiver whose prescriptions on the conduct of women remain potent.

  • 20 Dhruva is the name of the most important of the Hundred brothers in the epic Mahabharata.

28Saru is presented as resentful of her status as a girl from the moment her brother, Dhruva,20 is bom. Her relationship with her mother is conflictual, a conflict that is not easy to resolve as the mother adheres to tradition and is silent in the presence of her husband. Saru conforms to the prevailing order reluctantly and portrays her mother as a strict, orthodox, unkind, demanding and tyrannical purveyor of patriarchal norms. The incidents described by the grown-up Saru would imply that she practised a non-violent rebellion against these draconian laws, making friends with unsuitable girls, coming home too late to help with the housework, preferring the touch of the motherly neighbour to her mother’s.

  • 21 Firdous Azim, The Colonial Rise of the Novel, op. cit., p. 68

29The reader, along with the protagonist, who is also the first person narrator of every even numbered chapter, uncovers the past as Saru returns to her father’s home and revives memories of her childhood. The terror of the title unfurls like a (wo)man-eating plant whose dark centre once exposed to the light will wither. In unravelling Sam’s past we begin to understand that she requires redemption in her own eyes, which reflect her mother’s accusing eyes. In other words, Saru is searching for the love her mother has denied her, more than that, her mother is reported as denying her an identity, by being quoted as saying ‘What daughter? I have no daughter’ even as she lies dying, (p. 109). Daughters, we are told, are their mother’s business, (p. 105), so what happens when a mother rejects her child? ‘Given that the early influences are derived solely from the mother, her mind and personality are of prime importance in giving the child the right early stimuli’21, we are perhaps not too surprised by what happens to Saru as she grows up and rejects her mother. Saru’s attitude to her work and her self are ambivalent as she carves out an ambitious career path for herself believing all the while that she is defying her mother and all that she stood for. Her family life suffers. Her husband rapes her without being aware of his actions. His act appears to be an unconscious assertion of the powers that Manu, the lawgiver, attributes to the male. The violation of her body becomes a symbol for the violation of women’s individuality in a society that accepts to subject women to such norms. Saru is unable to remark on similarity between the silence of her mother and her own silence in the face of her husband’s act.

  • 22 This word can mean wardrobe/cupboard and this piece of furniture is usually placed in a bedroom.

30Saru returns to her father’s home to escape from her husband’s frequent, unconscious attacks. As stated earlier the writer is making an overt statement that the Laws of the ancient lawgiver are imposed on women against their will. Saru in learning to voice her needs, finds herself on the road to recovery. In chapter 6 of Part I, we hear a brief statement about a period of her girlhood when ‘as a child my fantasies, my dreams, had no relevance to the fact that I was a girl.’(p. 53). Puberty brings more ‘female dreams’. When her brother is bom, Saru, like many daughters in India, is pushed to the background and treated as if she is invisible. To counteract her mother’s neglect of her, Saru works hard at her professional and private life in order to show her mother her worth as a person and that she, like a son exists, she is visible. Her realisation that her mother’s death has destroyed her illusions of self-assertion comes as she clears out, the almirah22 she had no right to touch as a child. Saru seems to have always been on the outside. Clearing the cupboard she imagines confusedly that she was ‘the skeleton in (her Mother’s) cupboard and now that she’s dead, she’s on the outside’(p. 56) but she’s no longer sure. Decentred from both the outside and the inside, the character of Sam has yet to find stability. Looking into the mirror of her mother’s cupboard Sam encounters the dreams of young girls: the romantic ending of fairy tales. Saru detects the irony inherent in such dreams ‘of a man falling in love with her’, marrying her (p. 56). In the light of her experience, for her as well as many other women, the inescapability of the need of a husband to be a complete person becomes a farce.

31In the character of Saru, the writer has drawn a successful lady-doctor, who, notwithstanding her achievements, is full of self-hatred, instilled when she is a child, not only because she is a girl but also because her mother holds her responsible for Dhruva’s death. Saru, unable to see beyond her own dejection, negates herself, arriving at near madness.

32Women are constructs of the codes of conduct, the restrictions, the rituals of her society.

