All posts by aconfessingbook

Rajmohan’s wife by Bankim Chandra Chatterjee

Rajmohan’s wife, written by Bankim Chandra Chatterjee, was the first novel written in English by an Indian author. The story revolves around the life of Matangini, who is the protagonist and the wife of the man mentioned in the title. The very fact that this novel written during the British rule, after the revolt of 1857 has as the protagonist a woman character, is interesting and revolutionary in itself. In the middle of the 19th century when India was grappling under the colonial rule, the women of the country had a very subjugated position.

One of the major reasons for this was India’s attempt to show the British that the upholders of Indian culture that is the women of India, are symbols of docility and purity and cannot be touched by the British. In this attempt to prove themselves equal to the British, the Indians made the women scapegoats. But Rajmohan’s wife turns out revolutionary in a sense that the protagonist is a strong willed woman, who transgresses the social norms of the society by expressing her love for her brother-in-law, by running away from her husband to stand for what is right. In this sense it brings liberation for the woman. But the novel also mirrors the ills of the society through the domestic life of Matangini. She is married off in haste because of the poor financial condition of her father. Her husband is ruthless, beats her up for no cause, and she becomes one who is incarcerated within a marriage. The portrayal of other women like Matangini’s younger sister Hemangini who is docile and subservient, is a commentary on the society and what it expects it women to be like.

Another important aspect of the time this novel was written in is the fact that novels after the revolt of 1857 began being written for igniting a fire in the hearts of the youth to fight for the freedom of their country. Matangini’s character can also be seen as embodying the ideals of what Mother India symbolised, thereby acting as a wake up call for the Indian youth to fight for the liberation of the nation.

Submitted by:

Pinky Singh

Roll No:596

ORANGES ARE NOT THE ONLY FRUIT- A READING OF THE INTERTEXTUALITY

Jeanette Winterson’s novel Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit when published in 1985 as her first novel , it was unanimously regarded as “a realistic and heavily autobiographical comedy of ‘coming out’” (Onega ) in which the narrative structure employs elements derived from the Bildungsroman tradition -expression of  the heroine’s quest for individuation, as much as a feminist gesture of self-assertion, deployed in a hostile Pentecostal Evangelist environment. The story of young Jeanette, the character, clearly echoes the author’s own story: the protagonist falls in love with another girl, and has to fight her emotional way through the coercive norms of her religious community in the North of England. The novel was read in the light of the emerging “lesbian theories,” and the confrontational overtones of the author’s declarations about her sexual preferences certainly served to reinforce the political agenda of the text. This approach to the novel happened to dominate and supersedes any other , but beyond this reading approach it is remarkable to observe how the novel is structured as a chaotic system constituted by several layers of signifícation whose interaction creates infinite patterns of interpretation which plays with the postmodernist notions of identity, shaping up an postmodernist antitotalizing  narrative.

Postmodernist literature is characterized by distinctive features (among many others) such as the  radical loss of belief in and recurrent attempts to deconstruct both the traditional master narratives upon which Western thought is based and the idea of the “bourgeois individual subject” as aunified stable entity,”which is denounced by (Fredric Jameson and other analysts of postmodernism) as one of the most widespread artificial constructions of the patriarchal system, of realistic fiction and of the Western world view at large” (Onega) and , the struggle of social groups marginalized by the dominant “andró- (phallo-), hetero-, Euro-, ethno- centrisms” (Linda Hutcheon,) for a space in cultural expression and social recognition.

Within this context, Jeanette Winterson’s Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit  sets out to explore, redefine and reassert the notion of the individual subject from the position of its autodiegetic books of the Old Testament. As usual in much postmodernist writing, Winterson engages in a subversion of a master narrative through parody revision —she works from within the foundations of patriarchal thought that she intends to undermine by transforming them into the bases of her lesbian political manifesto.

One of the most explicit strategies for achieving this aim is the employment of postmodernist stylistic technique of intertextuallity. It manifest in the intertextual relationship between the Holy Bible and Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit and can be explored through a close scrutiny of the functions of the intertitles of the novel, and how biblical stories and the narrative of the novel establish a two-way dialog between each other.

It can be argued that Oranges is indeed a chaotic novel, although in a sense different from the one to which Winterson seems to allude in her introduction.The novel apparently develops along a main narrative axis: the autodiegetic narrator’s account of her psychological, emotional and social evolution from seven-year-old girl to adult woman. Yet, this process of maturation, which follows the pattern of traditional Bildungsromane, is supplemented and given depth in perspective and scope by the insertion and superimposition of other narrative layers. This disposition of the material in apparently independent scales, together with frequent allusions —either explicit or implicit— to previous literary and historical texts, produces a series of parallelisms and interactions among the multiplicity of elements that provide a higher level of complexity to the overall result. In this way, the realistic account of Jeanette’s childhood in the first four chapters is enriched by the embedding of one nightmare and several fairy tales, in accordance with the small age of prime focus, which mirror the immediately preceding or following passages. In contrast, the last three chapters —after the break marked by the philosophical “Deuteronomy”— deal with the protagonist as a passage through adolescence to youth and the Bildungsroman becomes a real tale of a heroine’s quest for identity: Jeanette’s struggle to accept her sexual orientation in spite of the reactionary religious education she has received, and to become strong enough to remain unaffected from external aggression when she reasserts her lesbian identity. The greater significance of these events is pinpointed by the shift in tone as fairy tales give way to stories of a mythic and even legendary character. In all, there are many levels of narratives intertwined a along the novel, some of them in apparent isolation, like the story which little Jeanette invents around the figure of a personified tetrahedron, her wedding nightmare, or her summary of Beauty and the Beast. The rest are overtly linked among themselves: the fairy tale about the prince that sought a flawless wife is connected to Jeanette’s vision of the Winter Palace ,through the figure of the sacrificed goose and such on.

More notably, throughout the book, a clear intertextuality between the Bible and Jeanette’s life has been rendered visible. Living in a religious family, Jeanette’s life is a religious one; her community is a religious community. In the beginning, she is raised to be a missionary and to serve the church. One finds a large number of biblical quotes and hymns in honour of God in the account of Jeanette’s life. Interestingly enough, the names of the chapters of Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit are the names of the first eight books of the Old Testament. This appropriation of the Bible to some extent relates to the life story of Jeanette. Just as the first five books of the Old Testament are about the law of the world, the first five chapters of Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit are also about the law of the world in which Jeanette lives in. It’s a world of cruelness and obedience. In this world, a father figure like God is absent, instead, the law is represented by a feminine figure, Jeanette’s mother. The last three chapters tell the dramatic changes in Jeanette’s life after her affair with Melanie is let out of the bag, just as the next three books of Joshua, Judges and Ruth narrate the history of Israel.The intertitles of Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit serve as the narrative thread of the book, with the narratives of the Bible serving as an interpretative framework for the story of Jeanette’s. Furthermore, these biblical stories render it possible to do an allegorical reading of Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit. Foucault, in The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences argues that all periods of history have certain underlying epistemological assumption.The Bible, in the case of this novel serves as an episteme or a pretext. It itself can be used as an allegory to interpret Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit.

