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Authors: Krishna, Niyathi R.
Keywords: Women and Empowerment in Othappu
present research work interpretspresent
Issue Date: May-2016
Abstract: The present research work interprets and analyses women, environment, and empowerment in the selected novels of Sarah Joseph and Anita Nair from a feminist perspective. Sarah Joseph, one of the pioneers in promoting Ecriture Feminine stream in Malayalam literature, and Anita Nair, who holds an important position as a writer of feminine sensibility in the Indian English Literature, are contemporary writers hailing from Kerala, India. While sharing a significant overlap of cultural and geographical contexts of Kerala in their writings, they both own their distinct voices in presenting their female characters and linking natural as well as cultural environment to their life situations, especially in the six novels selected for the present study. The selected novels consist of three translated novels of Sarah Joseph namely Othappu: The Scent of the Other Side (2009), Gift in Green (2011) and The Vigil (2014), and the first three novels written by Anita Nair namely The Better Man (2000), Ladies Coupé (2001) and Mistress (2005). The research also aims at examining the role of environment in the empowerment/disempowerment of women and vice versa. Here, the term ‘environment’ cuts across the schisms of nature and culture. Further, the thesis comparatively analyses the depiction of woman-nature and man-nature metaphors, and examines the influence of male gaze in these novels. It also comparatively studies the writings of Sarah Joseph and Anita Nair in respect of their themes of women, environment and empowerment. The present research work is interdisciplinary in character, as it merges the horizons of literature, feminist thought and ecofeminist criticism. The thesis is divided into six chapters. Chapter 1, entitled “Introduction”, includes the concept and methodology of the thesis, along with literary background of the writers and their respective novels. While Othappu: The Scent of the Other Side (2009) and Ladies Coupé (2001) narrate women’s journey to the actualisation and empowerment, Gift in Green (2011) and The ii Vigil (2014) focus on the connection of environment and empowerment, and the various levels of marginalisation of women. The Better Man (2000) and Mistress (2005) picturise the inevitable interconnection of women, nature and culture and depict the impact of environment on women. Chapter 2, named “Theoretical Background”, discusses the concept of ‘woman’ in feminism, major feminist texts, genealogy of feminism, environmentalism, ecofeminism, women and environment in literature, women in environmental movements, and finally their empowerment, so as to understand the theoretical framework of this research. Chapter 3, captioned “Women and Empowerment in Othappu: The Scent of the Other Side and Ladies Coupé”, scrutinises one master piece each of Sarah Joseph and Anita Nair, conceptualising ‘othering’, where the female protagonists are in search of their identity. The novels project a mirror to the Indian society, where women are denied their individual identities while they are forced to ascribe to the conventional norms of ‘womanhood’ as the one and only identity. The chapter explains how both the novelists strongly believe that empowerment is possible only when a woman is ready to break the limitations attributed to her womanhood, and then redefine those limitations. With the analysis of Man-Woman-Environment metaphors in the selected novels, it is evident that the two novelists differ in their gynocentric and androcentric points of view, and in the rejection and adoption of male gaze. Chapter 4, entitled “Environment and Empowerment in Gift in Green and The Vigil”, examines the impact of environmental protection/destruction in empowerment in the mentioned novels written by Sarah Joseph. Man-Woman-Environment metaphors and connections depicted in the novels exemplify the distinct style of Joseph, where nature and natural elements are ‘characters’ with almost similar subjectivity. Through these novels, she also proposes the value of a feminine-sensitive-life style to remain in harmony with nature. The correlation between women, surrounding environment and their link to empowerment, are analysed in Chapter 5, named “Women and Empowerment in The Better Man and Mistress”. This chapter explores two novels written by iii Anita Nair, in which she narrates the lives of various women and the complimentary connection of environment and their quality of life. This chapter gives an account of Nair’s skill in detailing environment in the character formation of every individual in her novels. The 6th chapter, captioned “Conclusion”, summarises this research project and elucidates the outcomes of the study. The major findings conclude that environment has a very vital impact on the empowerment/disempowerment of female characters and vice versa in the novels of Sarah Joseph and Anita Nair. The chapter also points to some suggestions for future research
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