  • 23 Valli Rao, “The Devi Entered into her: Feminist Mythmaking in Shashi Deshpande’s The Dark Holds No (...)
  • 24 I have listed them in an article published by CiClas.

33The importance of childhood experiences in the formation of the adult can be illustrated by Saru’s life. Despite her success, Saru is ‘haunted all the time by childhood memories’ which hinge on ‘a tragic childhood incident in which she lived, whereas her younger brother died.’23 The traditional norms geared towards removing selfconfidence, and pride in being oneself and therefore, filling the mould of a pliant wife accepting the will of a husband unquestioningly are incorporated below in the description of Saru’s upbringing as a child.24 I shall examine some instances from her childhood that may explain the unusually early loss of the character’s Sita-like docility and lead to her determination to do well as these form part of Deshpande’s determined exposure of restrictive traditions.

PART IV: THE RESTRICTIONS PLACED ON THE GIRL, SARU, IN THE DARK HOLDS NO TERROR

- MENSTRUATION:

  • 25 Doreen D’Cruz, “Feminism in the Post-Colonial context: Shashi Deshpande’s fiction”, in Journal of (...)

34One factor that separates females from males has, in many societies, been considered a sign of impurity and pollution. About Saru, we are told, her body blossoms and her periods begin soon after her brother’s death. Juxtaposing the two events seems to imply that the boy’s presence has suppressed her growth. Ironically, her growing up ‘became something shameful’, placing restrictions of dress on her, ‘... you had to be ashamed of yourself even in the presence of your own father.’(p. 62). The mother’s handling of the girl’s discomfort at menstruating heightens her sense of shame. Many years later, her husband’s violation of her body reinforces this early image of herself as ‘a dark, damp, smelly hole.’(p. 29). The separation from the family for three days during menstruation, the ‘feeling of being a pariah... for my touch was... pollution’ (p. 29) tormented her less than being in the same category as her mother, ‘a woman’. Her mother’s treatment of the girl as inferior to the son makes her ‘want to rage, to scream against the fact that put me in the same class as my mother.’(p. 55). ‘Saru sought desperately to be everything her mother was not, even while yearning for the love and approval she never received.’25 Ms D’Cruz argues that

  • 26 Doreen D’Cruz, op. cit, p. 455

the mother-daughter relationship here suffers the same penalty as in every other male-dominated society where the phallic third term disrupts the original dyad and forever exiles the daughter from her origins. In Sarita’s story, the third term taking the form of privileged masculinity is not represented by her father, who is constantly negated by her mother, but by her brother, Dhruva, who as a boy enjoyed maternal preferment that Sarita did not, and whose accidental death only confirms her superfluity. The penalty of being female is a lesson her mother conveys by underclassing her through withholding love.26

  • 27 “The Girl Child in the Fiction of Shashi Deshpande”, by Atrey, in The Girl Child in 20th century L (...)

35Saru’s daughter, Renu, bom and brought up in a city, will not have to go through the trauma of being considered a pariah, a polluter. Time, limited space and sanitary towels have changed attitudes to menstruation, and seclusion is not so rigidly imposed on urban women. She is not shown as rejecting the natural function of her body as shameful, indicating that the mother-daughter relation in this aspect of female life, if not others, has altered. However, female sexuality is still feared and revered by some groups of people, and social restrictions prevail, and a woman is expected not to step into a temple or a puja room when she is considered unclean. A girl’s initiation into womanhood is the death of her childhood, her innocence, signalling the end of freedom of movement and unselfconscious interaction with the males in the family. Her sexuality is managed, as she is taught to repress and control it. Any deviation from the norms will reflect badly on her family’s honour. Boys are not subjected to the same restrictions. Some communities in South India, regardless of religion, celebrate the onset of womanhood with rituals and festivity. ‘Deshpande chooses to focus upon the traumatic nature of this experience and its effect upon the young girl rather than its cultural significance.’27 In South India, girls begin to wear a half-sari over their long skirt at this time to cover their breasts. In fact, they look forward to this addition to their dress. Saru’s mother is depicted as being particularly maladroit in her treatment of her daughter, for reasons that are linked to her own past upbringing as a daughter, to the general preference for sons and also because she holds Saru responsible for her brother Dhruva’s death.