The implications that can be extracted from such an accumulation of narrative scales and the various interconnections that link them together with the suggestive power of apparently simple passages whose connotative richness adds different nuances to the overall purpose of the text, may allow for striking, unexpected readings of the novel that will depend on the reader’s capacity to decode the implicit information.

To discuss this element in greater depth, it is significant to notice how the whole plotline of Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit is constructed upon and driven by the religious belief of Christianity. Jeanette is adopted and raised to be a missionary in a Christian family. After her love affair with a girl is exposed to her mother and the church, she is forced to leave her family. Obviously there is an intertextual relationship between the Bible and Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, the most conspicuous indication of which is provided by the table of contents of Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit: apart from the introduction, which serves as a preface to the fiction as a whole, its eight chapters are respectively named after the first eight books of the Old Testament, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, and Ruth. Besides, biblical stories and quotes are referred to repeatedly throughout the novel. These references to, or rather, appropriation of the Bible indicate not only the Christian environment where Jeanette lives, but also the development of her story through the history of Israel in the Bible.In this way, the laws of the Bible become the laws of Jeanette’s world. The history of the Israeli people implies the history of Jeanette, in that the Bible, as the exclusive moral guideline within her community, directly affects Jeanette’s personal life. Creating this intertextual relationship between Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit and the Bible, Winterson has placed her book against a more macro backdrop, equating an individual’s private history with the public history of a religious group, and hence attesting to her idea that all history is socially constructed.

 

In the Bible, the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy constitute the five books of Moses. They lay down the laws in the Old Testament; however, their importance exceeds this function. The laws are not only the rules established by God, but also a religious covenant with Him. When the covenant is broken, so is the faith in Him. Similarly, in Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, when Jeanette transgresses the covenant by starting a love affair with a girl, her relationships with both God and her mother, who like God, represents ultimate authority for Jeanette, are broken.

Deuteronomy, the last book of Moses, is at the same time the last book of the law, asWinterson suggests in her novel but it deserves mention at the onset of the discussion here irrespective of its placing in the novel , as it possess the power to become a prerequisite for further development  and progressing of the argument.The Book of Deuteronomy contains various farewell messages from Israel’s leader. Its addressees are the new generation and the laymen of the religious world. In Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, the chapter “Deuteronomy” is the shortest as well as the most unique one. It is not so much a chapter of a novel as a short reflection, in which the narrator discusses time, history, and the lessons to be learned, just as the Book of Deuteronomy in the Bible aims to do. Compared with other chapters in the novel, this chapter resembles the corresponding Bible book the most because it speaks directly to the reader. Nevertheless, the contents of the Book of Deuteronomy and the novel’s eponymous chapter are quite different in that the biblical book pays close attention to the basic law of the Israeli people, while the novel’s chapter questions the nature of time, history and laws. Concluding the first section of her novel with such a didactic and challenging chapter, Winterson draws the reader’s attention to her philosophical scepticism of history and of narration. She proposes that history is constructed by humankind, just as, is the case with the relationship between the Bible and this novel: Very often history is a means of denying the past. Denying the past is to refuse to recognise its integrity. To fit it, force it, function it, to suck out the spirit until it looks the way you think it should.

We are all historians in our small way -to validate this point, Winterson makes Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit an experimental fiction, interweaving her main story with various narrative threads such as Arthurian legends and mythic tales. Winterson’s adoption of raw materials from her personal life and mythic legends and from her semi-autobiography induces the reader to question the nature of a novel, history, and life.

Also, in keeping with her intention to deconstruct the validity of (sacred) history, Winterson embarks on an explicit reflection on the nature of the category “history” and its relation with thatof “stories” in the central chapter: “Deuteronomy. The last book of the law”. In this chapter, Winterson denounces the “reducing of stories called history”as the end-product of a series of manipulations of past events “until it looks the way you think it should” so that people “know what to believe and what not to believe” and can be “kept where they belong” .This absolutist manoeuvre of privileging the story told from the hegemonic point of view over all the Others is, according to Winterson, “a means of denying the past” and of silencing those Other discordant voices that might destabilize the power of the dominant social groups. The narrating voice launches a further attack on the authority of any official history in her defence of the importance of being aware of the subjectivity and relativity of perspective inherent in every account of “reality”.

Now, to come to discussion according to numerical ordering of the chapters, we know that The Book of Genesis is divided into two sections: the first part relates the beginning of the world and the spread of sin, culminating in the destructive flood in the days of Noah; the second part focuses on Abraham and how God deals with him. Through Abraham, God promises the world that He will bring salvation and blessings to His people. Consequently, people begin to trust in God. Abraham’s calling marks an important stage in the development of God’s relationship with His people. In Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, the chapter “Genesis” tells the beginning of the novel as well:Jeanette is adopted and raised by a religious family, living under the pressure of a zealous mother. Jeanette has been homeschooled, until at the end of this chapter, she is forced to go to school. Similar to the Bible, this chapter reveals the beginning of Jeanette’s life story and the “devastating flood” of her life, the termination of her homeschooling. In this chapter, I read Jeanette’s mother as symbolizing Abraham, through whom God’s words are spread to his children and the people. In the Bible, God institutes a covenant firsthand with Abraham, promising that He shall bring blessings to him, his family, and his next generations. Abraham and his family learn that they can put trust in God in times of famine and feasting. One generation after another, God’s promises are spread in a great nation. Similarly, in Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, Jeanette’s mother represents Jeanette’s initial contact with God. Her mother’s pious prayers and trust in God lead Jeanette to trust in God as well. The covenant between Jeanette and God is thus established.

 

The second book of Moses, Exodus, documents how Israel is born as a nation. InOranges Are Not the Only Fruit, Jeanette, leaving her protecting home, enters into the school life. This chapter marks her birth as an independent person. In this chapter, Jeanette first experiences the conflict between her religious belief and secular life. The school becomes her Egypt, where she is treated differently and where she is misunderstood by her fellow classmates. For example, in the sewing class, when asked to work on a verbal embroidering project, other children come up with sentences such as “TO MOTHER WITH LOVE” and birthday motifs, but Jeanette wants to embroider the text “THE SUMMER IS ENDED AND WE ARE NOT YET SAVED” (Jeremiah 8:20). Because of this reference to the Bible, her teacher accuses her of upsetting other children. Unfortunately, Jeanette’s home is her Egypt as well, due to her mother’s dominance over her for many years.

