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INTRODUCTION It is beyond doubt that Anita Desai is one of the most popular contemporary Indian novelists writing in English. It is she who has enriched the tradition of the Indian novel in English. Her contribution to Indian English ction has earned both name and fame for her. Man-Woman relationship, Fast- West encounter, alienation, feminine sensibility etc. are the common themes that we find in her ction, Anita Desai’s novels like ‘Cry, the Peacock’ (l963), ‘Voice in the City'(l965l), ‘Bye-Bye, Blackbird'(l97l), ‘Where Shall We GoTthis Summer?’(l975), ‘fire on the Mountain’ (1977), ‘Clear Light of Day?’ (I980), ‘In Custody’ (I984, etc. have explored new horizons in the helm of creative writing. “Anita Desai is the vanguard of a new generation of Indian writers who are experimenting with themes of inner consciousness… she gives her readers valuable insights into the feminine consciousness through her memorable protagonists.” Anita Desai is one of the world famous and of India‘s best modern novelists in English. She is an Indian novelist, short story writer, screenwriter, and story writer. She is a writer who

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It is beyond doubt that Anita Desai is one of the most popular contemporary Indian

novelists writing in English. It is she who has enriched the tradition of the Indian novel in

English. Her contribution to Indian English fiction has earned both name and fame for her. Man-

Woman relationship, Fast- West encounter, alienation, feminine sensibility etc. are the common

themes that we find in her fiction, Anita Desai’s novels like ‘Cry, the Peacock’ (l963), ‘Voice in

the City'(l965l), ‘Bye-Bye, Blackbird'(l97l), ‘Where Shall We GoTthis Summer?’(l975), ‘fire

on the Mountain’ (1977), ‘Clear Light of Day?’ (I980), ‘In Custody’ (I984, etc. have explored

new horizons in the helm of creative writing.

“Anita Desai is the vanguard of a new generation of Indian writers who are

experimenting with themes of inner consciousness… she gives her readers valuable insights into

the feminine consciousness through her memorable protagonists.”

Anita Desai is one of the world famous and of India‘s best modern novelists in English.

She is an Indian novelist, short story writer, screenwriter, and story writer. She is a writer who

has influenced generations of writers. She has enriched Indian fictional world with her

significant literary outputs. Anita Desai, originally an Indian citizen, migrated to America. She

has been living in America. She can be considered to be an expatriate writer of the Indian origin.

The Article discusses the numerous ways that help a novelist to represent his/her story to the

readers with special reference to Anita Desai’s Cry, the Peacock and Fire on the Mountain. The

telling of stories is such a pervasive aspect of our environment that we sometimes forget that

stories provide the initial and continuing means for shaping our experience.

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Thus, it is not surprising that a great deal of scholarly investigation has focused on both

the nature of stories and their central role in human affairs.

This Article describes how Anita Desai enriches the novel and lifts it above the mere

narration of a story or depiction of a character and provides it the very life blood and the soul.

Form and structure in the novels Anita Desai take the shape of an exquisitely designed tapestry.

The article explains that the aspects of theme and technique in Anita Desai’s novels are not

isolated elements. They are inter-related at many levels of structure and texture. In order to

convey her theme the novelist judiciously uses character, situation, dialogues and other elements

in relation to the plot. Narrating a story is a primitive instinct of every novelist and in this Article

we will see how story is narrated in Anita Desai’s Cry, the Peacock and Fire on the Mountain.

Anita Desai was born on 24th, June, 1937, in Mussoorie, a hill station situated in the

foothills of the Himalayan ranges, near Dehradun, in the North Indian State of Uttaranchal, India.

It is conveniently connected by road to Delhi and major cities. It is called ―Gateway to

Yammunotri and Gangotri, Shrines of Northern India.‖ She was formerly known as Anita


a daughter of Dhiren N. Mazumdar, a Bengali business executive, and the former Toni Nime, a

German expatriate, a teacher, while an engineering student in pre-war Berlin, of German origin.

Anita Desai‘s mother was a German Christian and her father was a Bengali Indian. She

was dark and did not have the Teutonic fair looks. She also had an un-German Name: Nime. She

used to claim that the ancestors had come from France, from Nime. Her first name was also very

French: Antoinette, later shortened to Toni. Her mother, Antoinette Nime, could trace her origin

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to France, and her father, Dhiren Mazumdar‘s native place was Dhaka (now in Bangladesh) but

he had settled in New Delhi. He spoke German very well. This mixed parentage of complex

origin gives Anita Desai the advantage of having double perspective whenwriting about India

and Indians as well as about migrants in India and Indian migrants to the West. If seen from her

mother‘s side she is an outsider and if seen from her father‘s side she is a native. She was

educated in Delhi. She married on 13-12-1958 to Ashwin Desai – a Gujarati businessman and

gave to four children. About her husband she comments ―My writing carrier was entirely

subservient to being a wife and a mother. I lived the life of the typical Indian housewives: wrote

in the gaps and hid it away, kept it secret‖. Later the family moved to Mumbai where she raised

two sons, Arjun and Rahul, and two daughters, Tani and Kiran.

Wide! in lilts Monisha’s plight and psychic life and intimately shows the women like

female birds in the eases. Monisha dies screaming for life, for the first experience of real feeling

of pain awakens in her a desire to live. She loves to see herself as an unfettered individual and

not to Lissome at any stage a complacent. Same wife who adjusts herself to a gilded cage. “She

is too silent for the family and the world distrusts her silence. She wants to be herself and not to


Having grown up in a houseful of books led her to the early decision that writing would be her

life. While studying English at the University of New Delhi, Anita Desai dedicated herself to

writing. At a tender age of nine, she had studied Wuthering Heights. Her career started with

short stories which got printed in leading Indian magazines. Her first story was Circus Cat. Then

she wrote one after another stories followed by him first novel Cry the Peacock in 1963 and

many more.

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In Where shall We Go This Summer there is aching void in the life of Sita as a woman, a wife

and I mother. Anita Desai’s fiction inextricably fuses the tension between tradition and

modernity, individualism and social unity. Convention and innovation and determines the

dimension and direction of the themes. The plot is replete with symmetry and harmony

pervading the events of the story. Sits and her husband receive and react as if they were the

denizens of different worlds. Sita is badly disturbed by having a bitter experience of insular and

unimaghative way of life of her husband and his people.

Anita Desai marks n revolutionary departure without transpiring into terra incognita and

is happy to have women protagonists in her novels. Nanda Kaul's withdrawal from life and

family is not the result of any existential retaliation of man's ultimate loneliness She has just

been ‘reduced' to such astute. Anita Desai looks at the rudiment of women and visualizes lisle for

A woman as a series of obligations and commitments. Broadly speaking. Desai’s themes,

characterization and images deal with confinement and lack of freedom. ln addition to

existentialistic reality of life she evokes the sentiment and sensibility ofwornen for their role and

respect in society. The allots of the feminist critics resulted in a massive recovery of almost

forgotten women writers and also re-reading of literature by women with a view to understand

the evolution of the ‘female aesthetic“.

Anita Desai‘s all young characters crave for women's lib. Maya in Cry, lilt Pricks who is

not mature and intelligent enough complains of treated as “a wild beast on a. leash’ which

induces in her humiliating sense ofa neglect Maya is shocked by having a far-fetched difference

between her lot and that of her brother, Arjuna who is set frm and enjoys liberty like ‘a young

hawk that could not be tuned, that fought for its liberty“. Similarly Moniaha in Witts in the City

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longs to thrust her “head out old the window“but the ‘bars are closely set". '11ss entire novel is

littered with meaningful] suggestions about Monisha‘s identity crisis ‘X am all exterior‘ and l

done with most things". “Meaningless, uninvolved—does this not amount to non-eldest-nee"?

Sita in Where Skull Ws Ga 17s1‘s Simmer wishes to have freedom and it is manifested in her

fascination with the foreigner who the meets on the roadside. Sita always has the feeling of being

tied with a chain, which “can only throttle, choke and enslave.”

Also living at the house is Pappachi’s sister: Baby Kochamma (Kochamma is an honorific

name for a female). As a young girl, Baby Kochamma fell in love with Father Mulligan, a young

Irish priest who had come to Ayemenem to study Hindu scriptures. In order to get closer to him,

Baby Kochamma became a Roman Catholic and joined a convent against her father’s wishes.

After a few lonely months in the convent, Baby Kochamma realized thtat her vows brought her

no closer to the man she loved. Her father eventually rescues her from the convent and sends her

to America for an education , where she obtains a diploma in ornamental gardening . She

remains unmarried for the rest of her life, her unrequited Mulligan turning to bitterness.

Throughout the book, Baby Kochamma delights in the misfortune of others and manipulates

events to bring down calamity upon Ammu and the twins.

In ‘Fire on the Mountain’ there develops a critical situation when Nanda Kaul retreats tn

Carignano alert allowing lilt husband to have a lifelong all air with another women. Shrs does

not follow the revolutionary path of Sita but feels that she could be ‘shipwrecked’. No doubt,

Anita Desai’s novels epitomize the of the spin]s of power-knowledge pleasure. Power for

Foucault is not “something acquired, seized or up-taped", it is " an institution and not a structure;

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neither is it a certain strength we are endowed with, it is the name that one attributes to a

complex strategic situation in a particular society."

Throughout her novels, Desai focuses on personal struggles and problems of

contemporary life that her Indian character must cope with. She maintains that her primary goal

is to discover “the truth that is nine- tenth of the iceberg that lies submerged beneath the one-

tenth visible portion we call Reality.”1 She portrays the cultural and social changes that India has

undergone as she focuses on incredible power of family and society and the relationship between

family members, paying close attention to the trials of women suppressed by Indian society.

Prasad rightly says, "Anita Desai took the literary world by storm with her very first

novel, Cry, the Peacock, which apparently strikes the reader as a poetic place."Apart from her

poetic sensibility, it is her keen perception of reality and her powerful imagination that have gone

a long way to shape and fashion the nature and extent of her theme of pessimism within the

limits of life in India. Nevertheless, Naik holds that if Anita Desai‟s fiction is "able to advance

from the vision of „aloneness‟ as a psychological state of mind to that of pessimism as a

metaphysical enigma -and one hopes it will - Anita Desai may one day achieve an amplified

pattern of significant exploration of consciousness comparable to Virginia Woolf at her best."

In her criss-cross examination of the theme Anita Desai shows that power and sex are

two well-known aspects of interpersonal relationships. Even Atlas of Fatter in the City is not

fortunate enough to free herself from the shackles of feminist. Desai has explained to an

interviewer, that ‘every human being's territory is really very small’ and that all one can explore

is "a very tiny section of this territory.“ It is generally believed that critics adopt double standard

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in literary criticism to evaluate the work of men and women. As Virginia Wool! puts it, very

often books are evaluated thus "This is an important boot....because it deals with war. This is an

insignificant book because it deals with the feelings of women in a drawing room."" The critical

review of the contemponry criticism on Indian women writers would therefore fun a legitimate

area for research. This would help us identify the presence. if any, of gender bias. Elaine

Showalter rightly says, “One of the problems of the feminist critique is that it it male oriented.“

Besides the recurrent themes common to women writers, feminist literary criticism also

examines the gender-genre relationship and the language used by women write-rs. There is a

quest for a feminine style and syntax.

