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Hyper Sensitive Women Characters in Anita Desai's 'Voices in the City'BY: p.suresh kumar R.panneerselvam | Category: Women | Submitted: 2012-04-19 07:27:54
This Paper describing the corrosive effects of city life on young Indian minds, Voice In the city explores and expounds personal suffering arising out of the feverish sensitivity of the young intellectuals who have lost their way in the modern Urban world. It is an epic on Calcutta giving its important landmarks such as Howrah. Choringhee, Grand Hotel, Victoria Memorial etc., The novel is made up of four unequal parts: ParI- Norode Part=II-Monish, Her diary, Part III-Amla and Part IV-Mother, only parts II containing extracts from Monisha's diary is in the first person and the other sections are third person narratives. Although the four parts deal with many characters Nirode is the most dominant characters, Nirode is the most dominant character. However our interest is focused on Monisha and her Predicament only.
The plot of the Novel is very Simple is very simple. And the story runs as follows:
The feudal family of Kalimpong is dominated by the mother with an inferior drunkard father. There are four children-two sons and two daughters. Namely Arun, Nirode, Monisha and Amala. The Story opens with the departure of Arun to England for higher studies. Nirode works in a Newspaper office as a clerk. He contrast his own glaring failures with his brother's grand success. He gives up his first job, starts editing a magazine and after come time gives it up only to take to creative writing. He is a rolling stone. He is a routeless drifter who never settles down to anything worth while.
"I want to move from failure to failure.
step by step to rock bottom."
He has a certain Halmlet like hesitation,a Wavering mind, ambivalent attitudes which bring about his doom. To make matters worse, he has no faith in himself. Like him, his sister Monisha, is a victim of the circumstances of hher own making. She is married to Jiban who is a middle class Government officer and is pushed into a large joint family. She is tormented by her indifferent husband and consequent loneliness. Similarly Amla, a commericial artist of Bombay comes to Calcutta and ends up as a victim of her own evil ways. She keeps attending cocktail parties, dance clubs and leads a loose life. She develops an affair with Dharma who is already married. She is soon disillusioned and becomes unhappy.
Thus the story reflects a vivd picture of India's Social transition-a Phase in which the older elements are not altogether dead, and the emergent only not fully evolved.
In this novel also, desai has dealt with her usual theme of feminine sensibility and distorted husband-wife relationship. The tortures feminine psyche is laid before us in all its vividness. Through apt symbolism, the novelist has rendered the pathetic plight of the heroine that touches our heart. The mental turmoil and spiritual predicament of the heroine are a source of a great interest and a contemporary relevance.
"Dr.R.S. Sharma, an outstanding critic on Anita Desai Remarks" with all its strong sense of place and locale, the novel operates Primarily on a symbolic level. But it has a vast canvas of events, Characters and tangled relationships that add to the narrative appeal"
R. S. Sharma, P.28
The character of Monisha has all the significance of the theme concentrated in it. Desai focused on her trials and tribulations, tortures ans torments so as to portray her loneliness, despair and spiritual and mental emptiness in clearer light. There is the collateral theme of the search for identify on the part of the main characters, Nirode, Monisha and Amala. They seach for a meaningful existence. To dramatize their predicament, Desai has made the city of Culcutta a vital character of the novel. It is described as a Monster City, the city of Goddess Kali, the Creator, the Preserver and Destroyer. All the characters get entangled in their Physical, emotional and spiritual relationships with the city. The city is an echo of the London of Dickens and the Egdon Health of Hardy. The title is named Voices in the City:- To imply the fact that the city is a Tower pf Bable.