The next biblical book, Leviticus, contains God’s guidelines for His newly redeemed people, teaching them how to worship, praise and obey the holy God. It records the laws the priests of Leviticus must obey. This book contains some of the rules and laws given by Moses himself to the people of Israel. Similarly, in the corresponding chapter of the novel, it is shown that Jeanette has accepted the rules and creeds her mother sets up for her. For instance, in the opening scene of this chapter, Jeanette and her mother hear a loud noise coming from their next door neighbours. Her mother identifies it as a sign of fornication, while Jeanette, not knowing what it means exactly, is sure that it signifies a sin. In the second part of this chapter, a tale of a prince who is determined to find a perfect woman as his wife is narrated.Nevertheless, he learns from a beautiful woman he has found that perfection does not reside in flawlessness, but in the balance between different qualities and strengths.This tale corresponds to Jeanette’s disagreement with the priest: when the priest declares that perfection is flawlessness, Jeanette realizes that “it was at this moment that I began to develop my first theological disagreement”. This disagreement marks her first protest against the religious authority and forebodes a more formidable storm in the following chapters. Both the main plot and the imaginative tale pose a challenge to the theme of Leviticus – the worshipping of God as the only perfection of the world.

The fourth book of Moses, Numbers, takes wanderings for its theme. Most of this book is about the Israelis’ wanderings in the open wilderness. The lesson of Numbers is that it might be necessary to pass through the wilderness, but one does not have to live there for life. This lesson corresponds to the desire expressed in the chapter “Numbers” in Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit: one should be able to explore one’s true desires without being abandoned by one’s community. The chapter “Numbers” marks the turning point of Jeanette’s life and the novel. In this chapter, Jeanette tries to assess the matters of love and marriage, bringing a feminist perspective to these subjects. Later she meets Melanie and gradually falls in love with her. This chapter reveals Jeanette’s exploration of her sexuality and her true self.

In the Bible, after the five books of the law come the twelve historical books, from the Book of Joshua to the Book of Esther. Winterson employs the first three historical books, the books of Joshua, Judges, and Ruth in her novel. The Book of Joshua tells the story of the capable leader, Joshua, who has led Israel in three major military campaigns. The lesson of Joshua is that victory comes through faith in the holy God and obedience to Him, instead of through violent wars or numerical advantages. In

Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, the chapter “Joshua” witnesses how Jeanette’s mother and her church deal with her love affair with Melanie. To some extent, this account bears the character of a military war between conservative religious faith and individual freedom in sexuality and love. In an attempt to save her, Jeanette is exorcised and confined, a treatment which conjures up the images of ancient witch trials and the persecution of aberrations such as homosexuality. However, by the end of this chapter, Jeanette falls in love with another girl called Katy, which symbolizes the beginning of her acceptance of her true desires.

The biblical Book of Judges presents complete contrast to the Book of Joshua. In Joshua, obedient people conquer the land through the power of God, while in the Book of Judges, disobedient people are defeated again and again due to their rebellion against God. During those years, governed by different leaders, Israel is in lack of a central leadership for the people. The Book of Judges demonstrates how Israel sets aside God’s law and follows its own counsel. In Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, the chapter “Judges” is fragmented. In the beginning, Jeanette remains in the church while at the same time she keeps her affair with Katy going. But in the end, she finally decides to move out, step into the wide world, and set up her own law.

The Book of Ruth is a cameo story of love and devotion dealing with the themes of exile and relationship between women, a daughter and her mother-in-law in this case.

The main character, Ruth, is a woman who chooses to stay in Israel with her mother-in-law, Naomi, after her husband’s death. She abandons her pagan background and clings to the Israeli people and their God. Curiously enough, the Book of Ruth is one of the few books in the Bible with a woman as its main character. Winterson’s novel ends with a chapter entitled “Ruth”, leaving a feminist trace to the fiction. In the chapter “Ruth”, Jeanette wanders around in the world, working as an ice-cream van driver to support herself. In the end, she comes back home to spend a Christmas, and sees her mother, not obsessed with Jeanette’s sexuality as before, still practice her faithful law. Jeanette may not be able to stay with her mother for good as Ruth does with her mother-in-law in the Bible, but her coming back suggests that relationship between Jeanette and her mother is to somewhat not severed.

Through the comparison between the Bible’s and Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit’ stable of contents and between each book’s and chapter’s general ideas, it is obvious that Winterson appropriates the main themes of the first eight books of the Old Testament to construct the plot of her own novel. The first five chapters of Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit set up the law of the religious community, the law Jeanette’s mother and her church piously obey and force Jeanette to obey as well, while in the last three chapters, the novel culminates in conflict but moves towards a calm ending.

Finally accepting her sexuality and desires, Jeanette breaks with the old law and lays down her own law. Jeanette’s mother, for the love of her daughter and her God, eventually admits that oranges are not the only fruit.

 

 

 

 

Rubina hazarika

Roll no. 702

EXAMINING LIVES OF TOP GIRLS IN “TOP GIRLS” BY CARYL CHURCHILL

Top Girls (1982) by Caryl Churchill is a play that explores the struggles faced by women through ages in order to establish themselves in a patriarchal world. It encapsulates the theme of feminism, intertwining it with the social and political issues of the time. Written in the time when Women Movements were being accorded, the play talks about the advancing image of the “New Woman”, at the same time underscoring the price paid to attain the same. The play is nonetheless thought-provoking and the most recounted play by Caryl, and is even considered a masterpiece.

 

The play focuses on the life of Marlene, a career-driven woman, who has been recently promoted to the post of a Managing Director in her employment agency called ‘Top Girls’. In order to celebrate she goes out for dinner with five women from the past in Act One. It is a surreal scene which resurrects these women from legend, myth and history. All of them narrate their life experiences of how they strived through life and succeeded in their own ways. Despite being from different eras of history and belonging to different social classes, what unites them is their common attempt, however small or intense, of not succumbing to patriarchy.

 

Isabella Bird, the Victorian traveler, and also the first European woman to have met the Moroccan Emperor, talks about her thirst for travel and adventures and her aversion towards the concept of settling in a “domestic life”. It highlights the sense of independence that travel granted her and that she achieved despite her severe health issues. She performed her duties as well, but it is her desire to explore that makes her admirable.

 

Lady Nijo, through her experiences as a mistress to the Emperor of Japan, draws attention to the sexual exploitation faced by women under such professions. However, Nijo not only accepts her position but also believes its honorable, which is worth noting. She rebels to the act of patriarchy by beating the emperor for one of his heinous ceremonies. This act of hers is not only praiseworthy but also indicative of the little acts through which women challenged the male dominance.

 

Pope Joan is another noteworthy woman who left home to seek knowledge and disguised herself as a man later. She inspired people with her knowledge and served as a Pope. However on being discovered she was “stoned to death” because “children, women and lunatics can’t be Pope”. This accentuates the horrors women go through in a man’s world. Not only are they denied of equal opportunities such as education, but are exterminated on being discovered in places/positions they are forbidden. Nonetheless, Joan is an inspiration to women of all eras.