Anita Desai’s Cry, the Peacock is the story of a hypersensitive young woman, Maya,

who cannot get over the trauma of a prediction. An albino priest forecasts death for Maya or her

husband, in the fourth year of their marriage. Hearing this prophecy she loses her peace of mind.

And this is the reason that Gautama’s long discourses on detachment appear to her life-negating.

In a fit of insanity she kills him in order to find life for herself. So the philosophy of detachment

is the main cause of the failure of their married life. In her second novel Voices In The City

Desai tries to present a touching account of the life of Monisha, the married sister of Nirode.

Monisha’s miserable life is empty from within and without. She is married to Jiban and her

relationship with him is marked “only by loneliness” because of the carelessness of Jiban, or

their misunderstanding. Monisha tries to search for a real meaning of her life but at the end, she

feels frustration. Monisha is always suffering from mental agony. The absence of love in her life,

mal-adjustment with husband, loneliness- all these torture her mentally and make her shriek in


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Bye-Bye Blackbird is the third and different kind of novel by Anita Desai. Though the

theme of loneliness is explored in this novel also yet the technique and the intention are different.

Sarah, the heroine of the novel has withdrawn from the world of her childhood. She does not ant

to look back and in this respect she is different from Maya and Sita. The sense of nostalgia is

become a narrative technique in this novel. Anita Desai depicts the theme of love and marriage

very beautifully and minutely in her fourth novel Where Shall We Go This Summer? It seems to

be an epitome of an irresistible yearning for a purposeful life. The heroine of the novel Sita, is a

highly sensitive girl. With the help of marriage one cannot revive the heart-beating troubles or

pains or the happiest moments of other’s life. Marriage needs more faith. Anita Desai studies the

marital discords resulting from the conflict between two untouchable temperaments and two

diametrically different ideas represented by Sita and her husband Raman. The conflict is going

on from beginning to end between Sita and Raman. Thus Anita Desai has dwelt upon the

problem of marriage, love and sex in her own way. She thinks that marriage alone does not

provide a solution of life’s tension and chaos. Mental satisfaction and happy married life means

better understanding between husband and wife. But Sita and Raman fail to come to a

harmonious whole.

In her fifth novel, ‘Fire on the Mountain’ Anita Desai paints wonderfully observed

pictures of Indian life, and an unforgettable portrait of old age. The novel explores the alienation

of Nanda Kaul and her grand-daughter Raka. In comparison with other novels isolation plays an

important role in this novel. That is why the heroine of this novel Nanda Kaul always likes

loneliness after the death of her husband. The married life of Nanda Kaul is not life of the

ordinary people because there are no emotions and feelings. Her relationship with her husband

was nothing beyond the duties and obligations they had for each other. Anita Desai in the novel,

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In Custody, presents the thematic problem of love and marriage in a very exquisite manner,

analyses the problem of Deven Sharma, an impoverished college lecturer. After his marriage

with a sullen and dull wife, Deven sees a way to escape from the meanness and hopelessness of

his daily life. Anita Desai deals with such common problem of post-marital life in this novel.

Deven often feels as if his marriage has stood behind his imagination like a heavy weight. As

regards her problems of love Anita Desai has tried her best in her novel The Village By The Sea.

In this novel she deals with such a traditional community of fishermen. The story of the

novel is woven around an alcoholic fisherman, his sick wife and their four children – Lila, Bela,

Kamal and Hari. Anita Desai describes human relations, man’s relation with woman, man’s

relation with God in the real village Thul, situated in the western coast of India.

Anita Desai’s sixth novel, Clear Light of the Day, describes the emotional relations, the

emotional reactions of two main characters- Bim and her younger sister Tara, who are haunted

by the memories of the past. The novel highlights the theme of the effect of the remembrance of

the past on the chief protagonists. The novel deals with the theme in relation to eternity.

Desai’s vision and art centers round her preoccupation with the individual and his inner

world of sensibility- the chaos inside his mind. This is the keynote of her unique vision of the

predicament of the individual is contemporary Indo-English fiction. This distinguishes her from

other Indian women novelists. Anita Desai, among all women Indian-English novelists has

discussed the art of fiction most comprehensively. She is not only well-versed in the theory and

practice of the novel but also in vision and art. She analyses her creative self and explores the

inner dilemmas and resources of her characters. Dealing with inner world, her fiction grapples

with the intangible realities of life. She delves deep into the inner most depth of human psyche

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and discovers the inner turmoil and the chaotic layer of mind. Desai looks into the inner world of

reality and prefers it to the outer world of reality. She reiterates the difference between truth and

reality. For her truth is synonymous of Art, not of reality, so her novels discover and convey the

significance of things. The search for truth, she believes, consists in the life of the mind and the

soul- the inner life. She captures the prismatic quality of life in her fiction. With this vision and

art of Anita Desai, her novels deal with the problems of love and marriage along with other

human problems.

Vision of life centers round the nucleus of internal states of mind of her characters.

Therefore her images, symbolic and myths are written in the language of interior thoughts. All

these images reveal the inner nature of her character with their obsessions, changing moods and

psychic aberration. Her novels bear the testimony of this fact. All this illustrates her handling of

situations and the problems of love and marriage, along with other human problems.

Her novels include Fire on the Mountain (1977), which won the Winifred Holt by

MemorialPrize,and Clear Light of Day   ( 1980), In Custody (1984),and Fasting, Feasting (1999),

each of which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. In Custody was made into a film by

Merchant Ivory productions. Her children's book The Village by the Sea   (1982), won

the Guardian Children's Fiction Award. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, the

American Academy of Arts and Letters, Girton College, Cambridge and Clare Hall, Cambridge.

Her most recent novel is The Zig Zag Way   (2004), set in 20th century Mexico.

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Anita Desai lives in the United States, where she is the John E. Bur chard Professor of

Writing at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA. Her most recent book is The

Artist of Disappearance   (2011), a trio of linked novellas about the art world, each featuring a

different kind of disappearance.

As the very title suggests, Cry, the Peacock is about Maya's cries for love and

understanding in her loveless marriage with Gautama.

Most of Anita Desai’s works engage the complexities of modern India culture from a

feminine perspective while highlighting the female Indian predicament of maintaining-self-

identify as an individual woman.

Desai works rightly focus on these sensitive issues.

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Anita Desai is one of the most powerful contemporary lentil novelists in English. She is

more conceded with thought, emotion and sertsuion than with action. Experience and

achievement. She concentrates on the predicament of modern woman in this male—dominated

society and her destruction at the altar of marriage. According to Desai, most marriages prove to

be union of incompatibility.

Desai’s protagonists, structures the way in which all violence and disturbing things are

due to man and patria dial power. Her women know how they have been trapped and how they

can begin to live afresh but the obstacle is man. Man enters her world as disturbing factor. But in

the process, she reduces

The patriamlul discourse to a set of clichés and soon her women are caught by fantasy.

The novels of Anita Desai normally employ: the protagonist to narrate the story. The

main character while telling the story presents her own view point as seen in the narration of

Maya in. As the characters are not omniscient, it is subjective and personal. Any person can see

only a bit of the landscape from a window

but not the whole. Similarly the protagonist. Maya in ‘Cry, the Peacock’ the people around her

especially her husband from her own personal point of vision which leads to misunderstanding

and destruction.

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The novel ‘Cry, the Peacock‘, portrays the inner emotional world of only one chanter,

Maya. This novel deals with Maya’s mental uphmvals, her inner struggle, her desire for warmth,

love and companionship and her obsession with death. Thus, ‘Cry, the Peacock’, ‘‘an

externalization the interior of Maya's cocoon.” Maya is sensitive and solitary to the point of

being neurotic. She from her childhood regards the world as “a toy specially made for her painter

in her favorite colors and set to dance to her favorite tunics.Thus, Maya has

Strange childhood from which she develops s negative sells image and aversion the immediate

reality is her fragmented psyche to view world as a hostile place.

Anita Desai probes the heart of a woman who sulkers from a mysterious premonition

about the tragic end of her marriage. She is made to believe that either she or her husband would

die in i.e. fourth year of their marriage. The corneous prediction also suggests the death to be

produced “by unnatural causes.” When the novel opens, Maya’s marriage with Gautarna is

inning in its fourth year and the emotional woman, Maya, issuant beginning to reel under the

pressure of the prophecy that threatens to shatter her

Married life.

Maya‘s fear is aggravated as she fails to relate to Gautama, her husband. Between the

husband and the wile there exists 1 terrible communication gap as both of them seem to live in

different worlds. Maya is an instinctive woman of pinion: and emotions. Gautama. on the other

hand, is st philosophical intellectual. Driven by an instinctive nature “Maya expect: some

emotional and physical satisfaction in married life but

both of them are denied her, one by Gautama’s cold intellectuality and the other by his age."

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Love ? Love that in without any ambition, without my desire. without any late except that

which keep; it alive burning, yes, that is well But do you not mistake attachment for love ? And

there lie: egoism after all. To meditate upon the garden on n one evening-well, that is net indeed.

To throw oneself into a passion of wonder and excitement you are led surely to a passion of

unhappiness in its los. Depression and disillusionment Therefore to train yourself to remain

detached-— untouched, a you yourself called it is worth a try.

“Isn‘t is”? To train yourself. Yet to discipline oneself. Our yogi: do it. And our sunny sis,

the true ones. And so they are free from disillusionment, and being free from that, are also free

from any danger of perishing. That I expect. Let the catamite each religion yearns for, visualizing

it with varying degrees of perspicacity...

Among the post- independence Indo- English writers Anita Desai holds a prominent

place because of the immense popularity she commands as a novelist of human predicament of

anxiety, frustration and loneliness in the insensitive and inconsiderate contemporary world. This

paper aims at tracing the theme of alienation in the novels of Anita Desai. Alienation refers to

estrangement that occurs in the relation between an individual and that to which he or she is

relating to. It is a feeling of not belonging.

This feeling can be physical, mental, religious, spiritual, political or economical. At one

time or the other each one of us has experienced alienation in one form or other whether in

school, college, among our family members, in religion, in politics or in society .This aloneness

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alone for them is the treasure worth treasuring. This kind of situation more or less prevails in

Desai's first novel Cry, the Peacock. Cry the Peacock, published in 1963 can be considered as a

trendsetting novel as it deals with the mental rather than the physical aspects of its character.

It also deals with the total alienation of Maya from her husband, Gautama and from her

surroundings and even from herself. Both husband and wife had different attitude towards life.

She wants to be attached to the world and its abounding charms, while Gautama wants to remain

aloof and detached so as to attain 'peace of mind' this attitude alienates them from each other.

This incompatibility of nature causes deep alienation in the mind of the protagonist, Maya and

she becomes intensely abnormal. K.R. Srinivasa Iyengar writes: * her intensity-whether she is

sane, hysterical or insane-fills the whole book and gives it form as well as life" . 1 Maya was

born in an old orthodox family enjoyed life in her parents' house. In her husband’s house the

situation is totally different .She faces there a totally different code of conduct. She finds that her

feelings are not cared for and that she is being neglected, isolated and alienated in her own home.