- MOVEMENT RESTRICTIONS

  • 28 Atrey, op. cit., p. 252
  • 29 Atrey, M., op. cit., p. 253

36Restrictions are placed on a girl’s comportment; obedience and passivity are emphasised, as making a good match is important. ‘Behavioural norms for girls are prohibitive’28 to the extent of controlling where and with whom a girl may leave the parental home. Besides the larger issues, details such as the way a girl should sit are controlled. For example, in the novel, Saru, who, like many Indian girls, does not learn explicitly about sex before marriage, understands why ‘they told us never to sit with our legs apart’ (p. 209) only when her husband says, ‘Open your legs, my love, or I can do nothing’. Even in the performance of the sexual act, the woman has to sublimate her sexuality to the husband’s desire. To be feminine one must be weak, docile, etc. As M. Atrey puts it: (The) ‘stress, therefore, of the entire process of socialisation is upon submission, passivity and desirability.’29

- COMPLEXION

  • 30 Idem, p. 253

37A ‘girl should be appealing and charming - not boldly attractive - but graceful and demure.’30 Fair complexioned girls are more highly valued in the Indian marriage market and so going out in the sun is discouraged as it would darken them and spoil their chances of getting married, and leaving their temporary home. Boys are free from these restrictions. That girls should stay in is also connected with the management of their sexuality and not just the colour of their complexion. Sam’s dialogue with her mother (p. 45) highlights the concept of a girl being a temporary resident in her parents’ home, and the fact that boys are different. As a girl, she considers herself ugly. Her mother’s criterion for beauty is that inculcated in her by societal demands for fair-complexioned brides, and the writer has made the girl, Saru, ‘too dark’ to be good looking (p. 61). Since Deshpande has no hesitation about repetition, we find in Roots and Shadows, which was written earlier but published later than The Dark Holds No Terrors, the dusky Indu, human in her sarcastic comments, stating that her least favourite aunt found a husband early because her anaemic complexion was mistaken for a fair skin. (p. 132).

TOWARDS A CONCLUSION: CHILDREN AS A VISION OF THE FUTURE

38Shashi Deshpande’s portrayal of children other than the protagonists indicates the possibility of a break from traditional norms. While it was tme for the generation of the protagonists of the novels submission and passivity were important in ‘the entire process of socialisation’, ready-wittedness and curiosity are not portrayed as negative qualities for the daughters of these protagonists. The emphasis is not on preparing them for marriage and learning to look after the comforts of a husband, but on education for a job.

39If cultural variables influence how children, present themselves, understand the world and interpret experience, it is their mothers’ beliefs that will guide this younger generation in the novels. To mention a few: Renuka and Abhi in The Dark Holds No Terrors, Mandira, Pallavi and Kartik in The Binding Vine, Rati and Rahul (the protagonist’s children), Revati (her niece), Nilima (her neighbour’s daughter), Manda (the maid’s daughter) in That Long Silence, Aru, Charu and Seema, the daughters of Sumi, the protagonist, in A Matter of Time. These children will inhabit the future and present an insight into the novelists’ ideas about the evolution of a generation exposed to their mothers’ resentment against established values. The portrayal of the difference between their mothers’ relationship with their parents and their own interaction with their parents shows the changes in attitudes towards women.

40In Binding Vine, Urmila the protagonist, who has just lost her eleven-month old daughter, Anusha, says,

  • 31 The girl Kalpana is the victim of rape. The attitude of women from a lower social class than the m (...)

We want to give them the world we dreamt of for ourselves. “I wanted Kalpana to have all that I didn’t,” Shakutai told me.’ But Kalpana wanted none of her mother’s dreams. She had her own. (p. 124)31.

41This, Deshpande makes doubly clear, is exactly Urmila’s case. She, too, is portrayed as rejecting her parents’ dreams for her. Her daughter, if she had lived, might have turned her back on her mother’s dreams for her. The future of these fictional children remains to be revealed.