 

Dull Gret led an army of women peasants into hell, fighting Devils, killing them ruthlessly. Her story is one of valor and strength, exhibiting the power of women to fight against all the problems, big or small. Patient Griselda is another guest, who is famous for her integrity and forbearing character. Despite suffering at the hands of her husband, much to the displeasure of other guests, she forgives him. Her character is in opposition to other guests but does highlight the forgiving nature and the strength of a woman’s character.

 

All these women bear entirely different characters and were a part of different circumstances, but they are glorified for their strength. This scene has a feminist aspect to it as we see them encouraging, supporting and empowering each other, thus inspiring the womankind.

 

Along with surrealism, the play also adopts features of Brechtian Drama in the form of alienation effect and also the cast playing different characters in different scenes.

However the core of the play lies in the following acts, Two and Three, which examines the central issues faced by women in a modern world.

 

Marlene comes across as the “Modern Woman”, who gives up her personal life for her job. Women in those days could choose either their career or have a family. She chooses the former at a price of being disowned by her sister. Joyce, on the other hand, chooses the domestic life and is envious of her sister’s, Marlene’s success. In fact, Marlene’s act of leaving behind family to progress in life is looked upon by them as abandonment. She is abhorred for being ambitious. Indeed, none of them are fully happy in their situations because they both are in extremes, which highlights the need for a balance between domestic and career-driven life.

 

If you analyze the play from a feminist perspective you will have mixed reviews. Marlene is inspiring for the success she manages to achieve in a male dominated world. It emphasizes the ability of women to establish themselves in every front. It is very empowering to see her act in her role as an independent, tough woman who achieves her goals. Her reaction to Mrs Kidd’s accusations is commendable because she retains her position as being worthy of it. In fact a modern feminist would even consider her hatred for her father for his acts of domestic violence as just in nature and feminist in approach.

 

However, Marlene also ends up appearing “anti-feminist” as she makes use of same instruments that patriarchy does in order to survive. We do see instances of women being dominated by other women. For example, Marlene doesn’t really care much about Joyce or Angie, who is her daughter and has no heart for the “weak, lazy or frightened”. She is too professional and even ignorant of the struggles of working class. She supports Margaret Thatcher, who despite being first woman British Prime Minister, didn’t do much to improve women’s situation. As some critics say, Marlene does embody some elements of patriarchy, as she makes use of similar standards that men do to achieve success, at the cost of other women, focusing only self growth and benefit and not showing much kindness.

 

Such a portrayal of her character is done only to critique it, highlighting the feminist aspect of the play. As Churchill remarks, “What use is the female emancipation if it transforms clever women into predators and does nothing for the stupid, the weak and the helpless? Does freedom and feminism consist of aggressively adopting the very values that have for centuries oppressed your sex?”

 

So Marlene does come across as a character embodying both feminist and anti-feminist qualities. She isn’t entirely blamed for the choices she makes and isn’t considered entirely heartless.

 

The play does intertwine gender with social scenarios and is even considered a socialist play as it talks about the respect and rights that the working classes deserve but aren’t granted. It also traces relationships among women which can also be of envy and resentment. It also talks about their relationships with men, about childbearing and also abortion, giving an insight to the right of women to live life on their own terms.

 

The play also gives prominence to the hardships faced by women in their careers and jobs. The disadvantage of being rejected in employment opportunities in favor of a man, or being scorned by the people for being chosen over a man, both underline the society’s allotment of role given to women, inferior to that of men. However, the play rejects such notions as we constantly see the portrayal of successful women throughout the play.

 

To conclude, the play involves giving voice to women and their experiences, empowering them, encouraging them, talking about their success stories despite their tribulation. At the same time it also focuses on the need to indulge in a form of growth that not only helps the individuals but in fact everyone collectively, and the need to not only improve conditions of women but also other classes. Also it emphasizes the importance to having the right balance between career and personal life. The play rejects patriarchy and calls for a feminism that empathizes with other women and helps them grow too and not just individuals. Indeed, the play is a perfect example of a feminist text.

 

By- Raghvika Kohli, 1136

Obliterating “She-who-must-be-obeyed”: Decoding the neutralization of female agency in H. Rider Haggard’s “She”

She, published in 1887, is one of the most widely consumed novels in history and evidently the best within H. Rider Haggard’s oeuvre. It is a story of the journey of two Englishmen to the lost kingdom of Kor in the recesses of Africa and their encounter with the mysterious and all powerful ruler of the primitive and savage tribe of Amahagger known as “She-who-must-be-obeyed”. It is an adventure tale accorded the title of “history” by the repeated and conscious efforts on part of both the editor and the first person narrator Horace Holly, who constantly justify the historicity and public value of the private encounter of the two male protagonists, Leo Vincey and Horace Holly with She. The claim to historicity and value is also made by the largely overlooked subtitle “A history of Adventure”.

She portrays a uniquely powerful and enigmatic female figure named Ayesha, who is constantly addressed as She or She-who-must-be-obeyed by the tribe she reigns over and even by the character Horace Holly who narrates the tale. The references to She begin at the very start of the narrative and build up to the moment of her first appearance in the middle of the novel. Until her appearance in Chapter 12, She appears to be an unreal, fantastic, even mythical figure whose existence is unverified and frequently dismissed as improbable. The quest for She, on which the two male figures embark is based on the inherited legacy of the young and beautiful Leo Vincey. It is revealed that for generations a quest has been passed down the family based on the word of a long dead Egyptian princess named Amenaratas who had married an ancestor of the family Kallikrates, an Egyptian priest of Greek origin. The “sherd of Amenaratas” passed down within the family told the story of the murder of Kallikrates by a beautiful, supernaturally powerful and immortal woman named She owing to his rejection of her proposal for marriage and an appeal by the widowed Amenaratas to take vengeance upon the immortal She. The letters and accounts of the attempts made by different generations of men of the Vincey family reveal either a failure to complete the quest or incredulity at the possibility of the existence of an all powerful and immortal figure like She. The tale engraved on the sherd is revealed to have been dismissed as the ravings of a mad woman by many Vincey men who had inherited it through the years. However, the two male characters, Leo Vincey and his surrogate father Horace Holly decide to embark on the quest for She and the narrative is hailed as a factual account of this journey.