This disturb her terribly and so she feels herself utterly defenseless and alone. For Gautama,

Maya is in unnatural situation and he attributes it to her father- fixation. This novel gives an

impression of indifference in the married life of Maya and Gautama. The death of Toto, the dog

makes the situation worse. Maya feels alienation due to the death of Toto. It was intolerable to


it looks painfully comic and absurd to be told how to be a ‘yogi or a ‘sunny' and to achieve

'detachment' when what one craves for is the conjugal love and an emotional with a natural,

mutual attachment. This stolid and philosophical speech in fact underlines the predicament of not

just Maya and Gautama but most of other pairs in Anita Distaffs work. Most importantly it is

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their choice of living on separate planes that

denies them a real understanding. Their diversity disjunction them from each other and

condemns luck to at lifeless relationship.

Maya and Gautama just continue to chase their disparate visions about life. To Maya lift:

is a pulsating, throbbing possibility while for Gautama it is a clear. Precise and concrete truth.

Maya’s approach thus is instinctively.

To make matters worse, all the Maya ever pines for, perishes quickly. Her life appears to

be an endless tale of separation and lifelessness as she begins to lose everything just after her

marriage. Having once enjoyed a “princess like, a sumptuous fate of the fantasies of the Arabian

Nights, the glories and bravado of Indian mythology, long and astounding tales of princes and

regal queens", she now seems to face the quilt revered of fortunes. She misses the company of

her father. his positive, affectionate attitude but is painfully shocked to see him turning immune

to her after her marriage to Gautama. Defeated by human beings. She tries to latch on to

Her pet Tote, but it too dies suddenly.

She plunges deeper into problems as she fails to do or deliver anything meaningful. Her

household is mo by the servants around leaving her idle and more tuned to developing her

neurosis. The lack of activity thus renders her unoccupied and more conducive to mental

nervousness and anxieties.

To add to her misery, she happens to be childless woman, deprived thus of an oppornmity

of a healthy, spontaneous outlet of her feelings. Her life thus suffers from a terrible

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eventlessncrs. Unoccupied, unloved and alone Maya in the things. The world of her aspirations

falls apart around her and she begins to lose her sanity:

l am going insane. I am moving further and further from all wisdom, all calm, and I shall

soon be mud, if I am not that already. Perhaps it is my madness that leads me to imagine that

horoscope, that encounter with the Albino, his predictions, my fate? Perhaps it is only a

phenomenon of insanity?

A sense of gloom, a threat for an imminent disaster chokes her as already insecure and

alienated, she is dogged by the prophecy clan albino astrologer who predicted her husband‘s or

her own death in the fourth year fool their manned life. It is noteworthy that given a healthy,

spontaneous and occupied routine. Maya would have shrugged aside the fears of the prophecy.

But the {ant that her life seems to be ‘an endless tedium with nothing significant taking place at

any time leaves her extremely vulnerable plunging her deep into a. life of miserable existence of

bizarre fantasies and nightmares.

The opening part of the novel depicts the causes of Maya's neurosis; “All day the body

lay rotting in the sun. It could not be moved onto the verandah for, in that April best, the reek of

dead flesh was overpowering and would soon have penetrated the rooms. So she moved the little

string bed on which it lay under the lime trees, where there was a cool shade, say its eyes open

and staring still, screamed and rushed to the garden tap to wash the vision from her eyes,

continued to cry and ran, defeated, into the house."5 The dead body of the dog, Toto, was

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removed by the public Works Department, and Maya's husband, Gautam, said to her, "Its all

over, Come, won 't you pour out my tea?”(CTP p. 6). But she was lost in what had been of the

dog; as such, Gautam again said, "Maya, do sit down. You look so hot and born out. You need a

cup of tea."(CTP p. 6). Maya cried “No” and "fled to the bedroom to fling her onto the bed and

lie there, thinking of the small, still body stiffened into the panic-stricken posture of the moment

of death, and of the small sharp yield in the throat as it suddenly contracted." (CTP p. 7)

Maya headed towards pessimism just because she could not bear with the death of Toto.

She sat there, sobbing, and waiting for her husband to come home. "Now and then she went out

onto the verandah, and looked to see if he were coming up the drive which lay shrivelling,

melting and then shriveling again, like molten lead in a grove cut into the earth, and, out of the

corner of her eye, could not help glancing, as one cannot help a test the small units corpse laying

at one end of the lawn, under a sheet, under the limes."(CTPpp.5- 6).Nevertheless, she could not

help throwing a casual but conscious glance at the phenomenon that had made her sick and

abnormal. “All day it had come in with the slow breeze that sucked the curtains in, then slowly

drew them out." (CTP p. 6)

Her obsession with the prophecy gains further consolidation as Gautama remains

jealously indifferent to her feelings and fears. When Maya attempts to share her growing anxiety

over the prophecy that threatens to end her or Gautama‘s life, he just. Can slip into his favorite

preaching mould:

Maya's abnormal psychology; “There remained certain unease, a hesitance in the air,

which kept the tears swimming in my eyes, and prevented their release. I was not allowed the

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healing passion of a fit of crying that would have left me exhausted, sleep-washed and

becalmed."(CTP p. 8).This unremembered sorrow projected itself on the death of Toto; "the

strange horror had not yet been recognized even though it was, surely, connected with the corpse,

the small, soft corpse and the odor of flesh, once sweet, once loved, then, suddenly, rotten-

repulsive.”(CTP p. 8).This sort of emphasis on the gulf between life and death is the cornerstone

of alienation, despair, and introversion. It is unfortunate that Maya's husband, Gautam, could not

think in terms of death and its ugliness; "I crept into a corner of the bed, crouched there, thinking

that it perhaps because of Gautam not understanding."(CTP p. 9)

Gautam never tried to know that concerned Maya. He could not know her misery, nor did

he know how to comfort her. Maya rightly says, “But then, he knew nothing that concerned me.

Giving me an opal ring to wear on my finger, he did not notice the translucent skin beneath, the

blue flashing veins that ran under and out of the bridge of gold and jolted me into smiling with

pleasure each time I saw it. Telling me to go to sleep while he worked at his papers, he did not

give another thought to me, to either the soft, willing body or the lonely, wanting mind that

waited near his bed."(CTP p. 9).Maya says that "it is his (Gautam's) hardness - no, no, not

hardness, but the distance he coldly keeps from me. His coldness and incessant talks and, talking

reveal myself. It is that - my loneliness in this house."(CTP p. 10)

This life you speak, of this little episode, this brief flash in the pm, how in and trivial it

appears compared with this immortal cycle to which all humanity is bound. Living or dying and

which turns without stop, without point. You might say.

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"Childless women," says Maya, "do develop fanatic attachments to their pets, they say. It

is no less a relationship than that of a woman and her child, no less worthy of reverence, and

agonized remembrance.”(CTP p.10). Maya was doubtful about the future; she could not hope for

having a child in future. She knew “how closely linked to the chain of time was the inevitable

order of attachment, its disintegration, and then, the deluge."(CTP p. 10). Maya was flooded with

tenderness and gratitude; her tenderness was "the cathartic I desired, and now at last I began to

cry again, pressing my face against him."(CTP p. 11). This made Maya feel agreeably like a

child. She was not hurt, and she took his arm, even though she knew that he wanted her to do so.

When Maya and Gautam strolled up and down, they felt of "the peace that comes from

companion life alone, from brother flesh."(CTP p. 18).Maya feels that contact, relationship, and

communion are necessary for eluding the nets of negation, "these warm, tender sensations bathe

me in their lambency, smooth me till the disturbed murmurs of my agitation grow calmer, and I

could step out of the painful seclusion of my feelings into an evening world where the lawn had

just been trimmed, the flower-beds just watered."(CTP p. 18). Nevertheless, Maya rightly caught

her husband in his act of indifference toward her - her life and feelings. She asked, “what are you

thinking of? That man who came to see you this evening? He kept you in the office for an hour -

or more, I 'm sure, what did he want? Oh, you don't need to tell me- it must have been about

some musty old case, about money, or property, or something dreary like that, Wasn't it?"(CTP

p. 20)

Maya emphatically says, “Though I 'm sure I don’t know if money is basic. And why

must it always be money? It's always money, or poverty - never is case of passion and revenge,

murder, and exciting things like that - basic things. Why?"(CTP p. 20).Quickly Gautam

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interrupted, cutting Maya's thoughts away, and he swiftly said, “You feel the world will die for

what is known to us as reality, not for ideals. Like most young people, you cannot understand

that reality and idealism are one end the same things. Life is not a matter of distinguishing

between the two, but of reconciling them."(CTP pp. 20-21).Love and death, Gautam thinks, are

mundane superfluities, and these superfluities are the ideals of worldly life. "Death lurked in

those spaces, the darkness spoke of distance, separation, loneliness -loneliness of such proportion

that it broke the bounds of that single word and all its associations, and went spilling and

spreading out and about lapping the stars, each one isolated from the other by so much."(CTP p.


Maya could not help thinking of the long journey of the dead from one birth into another

- "the brave traversing of mute darkness, the blind search for another realm of lucidity in the

midst of chaos."(CTP p. 22).Her thought reached a point where the idea of Toto’s death over-

powered her associations with the world of her emotional involvements. She cried, “I miss him

so - terribly."(CTP p. 22).The confession out of her in a stormy rush, and even as she wiped

away her quick tears, and wept more, she cried to herself - "what is the use? I am alone."(CTP p.

22).So when Gautam quoted an Urdu couplet, she heard it, "And my heart stretched, stretched

painfully, agonizingly, agonizingly, expending and swelling with the vastness of a single

moment of absolute happiness, and my body followed its long, sweet curve, arching with the

searing, annihilating torture of it."(CTP p. 23)

Exhibiting thus a cruel aloofness towards Maya’s apprehension, Gautama aggravates her

frustration. He refuses to come out of his cocooned shell of intellectuality and fails to sec Maya’s

growing desperation. Placed on a rake of helpless, Maya's visions become chaotic and her

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dreams tummy nightmarish. Condemned to live a life of physical, emotional and spiritual

loneliness, Maya‘s whole being gets convened in a ‘hysterical sell'..... Pining for


"Gautam almost a protégé of my father, who had admired him, and, I believe, still did,

coming slowly up on his bicycle, in the evenings, it was my father,Gautam used to call upon, and

had it not been for the quickening passion with which I met, half-way, my father's proposal that I

marry this tall, stooped and knowledgeable friend of his, one might have said that our marriage

was grounded upon the friendship of the two men, and the mutual respect in which they held

each other, rather than upon anything else."(CTP p. 40).The prophecy too was responsible for

making plays morbid and negative. Now she comes to recollect what was prophesied; "Four

years it was now, we had been married four years. It was as though the moonlight had withered

the shadows in my mind as well. Leaving it all dead-white, or dead-black. When the drums fell

silent and the moon began to sink over the trees, I knew the time had come. It was now to be

either Gautam, or I,"(CTP pp. 32-33)

Maya in her pessimistic condition, reads the omens of ill fortune and separation in

whatever object comes in her meditation and introspection. She was exasperated by doves, in a

mood for mating, until she was distracted; "I counted them as omens of ill fortune, of separation,

for their coo was a tedious repetition of the fatal words, 'Go away till day they repeated their

warning‟, and I longed to drive them away, yet dared not disturbed them."(CTP p. 33).She found

the atmosphere charged with restlessness, as her hair, suddenly grown drier and finer - charged

with electricity end crackled sharply when she brushed it. "Something similar heaved inside me -

a longing, a dread, a search for solution, despair, and my head throbbed and spun as I lay flat on

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my back through the long afternoons, under the fan that turned restlessly, and sent a small

quivering breeze over my body, blowing my hair across my lamp face, then blowing it away

again."(CTP p. 35)

Maya and Gautam had innumerable subjects to speak on, and they spoke incessantly.

