Wife Novel of Bharathi Mukherjee
It is important to read and discuss Mukherjee’s “A Wife’s Story” as an integral part of twentieth-century American literature and not as an “exotic” short story by a foreign writer. As the essay accompanying “A Wife’s Story” points out, Mukherjee identifies herself very strongly as an American writer writing about twentieth-century Americans.
Although most of her stories are about South Asian-Americans (South Asia in the contemporary geopolitical arena usually consists of Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and the Maldive Islands), she sees herself as being primarily influenced by, as well as being part of, the tradition of Euro-American writers.
In a brief interview published in the November, 1993 issue of San Francisco Focus in which she discusses her novel In order to avoid the trap of reading “A Wife’s Story” as being from a “marginal” group, I have found it best to first discuss the crafting of the story as a literary work in the tradition of English/American literature, and then move on to the aspects of the story that deal with specific concepts and cultures. Keeping in mind Mukherjee’s own comments on racism, multiculturalism, and literary influences, it is interesting to discuss how she uses, or does not use, her ideas on these subjects in “A Wife’s Story. A classroom discussion on the students’ views regarding these concepts helps them understand the importance of these concepts in American literature. Further discussions of the story, especially on specific issues related to Mukherjee’s major themes and the literary influences that emerge out of her root culture, may be based on the statements made in the following parts of this Instructor’s Guide essay. Major Themes, Historical Perspectives, and Personal Issues Her 1993 novel, The Holder of the World, takes place in the United States as well as in India.
It also takes place across historical time. The framework of the novel takes place in contemporary United States and India. The central story takes place in seventeenth-century America and India. The Euro-American women protagonists of this work have lovers who are from other cultures or countries. A significant number of her stories and novels present the encounters between cultures in the context of encounters between women and men either of different root cultures or from the same root culture.
Some of these very personal encounters have the poignancy of underlying affection, some of them range from gentle humor to an attempt at broad satire, some are marred by stereotypical characters and events, while others reveal the dangerous, violent side of such encounters. “A Wife’s Story” is an excellent example of encounters between cultures presented in a narrative of encounters between women and men. It is a fascinating story because it presents the surprise of role reversal and because of the sense of a dramatic presentation that permeates the story.
It is the wife, not the husband, who has come to America and who is knowledgeable about this new home. Panna is the guide and often the protector for her husband who is visiting her. And her story is constantly dramatic. It begins with her in a theatre and every episode that follows is carefully situated in a stage-like setting with set actors. The story also contains echoes of the memory and nostalgia for the past that play a significant role in the writings of many South Asian-Americans.
This memory and nostalgia for the landscape of places and people of the writers’ childhood is often juxtaposed with the excitement and challenge of their new life and the unfamiliar landscape of the people and places of the U. S. It is interesting to explore how Mukherjee uses these two strands in this story, bringing one or the other–memory or the excitement of novelty–into the foreground to present her characters and to build the circular, winding pattern of her story. Significant Form, Style, or Artistic Conventions
Much as Mukherjee seems to insist that she belongs to the Euro-American traditions of American literature and as easily as she is able to be fit into that tradition, there are aspects of her work that are derived mainly from her cultural roots in India. She has spoken of the important influences in her life of the images and ideas of her childhood in India and the sounds and sights of the great traditions of Indian mythology and literature. Her awareness of these influences enriches her stories and novels.
For example, she can give the impression of a larger work even in a short story such as “A Wife’s Story,” which carefully meanders from one place to another and in which stories live within other stories. This technique of winding stories and embedding stories within stories dominates the Sanskrit epics, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, and much of Indian literature. Her ability to let us hear her characters speak to us not only about themselves but as narrators of others’ experiences is a reflection of the oral traditions of Indian literature.
In “A Wife’s Story,” we can hear Panna telling us not only the many stories of her life in India and in New York but also the stories of the people she introduces to us. Bharati Mukherjee is an enthusiastic and extremely knowledgeable collector of Indian miniatures. Keeping in mind this interest in miniatures, we see that Mukherjee can also paint small-scale yet detailed episodes and characters. Mukherjee’s careful manipulation of moods and emotional tones in her stories may be influenced by classical Indian literature, art, and music.