A superficial reading of She beguiles the reader into considering the work a marvellous depiction of awesome female power and wisdom. Indeed the portrayal of She is such that one is struck by the sheer strength of her beauty, wisdom, power and experience much like the characters who encounter her. Even the narrator, who is quite evidently and admittedly a misogynist, falls down to his knees and professes his love for her after having looked upon her unveiled figure in spite of his determination to not “creep into the presence of some savage woman” because of his status as an “Englishman” and his proclamation that he was immune to “such vanity as a woman’s loveliness which passes like a flower”.  He even deploys excessively positive terms to describe her beauty and wisdom however, a close reading reveals that in almost every instance the positive, elevating and validating terms appear alongside contradictory, negative and undermining terms. Holly describes her beauty as being at par with the “beauty of celestial beings”, it is referred to as a “sublime” but in the same breath he says, “this beauty, with all its loveliness and purity, was evil” and “the sublimity was a dark one- the glory was not all of heaven- though none the less was it glorious.” She is associated with Satan, paganism, unholy rites throughout the narrative and is often shown to be snakelike. Traces of such contradictions in the portrayal of She can be found throughout the novel, especially in the statements made by the male, misogynist, English narrator Holly and it is the consistency of such contradictions that exposes the novel’s true politics- the systematic demonization of empowered women and the attempt to neutralize the threat posed by the female power and agency. Infact feminist readings of this text by critics such as Gubar and Gilbert suggest that She acts as a symbol for the figure of the “New Woman” that emerged during late Victorian period.

Ayesha is portrayed as an incredibly wise and experienced woman who knows Nature’s secrets and has therefore been able to attain an extended, almost immortal yet youthful life. She has seen and bathed in the Spirit of Life and has wisdom that surpasses that attained by any man who ever lived. She even has the ability to read people’s thoughts, look into a bowl of water and witness the past and present happenings in far off places, cure living beings of every fatal injury or illness and the ability to kill people by simply exercising her power of will. Even the misogynistic but wise and intellectual character Holly acknowledges her unmatched wisdom and absolute power. Yet, the real exercise of her power and wisdom is restricted by the male narrative and despite all her wisdom, intellect, strength and beauty She is restricted to the passive role of a woman who chooses to spend two thousand years in a cave, isolated from humanity, history, civilization and progress in order to wait for Kallikrates to be reincarnated and come in search for her.  Her sole guiding force is love and her sole action is the passive one of waiting which does not allow the reader to witness the full extent and implication of an all powerful, wise and immortal female presence in a phallocentric and patriarchal world. The potential to change the course of humanity such power entails speculated by Holly is never allowed to materialize in the text.

Haggard uses the figure of She to suggest that female autonomy, agency and power has, instead of, progressive or evolutionary, a decentering, devolutionary and catastrophic potential. This undermining of female agency is done by exaggerating and demonizing the figure of She and portraying her as a tyrant. It is depicted that the Amahagger creep and rub their noses on the ground while in her presence and that She is attended on by mutes. She herself reveals how she had cultivated two separate species of servants that had then been eliminated before the present generation of mutes serving her were trained. Her abuse of power and lack of kindness or morality are highlighted time and again and her killing of Ustane serves as a depiction of her unjust and immoral use of her extraordinary power. She is depicted as being overly and irrationally passionate and the governing factor in her life is revealed to be her love for Kallikrates.

The contradictory portrayal of She makes a feminist reading of the the text complex and problematic. She rules over a matrilineal tribe and herself shows agency. It is Ayesha who, much like Ustane, chooses Kallikrates and later Leo, the reincarnation of Kallikrates, as her mate. This reversal of gender roles and appropriation of power of selection or choice in mating or sexual union by the inferior sex challenges patriarchy and in particular the Victorian gender roles that Leo and Horace have internalized. In fact that is precisely why both Holly and Job are surprised, offended and even appalled by Ustane’s bold and public display of autonomy in taking Leo as a husband. Holly is perplexed by the matriarchal setup of the Amahagger tribe and views their unbound and open sexual unions as primitive and immoral. What appalls Holly more is Leo’s ready acceptance and reciprocation of Ustane’s kiss and infact the manner in which Holly rationalizes it is to turn a blind eye to the implications of a woman having the upper hand in the choice of a mate and the emasculation of Leo. He reconciles his patriarchal Western and European values with this event by hiding behind the garb of the binary of Self and the Other and proclaims that when in Africa, it is better to act like Africans. She too emasculates both Holly and Leo however, the emasculation of Leo is more apparent and extensive. Not only does she choose him as a mate without extending him a choice in the matter, she also renames him and strips away his identity so that he is no longer Leo but Kallikrates. She weds him and herself acts as the authority that sanctifies their marriage. Both Leo and Holly become impotent and helpless after coming into contact with She. Leo resists her after she kills Ustane, who was his wife by the Amahagger code but fails miserably. He is drawn to her and falls in love with her inspite of himself and his frustration at not being able to resist her is quite poignantly expressed. Both Holly and Leo express a desire to leave her presence yet acknowledge that their feet will never carry them away as they were completely in her power. These instances prove as a threat to both masculinity and the patriarchal structures of the Western world. However, the ultimate resolution of the narrative nullifies these moments of female autonomy.

In the closing chapters of the narrative She guides Leo, Holly and their manservant Job to the Pillar of Fire that is the Spirit of Life so that Leo could stand in it, attain immortality and be united with her forever. However, She herself steps into the Fire to assuage Leo’s inhibitions about entering the fire. This second experience of bathing in the Pillar of Fire undoes the immortality she had attained and in a horrific turn of events She steps out and ages two thousand years within a few moments, grows smaller and dies. This decision on her part seems out of place to the reader and the nullifying effect of stepping into the Fire a second time also seems dubious. However, it is easy to understand the necessity of such a denouement for the gender politics of the text to be fulfilled. Earlier in the narrative She decides to visit England after Leo too attains immortality. She intends for both her and Leo to rule the land and states “I am above the law” when Holly informs her that if she blasts anyone with her power in England she will be subjected to the law of the land. This idea shocks and horrifies both Holly and Leo.  The significance of such an act on her part is revealed through Holly’s reflection upon it. He concludes, “this wonderful creature, whose passion had kept her for so many centuries chained; as it were, and comparatively harmless, was now about to be used by Providence as a means to change the order of the world, and possibly, by the building up of a power that could no more be rebelled against or questioned than the decrees of Fate, to change it materially for the better.” It is this potential of female supremacy and the establishment of a matriarchal and matrilineal world order in place of a patriarchal one that terrifies both men. She had successfully emasculated both Holly and Leo and they were hopelessly in her power but this threat to masculinity had to be neutralized and Haggard therefore uses the Pillar of Fire to nullify the threat of female supremacy and the reversal of power in gender roles. She-who-must-be-obeyed, who was immune to accidents of life and death itself is ironically given a horrifying and miserable death. She is reduced to a withering, wrinkled old woman who grows “smaller and smaller” until her degeneration and devolution is so profound that she begins to resemble a small baboon. She who was not allowed to be looked directly and a glance of whom enchanted all men is reduced to being a profoundly and unimaginably ugly heap on the floor that Holly and Leo despite their love for her do not look at a second time.    