Gautam’s mother, father, and brothers too had nothing to console Maya; they, on the contrary,

were indifferent to her life. Naturally, Maya had to fall back on what her father had told her

once; "The source of disintegration is the human being’s vanity in his power to act. The world is

full of destruction that is born of Western theory of life, not an Asian one. We have been taught

for generations to believe that the merit of accepting one’s limitations and acting within them is

greater than that of destroying them and trying to act beyond them. One must... accept."(CTP p.

35).The question before Maya is if she should accept her predicament of revolt against it. Then

Maya turned down a line of friends - she shifted them through her mind and came to, "the pink,

plump, pretty who did not speak of fate, who had never been ill, or overworked, or bitter,"(CTP

p. 54-55). Therefore, "I ceased to hunt then, ceased to plan, and merely laid my face into those

cool cloths, odorous with camphor and lavender that recalled mountain waters to me ferns, and

nights full of stars, for I found myself alone with them after, all. There was not one of my friends

who could act as an anchor any more, and to whomsoever I turned for assurance, betrayed me

now."(CTP p. 60).She felt that God, Gautam, and her father could not afford her any kind of

solace -"surely it is nothing but a hallucination."(CTP p. 64)

Gautam’s wretchedness and boredom made it clear that "no man wants to react to the

sight of pregnancy by bursting into tears, Maya, no court of law would consider him sane or

sober."(CTP p. 64). Maya, nevertheless, went on arguing on the wrong lines; and this chain of

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wrong arguments made Gautama Flays to be sane and reasonable. "You are a grown woman

now, Maya, no light-headed child. You must not allow growing upset about these things. What if

they do live in a grubby house? What if she is pregnant again? What if they were so dull? Why

should you allow it to affect you in this manner? Tell me, is any part of your life as drab or as

depressing as theirs? You must not allow yourself to grow so painfully involved."(CTP p. 65).

Fortunately, shetoo feelsthat she has grown too involved in things that have no relationship with

her life: "He was so perfectly right. Here lay the catalysis of my unrest. I had grown too

involved."(CTP p. 67)

Maya wanted Gautamto share her happiness. She looked down at him with tenderness: "I

melted with tenderness, my arms curled into an instinctive cradle, a possessive embrace, as I

want over thoughts of him leaving his clothes on the floor because he never had a thought to

spare for such matters, nor time and of horn on tender-books for a cup of tea, yet helpless

because he could not make it himself nor had to found anyone to make it for him."(CTP p. 67).

Maya has solid arguments in support of her belief, "if mothers enjoy watching the clumsy

drooling of their babes while they eat, or of their faltering attempts at walking, then I enjoyed,

similarly, his (Gautam’s) helplessness in matters practical, his vulnerability when it came to

ideas, his speechless need of me - and all this set off by an aloofness, a vast and serious

knowledge based on self-sacrificing years of study and hard work, his refusal to concede, to

compromise; all this I admired, perhaps envied."(CTP pp. 92-93)

When she went to rouse Gautam from the couch, with a touch, she saw that he had closed

his eyes not with mere tiredness, but in profound, invulnerable sleep, and was very far from any

world of hers, however enticing. "I hesitated, wishing to summon him to me, yet knowing he

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could never join me. It was of no use. After all I sighed - and, once more, was sad."(CTP p. 93).

Maya heard peacocks calling in the wilds, and the idea of their love-life flashed before her

mind's eye: "Before they mate, they fight... Living, they are aware of death. Dying, they are in

love with life."(CTP p. 93)

Maya was too ugly to fascinate Gautam. "He might be charmed by it, momentarily,

diverted by it, for a while, but to capture him entirely, if a fleshly face could do it, it would have

to be a finer one, the elongated, etiolated one of an intellectual, refined by thought and reflection,

bereft of the weakness of impulse, aloof from coarseness and freshness."(CTP p. 102). However,

in intervals of rebellion, and she felt that she was heading towards insanity: "I am moving further

and further from all wisdom, all calm, and I shall soon be mad, if I am not that already. Perhaps

it is my madness that leads me to imagine that horoscope that encounter with the albino, his

predictions, my fate? Perhaps it is only a phenomenon of insanity?"(CTP p. 104).What calmed

Maya was cool and steadfast wisdom; "He whose mind is not agitated . . . who has no longing

for pleasure, free from attachment, fear, and anger, he indeed is said to be of steady

wisdom.”(CTP p. 105)

With a remarkable psychological accuracy, Anita Desai demonstrates to us how Maya

lunches to a. macabre imagination for her ideal aspiration ofa conjugal bliss are met with a

terrible reality. On Maya, Anita Desai portrays an unfortunate woman who lives on a borrowed

optimism before marriage.

So Maya hurls down her husband into death in a blinding moment of unbeatable agony.

She has proved the albino astrologer right. And has become the instrument of her own crazy

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destiny! Three days later, in a of insanity, Maya jumps off the balcony other ancestral house in

and meets with an instantaneous death.

Thus, there are ups and downs in the story as there are ups and downs in May‘s mental

makeup. The way in which Anita Desai has depicted the story gives more psychological touch to

it. This novel probes the psychic dimensions of its protagonist, Maya. Maya’s moods,

observations, dilemmas and abnormality are conveyed very effectively in it. Thus. ‘Cry, The

Peacock’, is n pioneering effort towards delineating the psychological problems of Maya. By

this exploration of Maya's mind through images. Conscious, unconscious, the author Anita Desai

has ‘primly established the psychological novel in the annals of Indo-English fiction"


Anita Desai’s Where Shall We Go This Summer’! (I975) dwells on the theme of

incertitude. Alienation and non-communication in married life. It is the alienation of a woman. a

wife and a mother. an alienation conditioned by society and family. The childless Maya's angst

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in Cry, the Peacock is existential and psychic. Hut sita's anguish in this novel is domestic and


Anita Desai‘s Where Shall Go This Summer? too depicts before us a pate of

disappointment and disaster, but this time the pattern is reversed. In this novel we see Sita. the

Protagonist, returning almost from the brink of disaster to accept what to her has been the defeat

of her life. Lilac Maya. Sita too is an emotional woman who fails to relate to her husband.

Anita Desai is particularly remarkable for its intensity and depth. Sita, the protagonist

here. Suffers since she too, like many other women of Anita Desai, fails to communicate with

her husband. In many ways Satan is at reminder of Maya. She too, like Maya, suffers from an

existential neurosis. like Maya again, Sita too is obsessed with a bizarre thought about the

impending disaster. Highly sentimental and totally alienated from her husband. Sita too, quite

like Maya, suffers the pangs of an incoherent and fragmented matrimonial relation. But it is here

that the sita hilarities between these two women come to end and what looks more important to

the reader is their being dill rent Individuals.

Ill Maya is pewee and withdraws from action Tuttle she pushes Gautama in it outburst, Sita

believes in action right from the beginning.

ln fact the novel begins with her deciding, rather obstinately. to stage the most

unthinkable adventure of a woman—not delivering the baby that she carries in her womb-at

Manori a utopian land where her late father once produced several minor miracles in his life.

Obviously expecting to do the unbelievable, Sita is quick to run herself into trouble and refuses

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to wait for the tragedy to mike her. Again unlike the childless Maya, she happens to be the

mother of four children and carries the fifth one in the novel. Thus she seems to suffer from a

surfeit of something which Maya desires so Moreover. Maya fails to harry the disaster though

she triad hard to avoid it Where as Sita successfully negotiates a disaster by taking it by horns.

Indian women are imposed to all kinds of adversities, including, societal, religious,

sexual by the dominant male power of the society, so that, they can never use their reason and

always ‘walk behind’ and remain ‘the shadow’ of their male counterparts. Women’s writings in

India, though not older than three or four decades, have explored all these adversities to which

the female minds are subjugated. Emphasizing the need of individuality in a hostile society,

women’s writings have opened a new concept of Indian womanhood. It portrays the

metamorphosis of the traditional Indian subjugated female self into the struggle of maintaining

their self identity, and thus, highlights the changing concept of women’s subjectivity.

Anita Desai is one such Indian writer whose work revolves around a female protagonist

reflecting her inner conflict and her predicament of maintaining self identity as an individual

woman as well as emphasizes the role played by nature and ecology in making her protagonist’s

quest for individuality successful. ‘Self’ can be defined by the way of thinking, mode of

behavior, the ideology which an individual possesses and which differentiate him/her from the

other human beings and thus, become his/her identity. ‘Ecology’ is the way in which each thing

in the world is related to other and thus, affects each other by their actions. The Oxford

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dictionary defines Ecology as: The relation of plants and living creature to each other and to their

environment (P. 485)

In search of the ‘miracles’ that her father has worked in Manori, Sita packs up her belongings in

order to retire to the island with two of her children, Menaka and Karan. For Sita, Manori Island

is symbolic of Elysium, but for her children it is just a place which has no light but only

darkness, which can provide only depression and gloominess but not enjoyment and this hurts

Sita. Though the ideal place of Sita, Manori, lacks in the privileges, that comfort the body

in city but it has ample of those things that soothe the soul.

Overwhelmed by reconnecting herself with nature after a long separation, Sita tries to

bring her children Menaka and Karan as closer to nature as she and her brother, Jeevan were in

their childhood but that never happens. Soon Sita realizes that the ‘magic’ for which her father

was venerated by the islanders does not exist anymore. The cloud of mystery that hovers around

the Manori Island and Sita’s father, never discloses itself. Her father always wanted to keep the

island aloof from technology and machines:

No, I will have no machines here. I can prove that machinery is not essential to

civilization, even that it is inimical (P.62)

Maya know that the disaster is one day going to swallow either Gautama or herself. but

rather than doing anything to avert it, she becomes an instrument in its execution. Thus Maya

waits for the things to happen. She even allows disaster In overwhelm her. But Sita refuses to

bow before a decided pattcm of life. She surprises one and all as in the normal course, it is

absurd for woman to believe that she can retain her child in her womb and not let it die or be

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home. Of course, it illustrates not only Sita‘s obsessed vision and her unsettled psyche, but a

conceited revenge as well that she decides to take on her husband and his society. Further, it also

"The Reverse Patients of journey in Anita Desai‘s demonstrates her will to fight out the

established patterns of human life.

Unlike many other women, Sita is endowed with a peculiar vision and sets henelfon a

search for self . She always questions the unlit unquestioned one. Her cynical but realistic

Observation cannot be missed out as she summaries the littleness of human existence saying:

“They are nothing-nothing but appetite and sex only food. sex and money matter.’ In Sita, the

novelist exhibits the frustration of a woman who is sick it having to repeat the process of

delivering 1 baby in routine, uncomplaining manner. Angered at the callous immunity of her

husband, she decides lo slap on him her subtle, convoluted revenge which is neither to abort nor

to deliver the baby she carries.

Thus unlike Mays, she imposes her wishes on others rather than letting others impose their

wishes on her. Her revenge thus, though fantastic and psychic, looks convincing enough.