CONCLUSION

42The internal struggle of the protagonist, Saru, in The Dark Holds No Terror to come to an understanding of her situation goes beyond the life of one unhappy childhood that led to the submission of the adult woman to her husband’s sexual domination. Sam’s journey into her self epitomises the middle class urban Indian women’s attempts to come to terms with traditional norms. Like Sam they find that they, too, resemble their mother and it is not through a complete rejection of the past but from an understanding of the possibilités of change within it that their stmggle to assert their identity will lead to self realisation.

43With growing urbanisation, globalisation, and the emergence of a feminist consciousness and the way in which women make sense of their circumstances, their positioning within the relational framework is in a state of flux. However one may regard it, as regressive, progressive or accommodating, a co-existence of tradition and modernity is ever present in the Indian world. What comes through in the novels of Shashi Deshpande is that women retain certain aspects of tradition even as they realise their individual capabilities.

44In The Dark Holds No Terror, Saru finds her voice and is finally able to speak to her father about her relationship with her mother and her husband. For the protagoist finding her voice is the implied goal of Shashi Deshpande’s novels. Though the novel has no clear ending, the protagonist is able to accept her gilrhood, her womanhood without guilt.

Bibliographie

REFERENCES

ATREY Mukta, “The Girl Child in the Fiction of Shashi Deshpande”, in The Girl Child in 20th Century Literature, ed. Viney Kirpal, Sterling Publishers Private Limited, New Delhi, 1992.

D’CRUZ Doreen, “Feminism in the Post-Colonial context: Shashi Deshpande’s fiction”, in Journal of the South Pacific Association for Commonwealth Literature and Language Studies, ed. Jongley K., Span, no. 36, vol. 2, 1993.

De BEAUVOIR Simone, The Second Sex, trans. & ed. H.M. Parshley, Vintage Books, New York, 1974.

FELMAN S., in Feminism, ed. Warhol and Derndl, Macmillan, Hampshire, 1997.

FIRDOUS Azim, The Colonial Rise of the Novel.

KAKAR Sudhir, The Inner World, OUP, Delhi, (reprinted) 1996.

LOPEZ Isabel Garcia, “Mythical Reference in Desai and Mukherjee: Translations of Kali”, in Translating Cultures, KRK, U.K., 1999.

PARIKH Indira and PULIN Garg, Indian Women: An Inner Dialogue, Sage Publications, New Delhi, 1989.

RAO Valli, “The Devi Entered into her: Feminist Mythmaking in Shashi Deshpande’s The Dark Holds No Terrors, in New Literatures Review, no. 5, 25/29, Double issue.

SIDHWA Bapsi, “Defend Yourself Against Me”, in Orphans of the Storm, ed. Cowasjee Saros and Duggal K. S., UBSPD, New Delhi, 1995.

Status of Women in India, “A Synopsis of the Report of the National Committee (1971-1974)”, The Indian Council of Social Science Research, New Delhi, 1975.

VAIDYANATHAN T. G., “Authority and Identity in India”, in Daedalus, Vol. 118, no. 4, U.K., Fall, 1989.

WRIGHT Elizabeth, “Thoroughly Postmodern Feminist Criticism.”

NOVELS BY SHASHI DESHPANDE

The Dark Holds No Terrors, Vikas Publishing House Pvt. Ltd., India, 1980; Penguin Books, India, New Delhi, 1990.

Roots and Shadows, Orient Longman Ltd., Hyderabad, 1983.

That Long Silence, Penguin Books, India, New Delhi, 1989.

Binding Vine, Virago Press, U.K., 1993; Penguin Books, India, New Delhi, 1993.

A Matter of Time, Penguin Books, India, New Delhi, 1996. Small Remedies, Penguin Books India Ltd, New Delhi, 2000. Moving On, Penguin Books India, New Delhi, 2004.

SHORT STORY COLLECTIONS

The Stone Woman, Writers Workshop, Calcutta, 2001.

The Intrusion and other Stories, Penguin India, 1993.

It was the Nightingale, Writers Workshop, Calcutta, 1986.

The Miracle, Writers Workshop, Calcutta, 1986.

It was Dark, Writers Workshop, Calcutta, 1986.

The Legacy, Writers Workshop, Calcutta, 1978.