Haggard argued that the final destruction of She was divine justice for her attempt to appropriate for herself semi-divine power and privilege however, that appears to be a dubious argument. The denouement is therefore the destruction of the threat to male order that an empowered, learned woman poses and the restoration of both patriarchy and masculinity. She had to be destroyed in order to free both Holly and Leo and allow them to return to male dominated sphere of Cambridge. She represents both the threat posed by an empowered, autonomous female as well as the enchanting appeal of such a woman as is evident by the fact that both the wise, misogynistic, intelligent, learned English man Holly and the young and beautiful Leo, the symbol of physical vigour, beauty and perfection both are enchanted by and fall in love with Ayesha. Ayesha’s knowledge and autonomy have allowed critics to view her as the New Woman. Patricia Murphy said, “She is also a thinly disguised allegorical admonition to recognize and dispel the threat that the New-Woman posed to Victorian Society.” She argued, “the novel…ultimately strives to contain the New Woman threat by annihilating the unruly She at closure.” The systematic demonization and annihilation of the threat posed by an empowered figure like She and Haggard’s attempt to restore order and gender roles is made clearer if one takes into account his later book Ayesha: The Return of “She”, a narrative he considered the “conclusion” to She and not the “sequel”. As Patricia Murphy has pointed out, “In her latter incarnation, however, She progresses from the demon of the temple to the angel in the house. The potent She of the 1887 version becomes, in Ayesha, a chastened and submissive handmaiden. She’s metamorphosis from castrating virago to upholder of feminine virtues is “the most… thrilling of her many changes,” which will usher in a newfound passivity, delicacy, and superficiality. In repudiating masculine ambitions and accepting her “natural” role, Ayesha’s conversion suggests the desired and destined fate for the New Woman… the solution to the New Woman problem becomes two- fold: the goal is not simply to conquer her but to enlighten her. As She demonstrates, the New Woman must first be disempowered to neutralize her threat to society. Once patriarchal authority has been restored, she can be convinced of the error of her ways and recognize that the route to happiness rests not in being a “Valkyrie of the battleplain” but a comely bride. Only by internalizing and validating Victorian ideology can the New Woman truly be tamed, Ayesha suggests, and the gender binarism buttressing the doctrine of separate spheres reinforced”. If Ayesha is viewed as a New woman then one can understand how Haggard alienated the threat of the New Woman that Victorian society was grappling with by making an “Other”, a white Arabian woman (the figure of the Oriental Other) ruling over a primitive and savage African tribe (another recurring symbol of the Other in imperial and European literature) the embodiment of the unruly and digressive traits displayed the New Woman in England and portraying those traits and the figure of a learned, wise woman as immoral, Satanic, devolutionary, pagan, degenerate, unnatural  and ultimately deserving obliteration.

 

Bibliography

  1. Murphy, Patricia: The Gendering of History in She
  2. Haggard, Henry: She. Wilco Classics 2011

 

By- Shweta Teotia

1173

The societal dominance in The Professor by Charlotte Bronte

“That to begin with; let respect be the foundation, affection the first floor, love the superstructure.”- The Professor

With romantic dialogues and contradicting scenarios Charlotte Bronte’s posthumous presentation, The Professor is an attempt at writing with a male’s perspective. An unsophisticated and not so profound, the novel possesses her ensuing representation and writing, culminating the private writings of her. Charlotte, tooling the brevity, stood contradicting the time. She stood challenging the realism. The book is written in the first person, portraying Bronte’s opinion or thought process as a man (the protagonist: William Crimsworth) towards women and staging how a man dealt with life finding for his individuality with no social stature. The novel primarily accounts, the relativity, the relationship between sexual dominance and social identity. With the speculations of this being her first novel, there’s an account of her in which she says, “This little book was written before either “Jane Eyre” or “Shirley”, and yet no indulgence can be solicited for it on the plea of a first attempt. A first attempt it certainly was not, as the pen which wrote it had been previously worn a good deal in a practice of some year. I had not indeed published anything before I commenced “The Professor”………..”

The novel was penned in 1845, but in the previous year a whole new revolution was being initiated. In 1844, a battle to shrive catholic worship was initiated by Johannes Ronge in German states of superstitious practices. In the novel, Crimsworth is a teacher in girls’ school in Brussels pursuing his career in education after unable to endure his sibling’s tyrannical nature. The setting of this later portion depicts catholic practice. The novel challenges the expectations by the representation of its heroine adamant on pursuing with her career of sewing even after marriage. As per the history, this revolution attracted women in large numbers. The aim was simply to empower everyone with equality. It primarily called out for, “full recognition of human dignity, full equality of rights, and for the people, complete sovereignty of the people, which shall give rise to their state institutions.” It became a huge politicized concern. A new dimension of framing the society came up. In nineteenth century a new order, of parity with brethren came into being. Ronge encouraging catholic women raised them to participate fully, which resulted in major participation by non-catholic women as well gradually spreading all over Europe. The division in the catholic system was brought by women, who understood the value of being educated. Following, Luise Otto, “Participation in the interest of the state is not only a right but a duty for women…”

The protagonist, William Crimsworth is a non-catholic and is found criticizing the school girls for their catholic mindsets. “I know nothing of the arcane of the Roman catholic religion, and I am not a bigot in matters of theology, but I suspect the root of this precocious impurity, so obvious, so  general in Popish countries, is to be found in the discipline, if not the doctrines of the church of Rome. I record what I have seen: these girls belonged to what are called the respectable ranks of society; they all have been carefully brought up, yet was the mass of them mentally depraved. So much for the general view: now for one or two selected specimens.”

Further, Crimsworth criticizes even the catholic headmistress Zoraide Reuter, “She has been brought up a catholic: had she been an Englishwoman, and reared a Protestant, might she not have added straight integrity to all her other excellences? Supposing she were to marry an English and Protestant husband, would she not, rational, sensible as she is, quickly acknowledge the superiority of right over expediency, honesty over policy? It would be worth a man’s while to try the experiment, to-morrow I will renew my observations.”

By 1848 however, the development and the aim of advancement, brought women employment opportunities, though with menial wages. The result was assuring, the progress of womanhood. They received respect and became independent in the society. Woman could support themselves as well families or spouse. The work included factory jobs. They could work from home, the garment industry would allow them pieces to complete and earn. Similar was the case of the protagonist’s wife, she would take up the sewing assignments and earned a living. Dissociating with catholic system, the dimensions of the society took different shapes.

The novel brings the readers the reality of the time of nineteenth century, the working conditions of both men and women. The fundamentals of different professions. It brings in spotlight the working conditions of English men and women, the factories and auguring the outset of liberal idealization which led to the European revolution as well. The novel is in itself a masterpiece, if not satisfying to the other novels of the same author.

The text is said to be of a similar plot to “Villette”. The readers find it easy to criticize The Professor for the reasons encountered in comparison among both. Due to the unsuccessful reviews to The Professor, even the critical body is found to be smaller than other books by her.

Charlotte Bronte has been criticized for her immature write up, but on the flip side it seems to be a product of intentional realist novel. She has very finely depicted the working class of nineteenth century with the social conditions of women. Though a narrative through the lenses of a male, the storyline justifies the historical aspects. A narrative by a male voice brings readers closer to the idea of male dominance. The text shows us the side of a male if oppressed, if given sensitive scenarios to tackle and live in.