Anita Desai is one of the most popular novelists of India and she can be rightly compared

with Iris Murdoch, Doris Lessing, Margaret Lawrence, Margaret Atwood and Flora Nwapa. In

the most of her novels, Desai explores the sensibility, the inner workings of the mind of her

characters. The conspicuous influence of Virginia Woolf remains deeply embedded in her

novels. These provide a kind of microcosm of life, a sort of 'phyche Theatre' where her heroine

can see her infinite variety. Even a gentle drilling into the mystical crusts of the phyche of her

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heroines reflects the oceanic vacuity, a never ending all pervasive loneliness and an abysmal

despair from which they suffer. Like all her earlier novels this particular novel also illustrates the

tenseness's between family members and the loneliness, isolation and alienation of the middle

class woman, Sita, the female protagonist of the story, due to which there comes marital

disharmony in her life. Sita is highly emotional, sensitive and intellectual and freedom loving,

finds it very difficult to live in patriarchal culture as well as in this practical civilized world. Sita

felt alienated and suffocated due to the "vegetarian complacence, the stolidity", 'insularity' and

unimaginative way of life of her husband, children and other people around her. As a result of

her experiences, her life becomes boring and monotonous. She could not inwardly accept that

this was all called as life, which life would continue thus, inside this small, enclosed arena, with

these few characters churning around and then past her leaving her always in this gray, dull-lit,

empty shell.

After her marriage Sita feels alienated and unbearable to live with her husband in, 'their

age rotted flat's, unbearable in that it is marked by 'sub-human placidity, calmness and

sluggishness' and feels that 'their sub humanity might swamp her'. To remove her loneliness,

alienation and to preserve her individuality, she behaves in a way, which appears to be

outrageous to the other members of the family by smoking openly and talking 'in sudden rushes

of emotion, as though flinging darts at their smooth, unscarred faces'.

Anita Desai symbolically shows the conflict in Sita's life through the image of a crowd of

crows attacking an eagle, 'wounded or else too young to fly'. This trivial incident serves as an apt

objective correlative to Sita's alienation from life as well as it explains her oversensitive nature

and her disliking of violence in any form. Then Sita, Raman and children moved to a small flat

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but she doesn't find life any better as she has to endure visits by people whose "insularity and

complacence as well as the aggression and violence of others" act as "affronts upon her tiring

nerves". Further Sita becomes increasingly alienated from the world as she is paid little attention

by her husband of his being absorbed in the management of his business and her children

because of their growing independent with the result that she is faced with intolerable boredom

that can prove destructive. And the martial disharmony in her life is thus increased.

Accompanied by two her children, Sita escapes to Manori, the island of miracles, in desperation

and disillusionment. Unable to bear the anguish of another pregnancy, she comes here in order

not to give birth. The island house, deserted for twenty years, symbolizes her temperamental

condition. As the island concretizes the feeling of isolation for Sita, she retreats into it as into a

womb, with an obsessive desire to recapture once again her childhood innocence and purity.

Obviously, her own frustration with her life in Bombay drives her in desire to provide her unborn

infant with a world that is incorrupt. Sita is obsessed with her loveless marriage with Raman.

Here marital relations as well as abnormal man-woman relationship have been portrayed with a

remarkable poignancy.

Sita is married woman and has four children, but in the very picture of misery and

dejection. She feels herself to be a prisoner in a house which offers her nothing but a crust of dull

tedium, of hopeless disappointment. Her unhappiness in married life finds expression in feelings

of contempt for the friends and colleagues of her husband. After unpacking her things and lying

down with her children, Sita ruminates recalling her unhappy married life and her childhood

spent on the island with her father who had become a legend in his lifetime having brought water

from the well to the inhabitants of the island and taught them more profitable ways of framing.

Her frequent return to her childhood days implies her refusal to grow up and accept the

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responsibilities of adult life and her inability to comprehend the past conspires against her

marital harmony. Her alienation from all experience is due to her love for life and her reluctance

to accept violence in any form. This trip for her is a trip of self identity and recognition of reality.

Her memories of past and uncertainty of future have created a sense of dismay and disgust in her


Sita's attempt to overcome her existential despair stemming from her alienation from her

husband and her children, who long for the comforts and excitement of city life, proves abortive.

Menaka writes to her father asking him to take them back as she has to apply for admission t the

Medical College. Seeing how excited her children at the time of her husband's arrival Sita feels

that they were being disloyal to her, disloyal to the island and its wild nature. Raman's arrival

and the conversation that she has with him have the effect of confronting her with the stark

actualities of life, which cannot be wished away. When Raman comes she wants to lay down her

head and weep, but she is told that he has come not for her but for children.

The relations with the in-laws is another yardstick that determines the difference between

Mays and Sita. While Nosy craves for the company of her mother and sister-in-law. Sita. It

Seems, does not get along well with them. She “soon and the atmosphere at home too stifling

and her husband buy: another flat for them to live separately.’ But it fails to give her pence as

she continues to realize the futility of her life and feels bored with it. Fed up with the repetitive

pattern of life she is pled to see “what s farce was, all human relationship were”. The chasm

between her husband Roman and Sita widens as he fails to comprehend the meaning of her

boredom and exclaims "Bored... Why? How? With What?” it is the moment when Sita realizes

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that they both belong to deferent worlds. The novelist clinically portrays her alienation in the

following words.

Then it was her turn to be pulled, so pained-the could not believe that he had really

believed that all was well not known that she was bored, dull, unhappy. Frantic.

She could hardly believe that although they live so close together, he did not even low

this basic fact of her existence.

Already dissatisfy led, and bow totally disillusioned, Sita decides to subtly avenge the

futility of human relations. She decides neither to abort not to deliver the baby she is expecting.

When she tells Raman “...l don't want to have a baby’, he is stunned and thinks that Sita has

suggested an abortion as he asks in a surprised tone “What do you mean-abortion ? But he goes

nonplussed as Sita brushes the idea all I want! I want to keep it, don't you understand?" Raman

can just express his exasperation : “What's up? What is up! At this bizarre proposition from his

wife. Ramon is formed to conclude in a bitter ‘You’ve gone mad‘. But Sita retorts: ‘l

thinly...what lama doing is trying to escape from the Madness here, escape to a place where it

might be possible to be sane again"(35). Sita has set her eyes on Manoli village where once her

charismatic father produced mintzles like removing women's sterility and curing people of their

deadly ailments. Sita believes that Manoli. once being the land of her father‘s miracles, would

not disappoint her as well. With its touch Mannli would help her produce a miracle herself-her

not delivering the conceived and developing baby inside her. She seems almost obsessed with

the idea of doing the un think able- by neither terminating her pregnancy, nor letting her produce

a baby. But just by retaining it inside her.

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Driven by such rt. bizarre passion Sita taltes her two children Menalra and Kant: with her

and sets out for Mnnoli village. Roman can spot this cause and tries to mock away her bravado

So, you're running away-like the bored runaway wife in-in n film.‘ But Sita her with a glare? It

can happen in real life, Raman, and declares stoutly: ‘I will go. leaving tomorrow.

The protagonist of Where Shall We Go This Summer?, Sita, has all the material comforts which

may establish her as a happily married woman in her society and her escape to Manori island,

abandoning all those comforts might be labeled by other persons as madness or insanity. She is

blessed with city life boredom and monotony but the quality she does not possess is the

carelessness and indifferent attitude towards nature and the other creatures of the ecological

system. But this devastating gift is present there in abundance in the lives of most of the urban

characters of the novel, as in her daughter Menaka, who crumbles a sheaf of new buds

unconsciously, who destroys her beautiful drawings as they seem low graded to her, also, in her

son Karan who crashes the toy building just for the sake of enjoyment. Sita becomes heart

broken by the daily chores of kid’s fight and their pleasure in fighting, the maid servant’s duel,

neighbours’ meaningless gossip, the hurried city life and above all the thing that turns her

desperate to escape from such insensitive society is Raman’s silent toleration of all these. Sita,

the mother of four children, is again in an advanced state of pregnancy and is greatly affected by

all these chaos. Being appalled by all these things she becomes unwilling to give birth to her fifth

child in such an insipid world. She wants to keep it in a protected place and that is, her womb.

What differentiates her from the other so called practical and sane characters of the novel is her

sensitivity, her concern for nature as well as for the basic human feelings and emotions. This

concern creates a tumult in her mind regarding her existence in such a chaotic world to which

she belongs, leading her journey towards the protective shield of ecology and nature, which is

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Manori island, and thus processing her towards the ultimate realization of her inner mind as well

as providing enough reason for Raman to appreciate her existence, to applaud her wholeness.

Desai dramatizes the convict between two irreconcilable Temperaments and two

dirrnetrictlly opposed attitudes to Life. Sita. The protagonist is a nervous. Sensitive. Middle-aged

Woman who finds herself isolated from her husband and Children because of her emotional

reactions to many things That happens to her. She is an introverted character, whose Suffering

prings from her constitutional inability to accept the authority of the society. Hence her

alienation ls natural and dispositional. Utile to put up with her in-laws. she withrlraws herself

from the milieu into her own protective shell. She withdraws herself from her husband which is

suggested through the crows preying on the eagle. Thus her alienation is biological and physical.

Roman. Sita's husband. like Gutama in Cry. the Peacock. Fails to understand her violence and

passion. Raman is sane. Rational and passive. Sita is irrational and. Through Sita. Anita Desai

voices the awe of facing all alone “the ferocious assaults of existence". The illicit between two

polarized temperaments and two discordant view- points represented by Sita and Raman. Sets up

marital discord and cortiugul misunderstanding as the of Desai's novels. 'The interrogative and

inquisitive title of the novel is a pointer to the ennui of Site's anguished soul. leer introversion.

When Raman asks her about abortion she shouts “mad! You’re quite mad. Kill the baby?

It ‘s all I want. I want to keep it, don’t you understand.”(35) Raman is totally confused with her

words and says, “You just said you don’t want it. Now you say you do want it. What’s up?

What’s up?”(35) Raman is an ordinary husband who like any other man has great care for his

family. He is indeed an affectionate husband who cares for his wife and this is evident in his

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reluctance to send Sita to Manori. When she wants to escape to Manori, Raman with all care for

his wife and baby says, you must stay where there is a doctor, a Hospital, and a telephone. You

can’t go The island in the middle of the monsoon. You can’t have a baby there. (33)

As women and nature shares the same sensitivity, the insensitivity of her children, their

divorce from nature and natural human qualities affect Sita much more than her husband,

Raman. For practical Raman the reason behind Sita’s desperate willingness to keep the baby

unborn is a puzzle. The idea of escaping was smoldering in Sita’s mind for a long time. As Desai

states about her mental condition.

Strange, she thought- the man so passive, so grey, how could the very mention of him

arouse such a tumult of life and welcome. She felt it herself –unwillingly, unexpectedly- but she

felt it. (P.118)

She has no longer the nerve or the optimism to continue. No, she refused to walk another

step. She would turn, go back and find the island once more. (P.39)

Like Maya's in Cry, the Peacock. leads to her psychic odyssey. Fed up with the dreary

metropolitan life in Bombay and tormented by the ‘paranoid fear of her sloth and reluctant

pregnancy. she leaves for Manori island off the Marne mainland. Sita's father-exertion hinders

her contact with her husband. Here are once again Desai returns to the elusive. She demonstrates

Sita's temperamental disability with Raman through the scene where they talk about the stranger

encountered en route from Atlanta and Eldora: "lie seemed to be brave." she observed when

Raman asked her why she had once more brought up the subject of the hitch-hiking foreigner

months later.

