Women’s Quest for Fulfillment in Patriarchal Peripheries: Study of Shashi Deshpande’s The Binding Vine
Shashi Deshpande is a writer who tries to universalize feminine perspectives by drawing comparisons among different types of women. This statement can be justified to some extent by her novel The Binding Vine. Like all feminist literary artists, a sustained analysis of allusive and elusive expression of individual is imperative for Shashi Deshpande. In her own words, her purely subjective novels ‘depend upon a private vision’. This private vision possesses extreme situations arising out of a conflict between the will and the reality evolving around the ‘self’. Her protagonists, therefore, are essentially confronted with the stupendous task of defining their relation to themselves and to their immediate human context. Her central characters, by and large, have strange childhood from which they develop a negative self-image and aversion. The immediate result is their fragmented psyche to view this world as a hostile place. The Binding Vine projects two central issues of female bonding and resistance to patriarchal ideology. The pain of the death of her baby-daughter, Anusha, seems to motivate Urmila, the central character, to reach out to other women around her who have their own tales of suffering to tell. In suffering, a unique sense of fellowship is forged, not only with the living but also with the mute 2
and the dead. Urmila is drawn, in sympathy, to Shakutai and her young daughter Kalpana, who is brutally raped and is lying unconscious, and Mira, her own dead mother-in-law who suffered rape in marriage. The healing process which begins by reading Mira’s poems continues when Urmi accidentally meets Shakutai in the hospital. Shakutai’s eldest daughter Kalpana is brought to the hospital after she is brutally beaten up and raped. Urmi feels compelled to help Shakutai, to listen to her, to keep her company. Shakutai’s fear reveals the paranoiac fear of a woman belonging to Shakutai’s class. She repeatedly requests Urmi not to tell anyone about the incident because then no one will marry her daughter. Mrinalini Sebastian accurately delineates Shakutai’s position by saying, “Shakutai’s fear reveals the control that a traditionally patriarchal society has on the women. Her statement combines many issues and reveals the importance given to the chastity of the woman and to the necessity of marriage in order to fulfill the life of a woman” (160) As time passes Urmi realizes that the act of sexual assault which Kalpana was facing is similar to that of Mira in the limits of marital sphere. She says “It runs through all her writing – a strong, clear thread of an intense dislike of the sexual act with her husband, a physical repulsion from the man she married.” (63) The 3
obsession which Mira’s husband had for her made Urmi guess the fact that he must have physically dominated her. Akka’s story about Mira never gave a clue about Mira’s feelings. Males are used to play the role of mentors and guides; marriage incites man to a capricious imperialism; the temptation to dominate is truly universal. Jane Miller describes such husbands in the words, “often older, with masculine prestige legally, ‘head to the family’, has a position of moral and social superiority, and very often he is sexually dominant also”. (128) Pages of Mira’s diary open for Urmi, her real experiences, and these inspire Mira to write her poems. Diary exposed how Mira suffered sexually at the hands of her own husband, “Love! How I hate the word. If this is love it is a “terrible thing”. (67) Mira suffered from ‘marital rape’. Marriage which gives the right to both partners to enjoy their sexual, cultural, familial and social life together became a curse for her because she was not happy with her husband’s conduct. Ellis Ethelmer in Women, the Messiah calls “Maledom cold and sere, devoid of all passions and emotions which are essential elements of life”...
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