Monisha fights a relentless battle against her lost self and is in the process doomed to degeneration and destruction. In many respects she respects she resembles Maya in that she also is childless, sensitive and victim of an ill-matched matrimony. Whereas Mays us lonely individual in a single hole, Modidha lives in joint family with her in-laws. Though she has a separate room, for herself, she suffers hell and untold oppression at the hands of her in laws. She is a very sensitive intellectual laced in a very hostile, adcerse and uncongenial environment. She feels desperate and completely alienated from her husband, in-laws and the outside world. She is a pocture of endless mentl and spiritual agony. She has no peace or happiness at all because her husband is indifferent, unresponsive and insensitive. He does not understand her feelings or agony. He doesn't care for them at all. The result is that she becomes a neurotic and commits suicide. The fate of Monisha has a universal significance becuse4 she typifies the lot and destiny of many such Indian women.
Nirode, her brother and Amla her sister are also condemned characters. They are also victims of illusion, self-delusion and emotional alienation. They suffer so much on account of their natural weakness, and short-comings. Besides, there is their mother who is a powerful character in the novel and who lives away from them at kalimpong.
From the beginning the theme of loneliness, alienation and loss of identify of the characters, is often stressed by the novelist to create an atmosphere of dramatic tension and conflict. In the suffocating darkness of their world, they have no communication.
To depict the plight of the characters the novelties uses Bird-Imaginary. Desai identifies, birds with natural freedom as they soar in the sky. But once cages their wings are clipped and they are deprived of all movement and so feel imprisoned. This analogy is invoked symbolically in the context of the predicaments of the main characters. They are feltered and held in bondage to a cruel family, a cruel society and cruel world.
Nirode has an attitude of aversion towards his mother and puts her in a bad light. She is unkind and inconsiderate.
"Her voice was like the thick fur of a winter beast"
A.D, V.C., P.17
"She swallowed father whole like a Cobra"
A.D, V.C., P.190
Monisha's Position is that of as cages bird always behind bars. Her nothingness of existence is waiting for nothing,
"Waiting for Godot -a life spent in waiting for nothing
wqaiting on men self-contred and indifferent... Waiting for
Cemetery is a macabre symbol used by Desai to convey the idea of Death. The whole city of Culcutta is pictured as a city of Death. Cemetery is the symbol for this indication. It is a place where death reigns supreme. Moniosha lives in Calcutta-lives with Death. The pale dawn Breeze is another symbol associated with the cold reality of Death. Enjoying the cool breeze she leeps moving within the circle of Death. There is also the symbol of black representing mourning her destiny. To reinforce further, her plight, the suther invokes the beautiful image of the sunset.
The image of the sunset indicates the end of anything bright and cheerful. Death, mourning, tragic end the ideas underlined here.
By an effective and skilful employment of such images the another has largely succeeded in bringing home to the readers the plight of the heroine, which is the secret of its success.
When to souls combine through happy wedlock some kind of enduring affection and understanding is assured. But marriages gone through, without reference to the attitudes and viewpoints of the parties concerned, are bound to fail. Mutual consideration and regard for each other's feelings and attitudes make for fruitful conjugal living. But in India male dominated tendencies expect woman to adjust. The hostility of the family members and rigid social conventions makes the discord all the more bitter. Anita Dasai has portrayed marital disharmonies as they exist in the Indian male dominated society. Aunt Leila hates men particularly her fat and self satisfied, long dead husband. Her daughter Rita has gone through a short-lived wedding. Somy's two sisters present pathetic pictures. Leila had now issssived in foul poverty and looks on paying guests to make a living.
Desai, Anitaq. voice in the city, Delhi: Orient paper Backs,1980.
Prasad Madhusudan. An Anthology of critical Essays, Indian English novelists. Delhi: Sterling publishing private lid, 1983.
Desai, Anita. Where shall we Go this Summer?. Delhi: Orient Paper Backs, 1982.
Rao. Ramachandra. B. The Novels of Anita Desai A Study. Delhi: Kalyani Publishers, 1977
An Interview with Anita Desai. Writers workshop, Calcutta, 1983
Srivastava R.K., Anita Desai At work. Gaziabad, 1984.
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