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Sita’s character can be evaluated in the light of her childhood experiences. She is a

motherless child and she experienced partiality, neglect, indifference right from the beginning of

her childhood. Sita’s father has no time for his children and especially Sita did not get even a

drop of his love and care. It was Rekha, Sita’s sister who was close to his heart. She always has a

doubt about Rekha and her relationship with her, for there is no resemblance between the two

sisters. When she learns that Rekha is not her sister, from Jivan she is upset that “his words had

dropped on her skin like acid…”(79) Sita always feels discarded and unwanted. Due to her

father’s partiality she is deprived of Rekha’s company also. Her much suppressed emotions in

her childhood is responsible for her perturbed mental state in future. The indifference of her

father, alienation from sister, lack of love and care from her mother has made many

psychological changes in her. Soon after their father’s death the family disintegrates. Rekha,


without even shedding a drop of tear, Jivan vanishes without any sign and only Sita remains to

marry Raman. Family plays a vital role in the growth and development of individual and broken

homes definitely has its worse effect on an individual. Sita is one such victim who because of her

bitter experiences in her childhood alienates herself from everything around her.

In the mechanical and puppet like life of modern civilization Sita is a rebel. If we edit ate

over her smoking episode (P.43), we confront with not at all her desperate addiction to smoking

but more with her inner desire to make the other female members of her family realize their own

predicament as individual human beings, about their self identities which they have lost in the

smoky, mechanical lives of their household works. As the author describes:

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Raman seems to have a very ‘practical’ view of life and nothing disturbs him in anyway.

His nature is exactly opposite to that of Sita’s who takes anything and everything seriously. She

feels that the outside world is filled with cruelty and destructions .For her ,the city is nothing but

a place of madness where children enact scenes from movies, fight with each other , even the

grown up quarrel in the road side dumps. She is shocked at the behavior of ayahs, who in an

uncivilized manner indulge in cheap quarrels in the streets. She is shocked when she sees the

destructive element in her children’s behavior. She watches Menaka, her daughter crumble a

sheet of new buds and unable to bear the sight of such destruction shouts at her. She is upset

when Menaka destroys her paintings which she has drawn with great care and were really good


When they lived, in the first years of their married lives, with his family in their age-toted

flat of Queens Road, she had vibrated and throbbed in revolt against their subhuman placidity,

calmness, and sluggishness.(P.43)

Part two of the novel describes her life before marriage in the island. She spent her

childhood with her father in a big house in Manori. As her father was a freedom fighter, he did

not remain in one place and at last when freedom was achieved, they settled down in Manori.

Everybody in the island had great respects for him. He set an ashram in his house and many

followed his ideals and principles. He was considered to be a legend in Manori with his new

ideas and magic cures. The people of Manori had immense faith on Sita’s father and approached

him for all their problems. As Sita’s mother had deserted them, it is her father took care of Sita,

her sister Rekha and brother Jeevan. The children lived in the midst of the crowd, as their house

would be always crowded by men and women who come to their father for medicines.

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‘Brave? Him?" Raman was honestly amused. ". He did not even know which side of the

road to wait on."

‘Sita’ is a mythical name which bears with it the qualities like, loyalty, sacrifice,

compromise, love, patience and these qualities define Indian womanhood as well. Attribution of

all these conventional qualities to the mythical character of Sita, Lord Rama’s wife in the great

epic Ramayana, is the example of male hegemony and exploitation. The mythical Sita along with

all those above mentioned qualities also possesses the potential to rebel, to protest the injustice

implemented by the male dominated society. Being again and again questioned about her

chastity, the mythical Sita asks mother Earth to get divide and she takes permanent refuge in her

lap. In this way she asserts her identity, her self-respect in a society which hardly considers

women as individuals. Nature and ecology has always helped women in achieving their self

quest and in voicing their protest. Complimenting the mythical Sita, Anita Desai’s Sita reasserts

her individuality and reestablishes woman’s age old connection with nature by abandoning

Bombay and taking shelter to Manori island.

Unlike the other works of Desai. here is a novel where the quest for Sita manages the

disaster by running into it deliberately. Maya, on the other hand, reel: under it and [ails to do

anything until it envelops her. Consequently then, she is overwhelmed by the tugged in the end.

For Sita the tasting of tinged beforehand, world is satiety—valve which releases her tensions,

relieves her of her darker, tragic, suicidal mood as she returns to embrace her disillusioned sell.

Broadly speaking. Desai’s themes, characterization and images deal with confinement

and lack of freedom. in addition to Existentialistic reality of life she evokes the sentiment and

Sensibility of worsen for their role and respect in society. The All sorts of the feminist critics

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resulted in a massive recovery of Almost forgotten women writers and also re-reading of

literature By women with a view to understand the evolution of the ‘‘female Aesthetic’’.



Anita Desai Starting from her first novel Cry the Peacock to the latest Baumgartner’s

Bombay, all her novels highlight the existentialist’s predilection for portraying the predicament

of man. Many critics have traced shades of existentialist thought in the novel of Anita Desai.

Time and again her themes and characters have been interpreted in the light of existential

philosophy. In this regard it has been pointed out:

Anita Desai’s characters are self-conscious of the reality around them and they carry a

sense of loneliness, alienation and pessimism. She adds a new dimension turning inward into the

realities of life and plunges into the deep-depths of the human psyche to score out its mysteries

and chaos in the minds of characters.

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Fire on the Mountain deals with the life- long frustration caused by an unhappy marriage.

Nanda Kaul is an elderly lady-a great grandmother, but she has not overcome the shocks caused

to her by her husband who was a Vice-Chancellor. When the novel opens we find that she is

thoroughly disillusioned with all her emotional bonds whether matrimonial or filial. She decided

that she had at lat earned the right to reject everyone and head her life alone. She had decided to

live in the solitude of Carignano, but even there she recalls how they had been ignored by her

husband. Inspire of having a Large number of children and grand children, she suffers from a

terrible sense of loneliness. The reason for the sense of neglect that she suffered from was her

husband carried on an affair with Miss David—a teacher of Mathematics. As a result of this

neglect Nanda Kaul had always looked up on herself as an alienated being. Nanda Kaul feels

relieved after her husband‘s death because she is free to live life according to her wishes and

desires. So deep is the scar left on Nanda Kaul by her husband's neglect of her and hi: affair with

Miss David that even on her death bed she is reminded of how bet husband

had only done enough to keep her quite while he carried on a life-long affair with Miss David,

whom he had loved all his life. She does not forget till the last moment of her life that her

children were all alien to her and naturally the neither understood nor loved them. lt is her

cramping sense of loneliness even in the midst of a large family that compels her to retire to


Particularly Fire on the Mountain has been identified as “the lyrical fictionalization of the

quintessence of existentialism” (Gupta 185). A close study of the texture and theme of the novel

in relation to the tenets of existentialism justifies the above observation. It has been noted that

“Fire on the Mountain displays skillful dramatisation of experiences of certain women embroiled

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by the cross way of life” (Choudhury 77). This novel deals with the existential angst experienced

by the female protagonist Nanda Kaul, an old lady living in isolation. It also projects the inner

turmoil of a small girl, Raka, who is haunted by a sense of futility. Thirdly, it presents the plight

of a helpless woman, Ila Das who is in conflict with forces that are too powerful to be

encountered, resulting in her tragic death. Thus, the existential themes of solitude, alienation, the

futility of human existence and struggle for survival form the major themes of the novel.

Fire on the Mountain falls into three sections, each further divided into several short

chapters of unequal length. The first section titled “Nand Kaul at Carignano” runs into ten

chapters. This section deals with Nanda Kaul, the main protagonist’s lonely life in Kasauli.

“Raka comes to Carignano” forms the second section and it contains twenty one chapters. It

portrays Nanda Kaul’s change of attitude towards Raka, her great granddaughter. The final

section “Ila Das leaves Carignano” is divided into thirteen chapters. This section presents the

tragic end of Ila Da, Nanda Kaul’s childhood friend. In all, the book runs to 145 pages. The

structural unity, as suggested by the section captions is offered by Carignano, Nanda Kaul and

Raka, running counter to one another complemented by that of Ila Das also provide unity of

structure. Like the other works of Anita Desai, the present novel contains neither any story value

nor events that are interesting by themselves. The entire novel revolves round the existential

angst experienced by the women protagonists.

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Fire on the Mountain is relatively brief and uncomplicated, the significant action

occurring within the psyches of Nanda and, to a lesser extent, Raka, her great-granddaughter.

When Ila Das is raped and killed, that violent action happens “offstage” at the end of the novel,

almost simultaneously with Raka’s announcement that she has set the forest on fire. While there

are few important “events” in the rest of the novel, Anita Desai prepares the reader for the

horrific ending by carefully embedding violence in her imagery and in her symbolism. In effect,

the “fire” metaphorically smolders within her characters before it literally ignites at the end of

the novel.

Emotional deprivation is at the root ct Nanda Kaul's disillusionment with human bonds.

Her husband did not love her as-a wife. He treated her as some decorative yet useful mechanical

appliance needed fur the efficient running of his household She played the gracious hostess all

the time and enjoyed the comforts and social status of the wife of a dignitary. But she felt lonely

and neglected. Her husband carried on lifelong affair with Miss David, the Mathematics mistress.

This had been a source of agony throughout her life‘She now believes every attachment to be the

preface of a new betrayal and all socialization as fake. It creates in Nanda Kaul such a sickness at

soul. that she distrusts all attachment and affairs.

Ila Das, Nanda Kaul’s childhood friend visits Carignano to meet Raka. A one time lecture

in the Punjab University, Ila Das had lost her job subsequent to Mr.Kaul’s retirement. She has

come to Kasauli now in her new capacity as an officer in the social welfare department. She

fights against child marriage by enlightening the local people about the evils of this practice.

This invites the wrath of many of the villagers of whom Preet Singh is one. His attempts to barter

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his little daughter for a tiny piece of land and a few goats have been successfully thwarted by Ila

Das. He is lying in wait to settle his score with her. One evening, when Ila Das returns late from

Carignano to her humble house in the valleys, he waylays her, rapes and murders her. When the

news of Ila Das’s death is conveyed to Nand Kaul over the phone, she is rudely shocked and falls

dead. Raka unaware of her great grandmother’s death, rushes into the house proclaiming wildly

that she has set the forest of fire.

Nanda Kaul, Raka and to some extent Ila Das, are embodiments of the existential

predicament experienced by the individual in an un-understanding and even hostile universe. A

detailed examination of the characters of these protagonists brings to light how Anita Desai has

succeeded in giving expression to her existentialist world-view through these characters and by a

subtle use of imagery and symbols.

The interaction—and lack of it—between Nanda and Raka, who, despite the generational

gap, are quite similar in behavior. At first, Nanda considers Raka an “intruder, an outsider,” and

resists being drawn into the child’s world. Nanda soon discovers, however, that she and her

great-granddaughter have much in common, primarily their aloofness and determination to

pursue their own secret lives. Raka is distant not only emotionally but also spatially, and her

Casual is not Nanda’s: Raka frequents, despite Ram Lal’s warning, the forbidden ravine behind

and below Carignano. In spite of their initial mutual rejection, Nanda comes to miss Raka during

the child’s forays into the ravine; Nanda finds “the child’s long absences as perturbing as her

presence was irksome.” Consequently, Nanda insists on accompanying Raka on some walks,

notably the one to a peak called Monkey Point, but Raka spurns Nanda’s overtures and prefers

her own secret world.

