Feminism Voice in Male Indian Authors
Literary works present avant-garde constructs which often become the basis of revolutionary social transformations. They not only embrace in themselves the social, cultural or mythical backgrounds of their native land, but also expose the fragments of alienation present in different segments of human life and its predicament. Literature therefore has always been an effective vehicle of fundamental changes. To a large extent, the popularity of feminist ethics in India has also been generated by the ‘new’ image of women presented by literary writers in their works. The abolition of certain evil practices against women in the preceding centuries had also created a much needed awareness in the society for imparting a better status to women. It was during the British rule in India that many relevant changes were made in order to ameliorate the pathetic condition of women. The Viceroy Lord William Bentik banned Sati in 1829. Social reformers like Raja Rammohan Roy had also supported this move. Similarly, remarriage of widows was sanctioned in 1856 and in 1929 a law was passed prohibiting child marriage. The most difficult task in India at that time was to educate women, because only a few women belonging to the families of zamindars were able to receive basic education. Many teachers, as well as social workers, considered it a necessity and started many educational institutions for women. In 1850s Ishwarchand Vidyasagar started many primary schools in the villages of Bengal. Arya Samaj, founded by Swami Dayanand, also propagated women’s education. John Drinkwater Bethune established the first women’s college in India in Calcutta in 1849. In 1851 Jotiba Phule came forward to educate the scheduled caste girls in Poona. Since then there has been no looking back, as women also started clamouring for education for which they had been indifferent for ages. These attempts provided the much needed impetus and Indian woman took a hesitant step towards social emancipation. Many great Indian women writers appeared on the scene who represented the educated group of Indian women. Toru Dutt, Cornelia Sorabji, Shevantibai Nikambe, Krupabai Santhianathan and Smt. Swarnkumari Ghosal are some of the prominent women writers of this time.But there are few prominent writers like Rabindranath Tagore and R.K. Narayan , who potrayed women in a different way. Homen Borgchain , Narayan Sanyal , Bimal Mitra, N. Mitra , Prem Chand, Yashpal, Nagar, Ashoka, also wrote about this under-privileged class, critically reflecting the prevailing inhumane practices and atrocities in their work. Though the English prose writing in India was started by Raja Rammohan Roy, the novels of Bankim Chandra and Lal Behari Day are accepted as the first authentic examples of fictional writing in English. Mantagini, the female protagonist of Bankim Chandra’s Rajamohan’s wife (1864), is a woman who values her feelings and affirms her individuality. She represents those Indian women who protest against conventional mores and break the barriers of self-abnegation and denial. Lal Behari Day’s Govinda Samanta is a realistic novel, which describes the socio-economic changes occurring in contemporary society. Women characters of the novel Aduri, a widow who kowtows to evil practices related with women and Malati, a rebellious woman who is not ready to succumb to the atrocities of her mother-in-law form only a part of the plot which adroitly demonstrates the leap from traditional to modern womanhood. The next generation of writers which appeared just before the Second World War, i.e., in the 1930s, picked up existing social customs and constraints as themes of their work. The first major thrust in Indian English writing came in the mid-1930’s when the big trio R.K. Narayan, Mulk Raj Anand and Raja Rao appeared on the scene. Their work created an awareness about the emerging Indo-English literature. R.K. Narayan and Bhabhani Bhattacharya portrayed modern women protagonists like ‘Rosie’ in Guide and ‘Kajoli’ in So Many Hungers respectively. Mulk Raj Anand and Raja Rao also delineated sensitive women characters in their novels.
- R.K. Narayan
R.K. Narayan has depicted two kinds of women characters – one group possesses a traditional mind-set, while the other seeks freedom from constricting social norms. The conventional group contains women who are devoted mothers, aunts, grandmothers and wives like the wives of Margayya (The Financial Expert), Srinivas and Sampath (Mr. Sampath) and Natraj. Though R.K. Narayan has portrayed some strong women protagonists, yet in most of his novels women are not treated with equality.
- Bhabhani Bhattacharya
Bhabhani Bhattacharya’s novels possess round women characters who are integral to the development of the plot. His women characters, though somewhat dominated by their male counterparts and patriarchal customs, are still full of life and hope to have a better future. Kajoli in So Many Hungers, Meera in A Goddess Named Gold, Sumita in Shadow from Ladakh are optimistic women. To Bhattacharya, women are a source of strength and thus their contribution is significant not only to their families, but also to their country.
- Raja Rao and Mulk Raj Anand
Raja Rao and Mulk Raj Anand have not taken up the theme of women’s emancipation independently. Their novels concentrate on the socio-economic issues of their times, exposing the harsh facts and realities of life. Feminist issues are only a part of their overriding concerns. However Anand’s protagonist Gauri in The Old Man and the Cow is a fine example of his idea of emancipated woman.
Modern age is considered to be the age of feminism. The women in the modern period have crossed the barriers of society. They have proved their equality to their male counterparts. The modern women are not Feminism is a kind of revolt of women against social conventions. Feminine consciousness is, of course, consciousness of females for equality with males.
- Rabindranath Tagore
An attempt has been made to focus on the feminism reflected in Tagore’s ‘Chitra’, ‘NatirPuja’ and ‘Chandalika’ in this paper. In good olden days, a womanwas considered as sub ordinate and parasite. She was not independent to lead her life. The rights of woman were completely neglected. Rabindranath Tagore has brought out his women out of the kitchen and placed them in the active stream of life. Feminism in Rabindranath Tagore challenges the traditional view of woman as the weaker sex.
- Works Cited
- Betty F. 1984.The Feminine Mystique. A Laurel Book : New York,
- Betty F. 1984.The Feminine Mystique. New York : A Laurel Book,
- Dass VN. 1995.Feminism and Literature. New Delhi : Prestige Books,
- Dwivedi AN. 1987.Studies in Contemporary Indian Fiction in English. Allahabad: Kitab Mahal,
- Harex SC. 1972.The Fire and the Offering : The English Language Novel of India 1935-1970. Calcutta : Writers Workshop,
- Harex SC. 1977.The Modern Indian Novel in English. Calcutta : Writers Workshop,
- Jain Naresh K. 1998.Women in Indo-Anglian Fiction : Tradition and Modernity. New Delhi : Manohar Publishers and Distributors,
- Juliet M. 1991.Women – The Longest Revolution, From Feminism to Liberation. Schekman : Cambridge,
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