The novel is a route to a man’s head. Breaking the stereotypes of only females always being subjected to societal hardships, emotional pressure and a search for self in a hard earned world; the novel stands apart. She wanted to pen down a “history of suffering.”

“A man is master of himself to a certain point, but not beyond it.” – The Professor

BY:- SNEHA YADAV (996)

 

 

Bharati’s Women Characters in Gunahon ka Devta

Gunahon ka Devta is one of the pioneering Hindi novel by Dharamveer Bharati, the recipient of the Padmashri, India’s fourth highest civilian award. Bharati who is best known for the play Andha Yug and his novel Suraj ka Satwan Ghoda writes this love story or love stories in a love story. Calling it a love story of two people would be injustice to other characters and their emotions. Published in 1949, the story is set in Allahabad and the time period of post-independence. It revolves around the protagonist Chander who is deeply flawed, idealistic and intelligent.

Chander, the protagonist, a research scholar of Allahabad University seems like a traveler in search of his own identity who travels through three different women to explore himself sexually and spiritually. He is just another literary character who faces identity crisis, born and brought up under social prejudices, finding answers to the question of love, lust, sex and marriage. It is remarkable and surprising that even after more than sixty years gone, these questions are still relevant in modern India. In fact the models of femininity that Bharti portrays are also the women of present day. That simply means that the condition and the image of women has not much changed since then, just the background is different. The three major women characters Sudha, Pammy and Binti from three different backgrounds are slyly constructed by the author to represent the then prevalent stereotypes not only in the society but also in his own mind specifically in his sub-conscious of which he himself is not aware of because he does not give an impression of critiquing these gendered stereotypes, instead he puts them forward in acquiescence. It is apparent from his setting up of the background to these broadly classified three types of “young” women characters available for the love of the one true protagonist Chander who seems like an alter ego to the author himself who is also generalized by many reviewers as “one of us”. But not many of the young people today who are “us” are not of the same intellectual level as Chander is.

Sudha, a daughter of a prestigious, well-read upper class Brahmin professor of Allahabad University, Mr. Shukla, who in his ideology like other “well-read” people of his age is against all caste discriminations and other evil social practices ends up marrying his daughter to another socially prominent, politically active “well-read” Brahmin who treats his daughter as an object of pleasure and servitude. The man who truly loves his daughter (according to the author) cannot marry her because firstly he is not of the same caste, secondly and more importantly he is in debt of Mr. Shukla for bringing him up as his own son so Sudha in Mr. Shukla’s eyes is like a younger sister to Chander. So Mr. Shukla asks Chander to convince Sudha to marry a man whom she doesn’t love. Bharati very beautifully evokes emotions at this complicated situation by planning a sacrifice for both Sudha and Chander bringing in metaphors of nature, of day and night, Sun and Moon etc. Stereotypically this disruption in the platonic love of Sudha and Chander and the grievance caused by it is dealt contrastingly by both the characters. Sudha, the naïve young women in her late teens, unaware of her sexual desires or probably devoid of them turns to religion and spirituality hoping to cope with the torments of her husband’s sexual demands to whom she submissively gives away herself physically and never complains about it to anybody accept Chander to whom she tells only after her conscience doesn’t allow her to continue to let the society prolong her sufferings. The only resistance that Bharati could offer her was death. His characters and their circumstances are constrained not only to his but also to the societal mindsets. On the other hand Chander finds his solace in a sexual relation with the “other” woman who initially seems like a character whom feminists might love for her independence not only financially but also mentally. She is in charge of her own desires and her own body. She does not refrain from pursuing sexual relationships against the norms of society. But what is disturbing is her stereotypical portrayal, her unreasoned set up and her unconvincing doom. This character of Pammy who is an Anglo-Indian Christian divorcee who lives with her mad brother is portrayed more as a vamp who lures younger men into her trap for her carnal satisfaction than as a powerful young liberated woman capable of taking responsibility for herself.

Surprisingly unlike many modernist novels like Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers which show a striking similarity with Gunahon ka Devta in terms of its portrayal of different types of women characters met by the male protagonist who is the young budding artist in the town and how his life and his Art shapes after his encounter with these women and also how the lives of these women revolve around ‘The’ male protagonist and their struggle to attain his love and devotion for them,  Bharati has been unbiased in treating his male and female characters to respond to their sins(sins according to him). Lawrence however by not showing the inner conflicts of his women characters justifies each act of Paul Morel, his protagonist by showing his deepest conflicts. Bharati on the other hand makes Chander “Gunahon ka Devta” though still attributing him the title of “Devta” because of his sacrifices. But what he doesn’t misses is his dealings with Sudha’s and other women’s inner conflicts as per his understanding of these women which might or might not be true because it is nearly impossible for a man to attain that level of apprehension of women characters as a woman herself would do. French feminism might put this as a difference caused by the difference in their sexual experiences. But both these male authors turn out to be similar in treating their less viable character (according to them) capable of gaining feminist attention by denying them what they have gained as the conclusion of their story. Both Clara and Pammy are again ultimately doomed to be what they are not.

Binti, the youngest who also longs for Chander’s love despite knowing his relation with Sudha who is also her cousin and her sole companion of womanhood seems the most plausible and humanly character for her pragmatism. Despite being from a village, away from the sophistication of the city, she is more aware of life than Sudha is who is elder than her both in terms of age and social status. Though Binti and Pammy haven’t been explored much as Sudha is by Bharati either because he can’t or he feels more inclined to the women like Sudha, virtuous and self-sacrificing. Binti, whose love or desires are called hypnotized by the love of Sudha and Chander does injustice to her character. Binti who has already had bitterness of her life in her childhood who has a horrid mother in place of a mother figure. She wants love and that she sees in Chander and Sudha both. These are her “real” emotions.

Gesu, Sudha’s best friend also suffers like Chander by seeing her beloved getting married to someone else, but she does not turn bitter, she concentrates on her education and starts working. She isn’t the focus of the narrator.

Poonam Saxena, the translator of the novel writes, “The younger generation might not relate with this love story whose foundation is laid on sacrifice. You have to place yourself in another time because if you have to see how they are behaving in 2015, then it is very difficult to understand their turmoil.” Agreeable enough in terms of the emotions of the characters who change with the time but not all characters change with passing time but the circumstances coming with it which have not changed much. Some characters remain intact through generations on intrinsic human grounds.

Bibliography:
Bharati, Dharamveer. Gunahon ka Devta. Bhartiya Jnanpith, 2009. Print.
Saxena, Poonam. “Why a 66-year-old Hindi love story needed to be translated in English”. March 2015.

