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Authors: Yadav, Sangeeta
Keywords: IDEALISM
Issue Date: 2004
Abstract: Caught between idealisation and authenticity, Indian woman has always captured the interest of Indian English Writers. The phallocentric world of the earlier writers is inhabited more by the tradition-oriented women. But the concept of ideal and real or rather, oftradition and modernity, keeps changing with time and circumstances. The notions to set apart conventionals from non-conventionals, though well defined in traditional Indian society, have been perpetually in a flux. Therefore, the contrastive study of the female characters in the novels of two writers belonging to two different generations helps in clearly bringing out the various trends and vivid changes evolved during that time span. In Indian context, women have always been idealised in the wake of stereotyped images of Sita and Savitri. The literary scene in India since the publication of Bankim Chandra Chatterjee's novel Rajmohan's Wife in 1864 has undergone avast change. The fictional images ofwomen that emerged thereafter were subordinate and secondary. Women characters portrayed by writers like Raja Rao, Mulk Raj Anand and to some extent R.K.Narayan, are meek and yielding. Achange is noticed in the case of Bhabani Bhattacharya, who presents woman as ideal and not yet so weak stereotypes. With the arrival of the second generation of writers like Anita Desai and Shashi Deshpande, the literary scene at the domestic front started changing. The females of this genre of literature are comparatively bolder and conscious of their emerging identities. The new or the modern woman as penned by writers like Namita Gokhale and Shobha De, surpasses every patriarchal norm laid down by the conventional society. As such, the women characters in the novels of Bhabani Bhattacharya and IV Shobha De emerge as paradigms of their respective generation and therefore, the contrast between the two, conspicuously bring forth the distinct and variegated difference between ideal and real woman. Bhattacharya's women characters follow the chalked out path of traditional Indian woman. However his benevolent portrayal is evidence of his progressive attitude towards them. Although the ideal image of Indian woman as obedient daughter, devoted wife and sacrificing mother still dominates his fiction, they enjoy considerable freedom due to his liberal mindset. Shobha De's fiction, on the other hand, presents socialite women of metropolitan cities of India, especially Mumbai. Her female figures are steps ahead of their middle class predecessors, and so identity and freedom is more important to them than their home and family. These females are career oriented, ambitious, individualistic and permissive. They have completely re-defined the manwoman relationship by shedding off servile attitude towards their male counterparts. In this context first chapter, "Women in Major Indian English Fiction", depicts the gradual awakening of female consciousness and their protest against the male domination in tradition-oriented society as reflected in the novels of Raja Rao, R.K.Narayan, Bhabani Bhattacharya, Kamala Markandaya, Anita Desai, Shashi Deshpande, Namita Gokhale and Shobha De. The changing phases are recorded according to their portrayal as subordinate and insignificant initially and then as slightly rebellious and identity conscious later and finally as liberated and emancipated. Thus, the chapter is a detailed study of the Indian woman's journey from tradition to transition and finally to modernity. The second chapter, "Background that Shaped the Vision of Bhabani Bhattacharya" records various factors responsible for shaping his literary genius. Along with the western impact due to his education abroad, Tagore and Gandhi too leave pronounced influence on his fiction, which is evident in almost all his novels. Contemporary socio-political issues like the political upsurge against the British and the Bengal Famine also provided him the background to some of his novels. The charismatic personality of his wife, Salila, also gives Bhattacharya a direction to depict Indian women into ideal mould. Bhattacharya, therefore, manifests his various ideals through his novels. The third chapter entitled, "Analysis of the Major Women Characters in the Novels ofBhabani Bhattacharya" is detailed study ofall the major female characters in his novels. The chapter highlights his female characters as largely traditional. Much to the influence ofhis conventional background and also the conservative depiction ofhis predecessors like Raja Rao and Mulk Raj Anand, Bhattacharya has yet gone ahead and turned largely liberal to his female characters. The puritanical images of the selfeffacing Sita and Savitri dominated the works ofthe writers ofhis time, yet he himself could not completely deny the freedom to his female figures and, therefore, they are portrayed as companions to their male counterparts and not as mere second fiddles. The fourth Chapter titled as "Metropolitan Modernity in the Life and Time of Shobha De", captures the life-style of the Indian socialites. The chapter also sums up various factors, which influenced the writer in Shobha De. Influence of various western feminists like Simone-de-Beauvoir, Kate Millet, Elaine Showalter, along with her livid experiences as model first and later as the editor of fashion magazines like Society, Celebrity and Stardust, serve as the background to her fiction. Contrary to the writers who have presented idealised females in their fictional works, De portrays women of upper class society who have outgrown the constrains of Indian prudery. She VI highlights, questions and redefines the roles of women, particularly of cosmopolitan city like Mumbai. The close acquaintance with the metropolitan life of India helped her in describing vividly the multifaceted life-style of these socialites. Chapter fifth, "Analysis of Major Women in the Novels of Shobha De" is a comprehensive study of the major female characters in her six novels i.e. Socialite Evenings, Starry Nights, Sisters, Strange Obsession, Sultry Days and Snapshots. The chapter projects urban woman's dreams and desires and her struggle to achieve recognition in this male dominated society. In protest against the projection of woman as beautiful, sensitive, submissive and kind creature with single aim in her mind - marriage and home, Shobha De presents herfemale as a creature with equal rights to be free, and to survive as an individual being. Her educated, urban and metropolitan women are out to claim their rights and establish their identities on their own terms. The patriarchal norms related to marriage, sex and power are all thwarted by them. Chapter sixth, "From Ideal to Real: Women in the Novels of Bhabani Bhattacharya and Shobha De" sums up the findings of all the previous chapters of this study and tries to fulfil its objectives as the contrastive study of the female characters of Bhabani Bhattacharya and Shobha De, one as the precursor of tradition and idealism in women on liberal plane, and the other as the forerunner in portraying women of substance, emancipated on social, moral and intellectual front.
Other Identifiers: Ph.D
Appears in Collections:DOCTORAL THESES (HSS)

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