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When her ploys prove unsuccessful, Nanda whets Raka’s curiosity by telling the child

about her own childhood in Kashmir, where her idealized father had a zoo, including a pangolin,

a “hard, scaly creature in its armour.” (Nanda’s father, in direct contrast to Raka’s brutish one,

obviously interests Raka, who resembles the pangolin, also the object of the father’s loving care.)

Nanda’s stories, however, succeed only temporarily, and she is reduced to thinking of giving

Carignano to Raka. Meanwhile, Raka continues her exploration of the ravine and also visits an

abandoned burned house near Carignano. When Raka leaves her ravine, which is associated with

nature and death, to visit the clubhouse, which is associated with civilization, she is, ironically,

threatened for the first time in Kasauli. At the club the masked revelers appear as “caged,

clawed, tailed, headless male and female monsters” who remind her of her father returning from

a party and beating her mother senseless. At this point, reality impinges upon her secret world

and transforms it into a nightmare.

The final part of the novel also concerns a visit: Ila Das arrives at Carignano after being

taunted and physically abused by a group of boys. Although she is aware of Ila Das’s desperate

financial plight, Nanda adroitly steers the conversation away from any discussion of Ila Das

moving into Carignano. When the two old women persist in the “game of old age,” Raka slips

away and steals some matches. Finally, Ila Das leaves Carignano, and on her way home in the

dark is raped and killed by the father of a young girl whose marriage to an old landowner she had

opposed. When the police call Nanda with the news of the murder, Nanda realizes that “it was all

a lie,” that her stories about her father, her loving husband, and the circumstances leading to her

stay at Carignano were all fabrications. While she holds the phone, Raka announces, “I have set

the forest on fire.”

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“If Nanda Kaul was a recluse out of vengeance for a long life of duty and obligation, her

great grand daughter was a recluse by nature, by instinct. She had not arrived at this condition by

a long route of rejection and sacrifice [like Nanda Kaul], she was born to it, simply “(FM 48).

Desai’s above observation about Raka’s character at once brings out the similarity and difference

with that of Nanda Kaul’s in their mental makeup. Raks’s character has been introduced by the

novelist as a foil to Nanda Kaul’s. If Nanda Kaul symbolises a particular aspect of existentialism,

which is examined elsewhere in this chapter, Raka epitomises another aspect of the existential

predicament: the influence of her parents on her life. Anita Desai makes Raka both young

temperamentally and solitude-loving. When Raka is first introduced, the reader is informed that

she is the granddaughter of Asha, the most problematic of Nanda Kaul’s daughters. That she is

an unwelcome intruder into Nanda Kaul’s life is suggested by an image. As Nanda Kaul first

looks at her great grand daughter who is walking towards her, she reminds the old lady of an


Raka slowed down, dragged her foot, then came towards her great grandmother with

something despairing in her attitude.. She turned a pair of extravagantly large and somewhat

bulging eyes about in a way that made the old lady feel more than ever her resemblance to an

insect. (FM 39).

However, the old lady is shocked to see the pale and gaunt little girl and is moved to pity.

But “to Nanda Kaul she was still an intruder, an outsider, a mosquito flown up from the plains to

tease and worry” (FM 40). Raka herself does not bother much about the “blatant lack of warmth”

(FM 40) exhibited by her great grandmother. She prefers to stay away from company. Like a

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wild animal newly caged, she keeps prowling barefoot in her room, looking at the stone heaps.

She is not interested in flowers or playing as children of her age normally tend to do. By using

two reptile images successively in a span of two pages, and by a suggestive hint about Raka’s

lack of interest in play and flowers, Desai impliedly establishes that there is something weird

about her. Soon through several interior monologues enacted in Raka’s subconscious mind, the

reason for the abnormality in her is unfolded.

The daughter of an ill-matched couple, Raka has been witness to the brutality and futility

of human existence. She is haunted by the recollections of the nightmarish nights that have made

her almost a child-stoic. Somewhere behind them, behind it all was her father, home from a

party, stumbling and crashing through the curtains of the night, his mouth opening to let out a

flood of rotten stench, beating at her mother with hammers and fists of abuse-harsh, filthy abuse

that made Raka cower under her bedclothes and wet her mattress in fright, feeling the stream of

urine warm and weakening between her legs like a stream of blood, and her mother lay down on

the floor and shut her eyes and wept. Under her feet, in the dark, Raka felt that flat, wet jelly of

her mother’s being squelching and quivering, so that she didn’t know where to put her feet and

wept as she tried to get free of it. Ahead of her, no longer on the ground but at some distance

now, her mother was crying. Then it was a jackal crying.(FM 72)

Ila Das is the third female protagonist of the novel. Unlike Nanda Kaul and Raka who are central

to the story, her role is only marginal. Nonetheless, Anita Desai has projected yet another aspect

of the existentialist philosophy through her character. “Her life suggests another dimension of

misery and meaningless existence” (Jena 30). She is first introduced to the readers, when she

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calls Nanda Kaul on the phone and informs her of her intended visit to Kasauli to meet Raka.

She speaks in a “hideous voice” (FM 21) and is rather plain in her looks. Through a long interior

monologue in Nanda Kaul’s mind, the readers are informed of her past. She was Nanda Kaul’s

childhood friend. She had also served in the university as a lecturer, thanks to Nanda Kaul’s

good offices. But soon after the death of Mr.Kaul she had been ousted and had struggled a lot

before finding the present employment as a social welfare officer. A poverty stricken loner of

aristocratic of child marriage, a practice rampant among the tribals. This lands her in an

unenviable situation. She finds herself fighting a lonely battle against a mindless multitude. But

she is not cowed down by adversity. She remains steadfast in her conviction and refuses to make

any compromises. Though she is aware of the dire consequences that she might be forced to

encounter, she remains faithful to her cause. She succeeds in stooping several such child-

marriage, the prominent one being the marriage of Preet Singh’s seven year old daughter.

Sustaining herself on a meagre pay and putting up with the inevitable condition of loneliness, she

wages a valiant battle against the dictates of the society. Finally, she pays a dear price for her

convictions and refusal to compromise. She is raped and murdered by Preet Singh who has been

dying for revenge.

Though Ila Das plays a minor role in the novel, she is also an allegorical figure. She not

only lives in isolation but also braves the brute majority with conviction and commitment as her

tools. True, she meets with a tragic end but has made her existence significant in exhibiting

courage and determination in the face of stiff resistance and threat to life. ”Her real involvement

in people’s welfare assumes tremendous symbolic significance “(Jena 30). She epitomises the

existentialist concept of struggle against the odds of life. “For the existentialist, man is never just

part of the cosmos but always stands to it in a relationship of tension with possibilities of tragic

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conflict” She stands for the thinking individual who dares to exercise her free will and act

according to her choice rather than submit meekly to the odds of life. The mindless tribal society

in general, and Preet Singh in particular, represent the malevolent aspect to human existence-

forces that are bent upon thwarting the individual’s purpose and undoing her. “One of the many

ways of defining tragedy sees it as a clash between the aspiration of human freedom and

creativity with a cosmic order that is stronger and defeats man “

Though Ila Das loses her chastity and life in the process of her struggle with such brute

forces, her life has nonetheless become meaningful by virtue of the fact that she chooses a cause,

fights for it and sacrifices herself in trying to accomplish her task.

In keeping with this concept, Anita Desai resorts to the effective employment of imagery

and symbolism in Fire on the Mountain. Her predilection for prey-predator imagery abounds in

this novel also. Images of ugliness, loneliness, destruction and annihilation are consistently used

in order to reflect the existential tone of the novel. An atmosphere of solitary introspection is

created with the help of several images. For example, when she receives a call from Ila Das,

Nanda Kual “turned her head this way and that in an escape. She watched the white hen drag out

a worm inch by resisting inch from the ground till it snapped in two. She felt like the worm

herself, she winced at its mutilation “(FM 21). The same is continued in the next page also: “Still

starting at the hen which was greedily gulping down bits of worm, she thought of her husband’s

face and the way he would plait his fingers across his stomach… “(FM 22). This prey-predator

image of hen pecking at a worm is suggestive of Nanda Kaul’s present inner turmoil. Her past

suffering at the hands of the adulterous husband and her present awareness about the harsh

realities of life are both successfully established by this image.

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As is the case in Desai’s other novels,   Fire on the Mountain  is more memorable for its

characters than for its plot or “action.” In fact, plot is important only in terms of what it reveals

about the characters, Desai’s primary concern. Desai focuses not so much on physical

appearance—unless it reflects an inner reality or serves a symbolic purpose—as on her

characters’ inner lives. Nanda, the protagonist, is a case in point, for Desai tells her readers little

about Nanda’s appearance but does tell the readers, through the use of a stream of consciousness

narrative technique, much about her thoughts, values, fears, suppressed hostility, and

unconscious need for love.

Carignano, Nanda’s “retreat,” suggests Nanda’s determination to withdraw from her

former active life, replete with its duties, obligations, and roles. Among the roles she rejects is

the role as sacrificing nurturer of others: “The care of others . . . had been a religious calling she

had believed in till she found it fake.” At the end of part 1, she pleads, “Discharge me. I’ve

discharged all my duties.” In her desire to simplify her life, Nanda “jettisons” her past, strips it to

its necessities, and attempts to reject other people. Like Carignano, she is “barren,” and like the

garden, through age and “withering away” she has arrived at a “state of elegant perfection.” The

setting is both “perfected and natural” in that she has imposed her will on stubborn nature. Like

the apricot trees that flourish in stony soil, however, she cannot resist her natural impulse to

reach out to her great-granddaughter, Raka.

Although she resembles Nanda in her aloofness, Raka is not “exactly like” her great-

grandmother: While Nanda’s rejection of Raka is “planned and wilful,” Raka’s rejection of

Nanda is “natural, instinctive, and effortless,” at least as Nanda sees it. Since Desai presents most

of the story through Nanda’s perspective, readers know more about Nanda than they do about

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Raka, who remains, with the exception of the clubhouse revelations, an enigma throughout the

novel. As seen by Nanda, Raka is a part of nature, a child whose natural habitat is the ravine and

whose behavior is described in animal imagery. When she first meets Raka, Nanda compares her

to a “dark cricket” and a “mosquito,” comparisons that continue until Nanda discovers a rapport

between the two. In addition to the negative insect imagery, there are references to Raka as one

of the “newly caged,” which suggests that Nanda will not be able to domesticate her “natural”

great-granddaughter. Raka seeks her freedom, which is epitomized by the eagles with which she

identifies at Monkey Point. (Ironically, Nanda also identifies with eagles, but it is the “low,

domestic call” of the cuckoo that she hears just before Raka’s visit.) Raka cannot really escape

from the civilized world, regardless of how much she attempts to repress her memories of her

parents’ behavior. Like Nanda, Raka fears human contact because it has brought her pain.

Like Raka, Ila Das tests Nanda’s commitment to physical and emotional isolation. A

pathetic creature whose most notable feature is her “cackle,” Ila Das appeals indirectly to

Nanda’s charity and compassion. Despite her desperate financial status and ridiculous

appearance, however, Ila Das has much in common with Nanda: Both are “old, beaten, and

silent” as they reenact the past. Ila Das, in fact, is superior to Nanda, in that she has not

withdrawn from life but has instead reached out to help the people she serves as a social worker.