In Indian classical art, the universally recognizable essence of an emotion or a mood often dominates the work of art. In “A Wife’s Story,” Mukherjee portrays Panna through her emotions and moods that move from anger and outrage to perplexity and frustration, to humor and affection, and in the end to the joy of self-discovery of her body and her sense of freedom. Even the memory of old customs, and the excitement of new discoveries for both Panna and her husband are presented in terms of emotions and moods. Portrayal Of Women In “Wife”
Wife is a story of Dimple Das Gupta, a product of Calcutta’s middle class that values docility and submissiveness in women. From the very beginning we feel that the Dimple is not like a normal girl, she thinks that marriage is a blessing in disguise. It will bring her freedom, fortune and happiness. At last her father Mr. DasGupta married her daughter with Amit Basu. Basu’s house is not attractive, so she does not feel easy there. She doesn’t likes Amit’s mother and sister also. Her mother-in-law dislikes her name ‘Dimple’ and wants to call her ‘Nandini’. Dimple Basu has always lived in a fantastic orld, a world which is created by herself. But when she confronts the hard realities of life the feathers of her imagination are clipped. Amit was not the man Dimple has imagined for her husband. With the passing of time the excitement of marriage diminishes and she becomes pregnant, She feels a strange sensation. Pregnancy is a boon for Indian women, but Dimple is singular in that “She thought of ways to get rid of “. So she decides to terminate her pregnancy, Only Dimple who can do herself abortion, She never repents her cruel deeds. Inamdar rightly says “Dimple is a psychic study of an abnormal woman”.
Dimple wants to do away with the tradition taboos of a wife and she becomes on escapist, lost in her requestered world of fantasy. The killng of a mouse to her is a symbolic suicide of herself. In New York her circumscribed self finds expressions for her frustration in a chilling effect of self assertion- the act being the cold blooded murder of her husband. The name Dimple is quite scintillating and enticing but lexico- graphically it means any slight surface depression. This depression on the surface is again symbolic of the depression within her psyche, which is borne out of her irritable responses to the things around her.
Bharati Mukherjee present the world of Dimple. A world of day dreams and nightmares and her morbid psyche through a series of grotesqe images. Dimple’s morbidity is evident while she is still at her parental home in the way she allows her conscious mind to be completely dominated by the colourful romance projected in the advertisements and the stories of magzines. Including herself in sexual fantasies with Cricket Stars, Young Cabinet Ministers and Heroes from novels, Dimple sets out on a long journey of unreal meaningless and morbid existence.
Dimple in wife, is symbolized the predicament of a voice without articulation and without a vision. They are visionless because they are voiceless ; they are rootless because they are shootless. Uniquely Indian are superficially westernized, she is basically human. They give vent to their feminine sensibility in their frantic desire for an authentic communication with the self as well as the society. Anita DesaiIndian women novelists have given a new dimension to the Indian literature. Indian English literature has developed over a period of time and writing in English did not start in a day.
It took many years and several distinguished personalities to bring the present status and distinction to Indian English literature. Indian literature is not only about novels, it is also about poetries and short stories. Before the rise of novels, several women writers composed songs, short stories and small plays. It is still believed that women are the upholders of the rich Indian tradition of fables, story telling and more. In the mid-nineteenth century, more women started to write in the English language. With the passage of time, English literature has witnessed several changes in the writing patterns.
Women novelists have incorporated the recurring female experiences in their writings and it affected the cultural and language patterns of Indian literature. They have brought a stylized pattern in the whole context of Indian writing. Nowadays, people enjoy reading the anglicized novels presented by the new age women writers. jhumpa lahiri In the past, the work by the Indian women authors has always been undervalued because of some patriarchal assumptions. Indian societies gave priorities to the worth of male experiences. In those days, women used to write about a woman`s perception and experiences within the enclosed domestic arena.
On the other hand, male authors used to deal with heavy themes. Thus, it was assumed that their work would get more priority and acceptance in the society. During the 18th century, these factors led towards the decline of Indian women writing. And with all these factors, production of women`s literature declined further. In the 19th century, more and more women actively participated in India`s reformist movement against the British rule. It again led to the women`s literature. At that time, their write-ups mainly concentrated on the country`s freedom struggle.