Notes

1 Parikh Indira and Garg Pulin, Indian Women: An Inner Dialogue, Sage Publications, New Delhi, 1989, p. 9

2 Isabel Garcia Lopez, “Mythical Reference in Desai and Mukhcrjee: Translations of Kali”, in Translating Cultures, KRK, U.K., 1999, p. 221

3 Kakar Sudhir, The Inner World, OUP, Delhi, (reprinted) 1996, p. 11

4 Status of Women in India, “A Synopsis of the Report of the National Committee (1971-1974)”, The Indian Council of Social Science Research, New Delhi, 1975, p. 28ff

5 Vaidyanathan T.G., “Authority and Identity in India”, in Daedalus, Vol. 118, no. 4, U.K., Fall, 1989, p. 151

6 Idem, p. 151

7 Idem, p. 151

8 Kakar, S., op. cit., p. 61.

9 Sita, the wife of Rama, in the Hindu epic Ramayana personifies the ideal of womanhood.

10 Sudhir Kakar, The Inner World, OUP, New Delhi, 1996, p. 67

11 These are well known to any Indian child through the narration of the stories from the Hindu epics, which have now been serialised on television. In fact, most Bollywood films also present a woman as one who conforms to traditions.

12 Mukta Atrey, “The Girl Child in the Fiction of Shashi Deshpande”, in The Girl Child in 20th Century Literature, ed. Kirpal, Vinay, Sterling Publishers Private Limited, New Delhi, 1992, p. 246

13 Mukta Atrey, op. cit., p. 246

14 Idem, p. 246

15 It is not my intention to study here the stories written by Mrs Deshpande for children.

16 In the short story “Defend Yourself Against Me”, in Orphans of the Storm, ed. Saros Cowasjee and K.S. Duggal, UBSPD, New Delhi, 1995, the Parsi writer Bapsi Sidhwa attempts this. The story also presents the theme of rape as a means of patriarchal control.

17 Mukta Atrey, “The Girl Child in the Fiction of Shashi Deshpande”, in The Girl Child in 20th Century Literature, ed. Kirpal, Viney, Sterling Publishers Private Limited, New Delhi, 1992, p. 246.

18 Subject is an ambiguous term. For the moment let us presume that since the narrator is presenting her past she is the teller of her own story and as such is the initiator of the action and as the narrator is no longer silenced. But if the woman is the Other, how can she be speaking, for as the other she is not present.

19 Elizabeth Wright in “Thoroughly Postmodem Feminist Criticism” op. cit., says ‘science has been par excellence the paradigm of a phallogocentric idealized system’, p. 181.

20 Dhruva is the name of the most important of the Hundred brothers in the epic Mahabharata.

21 Firdous Azim, The Colonial Rise of the Novel, op. cit., p. 68

22 This word can mean wardrobe/cupboard and this piece of furniture is usually placed in a bedroom.

23 Valli Rao, “The Devi Entered into her: Feminist Mythmaking in Shashi Deshpande’s The Dark Holds No Terrors”, in New Literatures Review, no. 5, 25/29, Double issue, p. 101.

24 I have listed them in an article published by CiClas.

25 Doreen D’Cruz, “Feminism in the Post-Colonial context: Shashi Deshpande’s fiction”, in Journal of the South Pacific Association for Commonwealth Literature and Language Studies, ed. K.. Jongley, Span, no. 36, vol. 2, 1993, p. 455

26 Doreen D’Cruz, op. cit, p. 455

27 “The Girl Child in the Fiction of Shashi Deshpande”, by Atrey, in The Girl Child in 20th century Literature, ed. Kirpal, Sterling Publishers Private Limited, New Delhi, 1992, p. 250

28 Atrey, op. cit., p. 252

29 Atrey, M., op. cit., p. 253

30 Idem, p. 253

31 The girl Kalpana is the victim of rape. The attitude of women from a lower social class than the middle-class protagonist towards traditional norms is dealt with, though briefly, in this novel.

Auteur

Université du Havre
Born in undivided India shortly before Partition. Since then she has lived, studied and worked in Bangalore, India, Britain, Nigeria, France. She holds a Ph. D., de l’Université de Rennes 2, France; At present she is a member of the University of Le Havre, France.

© Presses universitaires François-Rabelais, 2007

Conditions d’utilisation : http://www.openedition.org/6540