Submitted by: Mrinalini Yadav
958

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

“It’s twice as hard for us young ones to hold our ground, and maintain our opinions, in a time when all ideals are being shattered and destroyed, when people re showing their worst side, and do not know whether to believe in truth and right and God”- Anne Frank

 

The Diary of a young girl written by Anne Frank is one of the most compelling reads describing the Jew experience during the Holocaust. Written in a span of 2 years, between 1942 and 1944, the text has been translated into 60 languages and sold more than 31 million copies worldwide making it one of the most read books of all time.

Summary

The diary written by Anne Frank reveals the plight of the Frank family that had to go on a hiding from the Jew extermination by Nazis during the Second World War. On 8 July 1942, The Frank family went into hiding when Margot Frank gets a notice for deportation. The entire family had been shifting their belongings secretly to a warehouse which would be soon become their “Secret Annexe”. On 1942, a week later they are joined by the Mr Van Daan, a business associate of Otto Frank and his family comprising of Mrs Van Daan and his fifteen year old son, Peter. Later they also invite Albert Dussel to stay with them. The diary reveals the system that the secret annex would follow. The diary is referred to as Kitty and is personified as a friend who would listen to her. The pages reveal Anne’s own views on war, religion and the people around her. Being the inquisitive girl that she was, she was always questioning and hated having her voice taken away or behave in a certain manner. The text puts Anne extremely aware of her surrounding changing politics and her political identify. Anne’s diary is revered for her cutthroat honesty about not just of her own views but also of her own work. Anne reveals consciousness about herself as a girl growing up, about her body and sexuality, herself as having knowledge and herself as a writer.

Anne’s self consciousness also comes from her awareness. The diary truly addresses the experience of a teenage girl going through puberty. She writes about her changing body and experimenting with sexuality. On Wednesday 5 January 1944, she writes “I have a terrible desire to feel my breasts”. She also writes about “I go into ecstasies every time I see the naked figure of a women, such as Venus”. Reading this novel in the twenty first century reveals the way in which children sought answers to questions society called improper. Sigmund Freud writes that “we see how interest in sex-life first arises vaguely and then takes entire possession of the growing intelligence, so that the child suffers under the load of secret knowledge but gradually becomes enabled to shoulder the burden”.The diary transgresses from the mother – daughter relationship being the ultimate relationship of comfort and it shows from not only Anne’s discomfort and cold relationship with her mother but also from getting sexual education from her father. One can read this with Freud’s Electra complex connotation using Anne’s love for her father and her longing to kiss Peter the same way she kisses her father. Taking this argument further and flipping it over, one notices Peter’s own hesitance and inexperience of kissing his own parents. This reveals various psychological and well as historiography evidence of how masculinity and femininity worked during the early 1940s as well as how family structures both remained and crumpled in the changing era disrupted and fragmented by violence and war which makes men ascribe to certain notions of masculinity.

Anne is also aware of herself as a woman with opinions. This is an issue that Anne constantly battles with. She argues whenever she finds something objectionable or problematic. She argues with Mrs Van Daan and their dislike for each other becomes evident when she is constantly compared with Margot and falls shortly in front of her quiet and studious sister. She also finds her mother rather shrewd and unloving because she fails to understand the way Anne feels, her father understands her. She is also ectremely aware of herself as a writer and professionally aspires to be one. Also in a manner which many call feminist, Anne writes in 4 April 1944, that “I can’t imagine that i would have to lead the same sort of life as Mummy and Mrs Van Daan and all the women who do their work and are forgotten. I must have something besides a husband and children, something that i can devote to!” Anne’s string opinions of herself as a “women with inward strength and plenty of courage” which contradicts with Peter’s “not having enough character yet, not enough power, too little courage and strength”. At one point she does ardently loves him but then she also writes about how she has created an image of Peter that could understand and listen to her heart as a friend. Anne writes that she is therefore disappointed in him because although both long to be loved, she knows that they could never achieve a spiritual understanding knowing how she can never talk to him about subjects she really wants to talk about.

The Diary as a text

The history behind the text reveals that the Diary is not only written but also rewritten by Anne Frank and later by her father, Otto Frank after her death. Anne was sure that she was going to publish her works after the war ends and imagines a literary audience. On Friday 28 April, 1944 while describing her dreams about Peter Wessel, she suggests her readers to refer to the diary entry at the “beginning of Jaunary”. Jeffrey Shandler while describing the epistolary format of the text writes that “the diary being addressed to an imaginary friend called Kitty is actually a revised version of Anne’s original diary which features entries from various imaginary friends – Conny, Jetty, Emmy, Marianne and Kitty. The description of Kitty in the June 20, 1942 entry is Anne own omitting in her rewritten diary. When she rewrites the diary, she consciously intends it to be both historical and literary value.”

Anne knew that she would title her published text as “Het Achterhuis” meaning “Secret Annexe”. Shandler writes about how Anne wrote about pseudonyms to be used in her published version about the other members who went hiding with the Franks. So the Van Pel family became Van Daans and Fritz Pfeffer became Albert Dussel. She also wanted to change her own family’s name into Robins but Otto Frank wanted it to keep their actual names. Otto Frank also edited certain passages which he writes ‘nothing essential, just passages about Anne’s physical development and nasty remarks about her mother.’

In the end, we get a text which critics have called “an open text”. It is an unfinished text symbolizing the abrupt end of her life at the age of fifteen. The diary with Anne’s aspirations of herself as a writer and her diary as a literary work are met with reader’s discovery of Anne’s death seven months after the last pages of her diary was written. Therefore a gap is formed. Critics have written about this gap being filled by readers either “through recollections of holocaust survivors who had saw her in various camps where she was held, by recounting her sufferings as a tale of morally charged redemption, or by imagining her surviving the war and starting a new life.”

German Realization

Following the popularization of Anne’s diary due to widespread publication and dramatization in the 1950s, the text was key figure in coming in terms with the Nazi era. Robert Faurisson, a Holocaust denier, when he examined the diary he said; “It’ll be very difficult to prove that the diary is a forgery.”Interestingly, Anne’s diary were published and distributed differently in East and West Germany. West Germany published the first book that chronicled Anne’s life in its entirety, including her last months following her arrest: Erst Schnavel’s Anne Frank’s Spur eines Kiendes: ein Berichd in 1958. In East Germany, Anne’s text was used as a way to address the larger narrative of the legacy of the Nazi era.

Bibliography

Shandler, Jeffrey. “From Diary to Book: Text, Object, Structure”. Anne Frank Unbound: Media, Imagination, Memory. Ed. BARBARA KIRSHENBLATT-GIMBLETT and JEFFREY SHANDLER. Indiana University Press, 2012

 

Frank, Anne. “Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank Edited by Otto H. Frank and Mirjam Pressler Translated by Susan Massotty – Book – EBook – Audiobook – Random House.” Random House – Bringing You the Best in Fiction, Nonfiction, and Children’s Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2016.

Submitted by

Pritha Mallick,  Section B, Roll No- 1081