Over the years, the world of feminist ideologies began to influence the English literature of India. In the 20th century, women`s writing was considered as a powerful medium of modernism and feminist statements. The last two decades have witnessed phenomenal success in feminist writings of Indian English literature. Today is the generation of those women writers who have money and are mostly western educated. Their novels consist of the latest burning issues related with women as well as those issues that exist in the society since long. These books are thoroughly enjoyed by the masses and the publishers make easy money out of them.
The publishers feel that the literature actually survives because of these types of bold topics and commercials used by the women novelists. They describe the whole world of women with simply stunning frankness. Their write-ups give a glimpse of the unexplored female psyche, which has no accessibility. The majority of these novels depict the psychological suffering of the frustrated housewife. Shobha De Since long, feminism has been used by the women novelists. Their novels reflect that the present age women have realized that she is not helpless and is not dependent. They feel that a woman is an equal competent just like a man.
Today, a woman has also become a direct money earner and she is not only confined to household works. The women of modern era think on different lines and that is what is depicted in the novels of the Indian women authors. These facts are incorporated by the women writers. Indian women writers explores the feminine subjectivity and applies the theme that ranges from childhood to complete womanhood. Through their novels they spread the message of what actually feminism is, which actually is very broad. These women writers say that feminism means putting an end to all the sufferings of a woman in silence.
Authors like Kamala Markandaya, Shashi Deshpande and Anita Desai have chosen the problems and issues faced by the women in today`s male dominated world as the main theme of their books. For instance, some of the novels of Anita Desai like `Voices in the City` and `Where Shall We Go This Summer? ` she has portrayed the complexities between a man and woman relationship. She has tried to explore the psychological aspects of the lead protagonists. The women novelists try to create awareness that this is the time to proclaim with definite precision. In India, the women writers are doing very well and their contribution is immense.
Indian English writing started with authors like Sarojini Naidu. This great poetess charmed the readers with her writings. Feminism themes have also been used by authors like Nayantara Sahgal and Rama Mehta. Regional fiction theme has been aptly used by Kamala Das, Anita Nair and Susan Viswanathan. Novelists like Kamala Mrkandaya and Anita Desai captured the spirit of Indian cultures and its traditional values. During the 1990`s India became a popular literary nation as a number of women authors made their debut in this era. Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Suniti Namjoshi and Anuradha Marwah Roy used realism as main theme of their novels.
The list of Indian women novelists also comprises popular names such as Bharati Mukherjee, Nergis Dalal, Krishna Sobti, Dina Mehta, Indira Goswami, Malati Chendur, Gauri Deshpande, Namita Gokhale, Ruth Jhabvala, Shobha De, Arundhati Roy, Jhumpa Lahiri and many more. They are known for the contemporary approach in their novels. The novels of authors like Namita Gokhale or Shobha De are really out-spoken. Most of these female novelists are known for their bold views that are reflected in their novels. Basically, these are the novels of protest and an outburst of reservations and contaminations.
Unlike the past, where the works of women novelists were given less priority and were actually undervalued, classification of feministic or male writings hardly makes any sense today. Majority of the Indian readers comprising both male and female read the novels of the Indian women authors with certain expectations. They look for some “Indian-ness` in the write-ups. Only the women novelists of India are capable of conveying the messages of feminism in an Indian way. (Last Updated on : 22/01/2010) More Articles in Indian English Literature •R . K . Narayan •Mulk Raj Anand •V. S. Naipaul Salman Rushdie •Amit Chaudhary •Vikram Seth •Rohinton Mistry •Nissim Ezekiel •Toru Dutt •Vikram Chandra •Dhan Gopal Mukherji •Michael Madhusudan Dutt •Bharati Mukherjee •Kiran Desai •Manil Suri •Raj Kamal Jha •Shashi Deshpande •Ashok Kumar Banker •Vikas Swarup •Gita Mehta •Mukul Kesavan •Nayantara Sahgal •Shobha De •Manohar Malagaonkar •Raja Rao Litterateur •History of Indian English Literature •Women Writers in Indian English Literature •Development of Indian English Literature •Early Indian English Poetry Recently Updated Articles in Indian Literature Vishnu Sakharam Khandekar
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