The eagle symbol, like the house symbol, is repeatedly used in the course of the novel to

highlight another aspect of existential philosophy, namely quest. The sight of the eagle flying

high, makes Nanda long to be able to soar like the bird: “An eagle swept over…. its wings

outspread, gliding on currents of air without once moving its great muscular wings which

remained in repose, in control, She [Nanda Kaul] had wished, it occurred to her, to imitate the

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eagle-gliding, with eyes closed” (FM 19). This longing for soaring above the reach of

deterministic confines is the hall mark of Raks’s characters. To emphasise this aspect, the

novelist employs the eagle symbol while describing Raka’s walk to the Monkey Point. “She was

higher than the eagles, higher than Kasauli and Sanwar and all the other hills…”(FM 61). Thus

Nanda Kaul’s wish and Raka’s attempt merge in the eagle-symbol, which denoted their

existential angst and quest for values.

One of the themes of Fire on the Mountain is certainly withdrawal, with its associated

theme of loneliness, especially as embodied in Nanda and Raka. In Nanda’s case the withdrawal

results from a failed, if enduring, marriage, while in Raka’s case the withdrawal is from domestic

violence; for both, a man causes the alienation. The violence of a predatory world cannot,

however, be escaped, as Ila Das’s fate so forcefully indicates. Nor is the “retreat” without its

symbolic violence, which is played out in nature. As Nanda anticipates Raka’s visit, she sees a

white hen drag out a worm until it snaps in two: “She felt like the worm herself, she winced at its

mutilation.” Nanda also sees herself as a predatory cat in pursuit of the lapwing, and later she

sees the hoopoe bird feeding its young with insects. While Desai tends to depict the ravine as a

symbol of nature and as a refuge for Raka, who cannot abide the civilization of Carignano and

the clubhouse, even the ravine is “blighted” by civilization’s waste and polluted by the smoke

from the chimneys of the Pasteur Institute.

The Institute serves as an appropriate symbol for the contradictory nature of civilization

or progress, since it serves people through its production of serum, but at a cost: the smell of

“dogs’ brains boiled in vats, of guinea pigs’ guts, of rabbits secreting fear in cages packed with

coiled snakes, watched by doctors in white.” Desai does not, however, seem to be nostalgically

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yearning for the past, even though colonialism offered a surface grandeur (the decline of Kasauli

seems attributable to the town going “native”). The colonial past is also marked by violence,

which the postman traces with black humor in his account of Carignano’s various owners:

Colonel Macdougall’s corrugated roof blows off, decapitating a coolie; the pastor’s wife

attempts to poison him and then to stab him; Miss Jane Shrewsbury pokes a fork into her cook’s

neck, and he dies. In Desai’s fictional world, one simply cannot escape violence by retreating

from one’s obligations to others. Nanda’s failure to “connect” with Ila Das and with Raka

indirectly causes the former’s death, and Raka’s refusal to “connect” with her great-grandmother

leads to her decision to destroy a world she can neither accept nor tolerate.

This poem has some connection with he character of Nanda Kaul who quotes it and the

poem signifies her desire to be away from the humdrum of life, to a heaven of nature far from the

madding crowd. By introducing this poignant stanza from Hopkin’s poem, Anita Desai

highlights the theme of alienation which is the central theme of the novel. The same effect is

achieved by introducing an allusion to a passage from The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon which

begins with a title ‘When a Woman lives Alone’ and through the image of a dilapidated house

“with a poignantly desolate look “(FM 27). This image has symbolic overtones as it suggests the

lonely and desolate life of Nanda Kaul herself. Again, when Nanda Kaul is in the company of

Raka, there is an allusion to The Travels of Macro Polo (FM 87). The reference to this book

reminds the ‘Cape of Good Hope’. This also adds to the symbolism of the novel. This is

miniature adventure like the one Marco Polo undertook in search of something new and


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To sum up, Fire on the Mountain invites comparison with Shakespeare’s King Lear. In

this great tragedy, when he dramatises the agony of betrayed father, Shakespeare removes Lear

from the palace and places him in the wild heath- a hostile place- to suggest that the plight of

Lear is identical with the suffering of every wronged father. Shakespeare employs animal

imagery to indicate the rotten and corrupt world of the dramatis personae of King Lear. Images

of ugly and evil animals like jackals and wolves are recurrently used creating an animal imagery

that reinforces the thematic concern of the play, namely the tragedy of human life, personified in

the life of Lear, a victim of indifference in old age. Anita Desai’s use of imagery of King Lear.

By making use of the images of insects and animals like mosquitoes, lizard and jackals, Desai

hints at how her female protagonists despise the absurdity of their existence. They either

withdraw into a shell like Nanda Kaul or like Raka, long for something new or is made miserable

by the environment as in the case of Ila Das. Similarly, by making Kasauli the location of her

novel, Desai has endowed it with a wider appeal where the boundaries of region, religion and

time cease to exist. This novel contains the core of the novelist’s existential world-view in that

all the three characters are nothing but the manifestations of her alter ego that gives expression to

her outlook on life.

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Desai probably derived this point of view from her German mother, whom she aptly

describes as carrying 'a European core in her which protested against certain Indian things, which

always maintained its independence and its separateness.' Her oeuvre has explored the lives of

outsiders within Indian society and, more recently, also within the West. Her fiction has covered

themes such as women’s oppression and quest for a fulfilling identity, family relationship and

contrasts, the crumbling of traditions, and anti-Semitism. The Eurocentric and social biases that

are sometimes detected in her fiction, therefore, may be more productively read as the result of

the author’s focus on uprooted and marginalized identities. Tellingly, the literary example which

Desai set off to emulate was that of another migrant to India of German origins: Ruth Prawer

Jhabvala. Though some critics detect a Western disdain for Indian social customs in her fiction,

ultimately Desai’s literary world is not sharply divided along Western and Eastern lines. On the

contrary, ever since her novel Baumgartner’s Bombay   (1987), East and West have been treated

as mirror images of each other.

Desai’s novels and short-stories evoke characters, events and moods with recourse to a

rich use of visual imagery and details, which has led to comparisons with the modernist

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sensibilities of T. S. Eliot,  William Faulkner and Virginia Woolf. The origin of her stories, as

the writer explains, is itself rooted in images: 'there are so many images that remain in the mind

but they often are also forgotten, they pass through one's life and then they vanish. But there are

certain images, certain characters, certain words that you find you don't lose, you remember, they

stay with you and eventually these come together, you begin to see what the connection is

between them'. Thus, the immobility and frustration of the central female character in   Clear

Light of Day   (1980), Bim Das, an apparently independent woman who is hostage of her past

memories, are conveyed by zooming in on several details of the house where she lives,

signifying decay and dullness. Bim’s sister Tara, who is visiting her in the crumbling family

mansion in Delhi during the momentous days of Partition, observes that 'the dullness and the

boredom of her childhood, her youth, were stored here in the room under the worn dusty red

rugs, in the bloated brassware, amongst the dried grasses in the swollen vases, behind the

yellowed photographs in the oval frames - everything, everything that she had so hated as a child

and that was still preserved here as if this were the storeroom of some dull, ‘uninviting provincial


The novels of Desai reveal her unique world view but at the same time they also reveal

the existing tendencies in modern fiction. Her novels are technical innovations and combine

features of both novel and lyrical poetry. They shift our attention from mere characters and

events to the formal or basic design of the novel. Anita Desai prefers the word pattern to plot

when she says: "I prefer the word 'pattern' to 'plot' as it sounds-more natural and even better, if I

dare use it, is Hopkins, word inscape while plot sounds arbitrary heavy handed and artificial, all

that I wish to avoid" (Rama, 1990). The city has been the focus of all modern literature and much

of the sensibility that has gone into the creation of great literary works. T.S. Eliot's Waste Land

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and James Joyce's Ulysses have been shaped by an acute awareness of the decadence of human

values in the mechanical life of the modern metropolis.

The great Indian novelists such as R.K. Narayan, Mulk Raj Anand and Bhabani

Bhattacharya look at Indian life from the perspective of its traditions and valves that are rooted

essentially in villages and village folk. But Anita Desai, like her contemporaries Kamla

Markandaya, Arun Joshi, Ruth Prawar Jhabvala and NayantaraSahgal, look at life with its

essential rootlessness fostered by the growth of the metropolis. Desai's novels embody a realistic

view of the city but at the same time she presents it as a metaphor of existence. The city becomes

a symbol that reflects the existential dilemma of the tormented souls who are in constant quest of

selfhood. The characters constantly feel the pressure of the urban milieu which provides a sense

of vacuum and choose. At the same time this urban milieu intensifies the sense of despair and

alienation in the individual. The greatness of a novel as an artistic creation can be judged by

determining the extent to which its theme and the resultant structure are inevitable and

interdependent. Thus this principle of vital unity between form and content may be taken ask the

basis to measure the artistic worth of any work of art. The degree of their organic integration

determines the degree of its artistic success. The point is made clear by the writers of the book

Understanding Fiction in their observations, “He (the novelist) knows that, when he sets out to

write a story, he is really engaged in a process of exploration and experiment: he is exploring the

nature of his characters and the meaning of their acts, and, too he is exploring his own feelings

about them. He knows that any shift in the organisation of his story, or any variation in style, will

alter, however slightly, the total response” (Brooks & Warren, 1981).

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The generational confrontation in Clear Light of Day is echoed in most of Desai’s other

works from the early Fire on the Mountain (1977), which considers the relationship between a

recluse grandmother and her granddaughter, to the later novels Journey to Ithaca (1995)

and Fasting, Feasting(1999). In the former, the spiritual pilgrimage to India of a young and

wealthy European couple, Matteo and Sophie, is a later version of that of their ageing guru, the

Mother, while the latter depicts the struggles of Uma, Aruna and Arun to strike a balance

between their parents’ expectations and their own personal realization. Typical of Desai’s other

fiction is also the use of the house as a place of confinement for women. Like Bim, Nanda Kaul

in Fire on the Mountain, Lotte in Baumgartner’s Bombay and Uma, her mother and Mrs Patton

in Fasting, Feasting rarely walk through the streets of their cities and towns. In her article 'A

Secret Connivance', Desai describes in similar terms the fate of Indian women who 'have had to

confine themselves to the domestic scene – few women have had any experience of the world

outside their homes and families'.

As Desai herself admits, her novels are not populated by heroic characters, whether male

or female, at least in the traditional sense. Her protagonists are marked by certain passivity and

have been criticized as being swept away by historical and social forces rather than being able to

face and control them. Yet, Desai claims that 'my characters who appear like losers, victims

show a kind of heroism, of survival. I think if you can come through the experience of life with

the heart and mind intact, without compromising yourself, that to me is a heroic act that needs to

be celebrated.' In spite of the heroic nuances of these survivals, Desai’s characters often meet

tragic endings. Desai portrays a fictional world where, according to her own definition, 'History

is a kind of juggernaut' which completely drives over characters without mercy. Baumgartner’s

Bombay   is a typical case in point. The protagonist, Hugo Baumgartner, is a Jew who fled from

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Nazi Germany to India, only to find that he cannot be fully accepted by Indian society either: he

is first interned in a camp for Germans during the second world war, and then remains a firanghi,

a stranger, in post-independence India. In the end, his escape to India is pointless as he is killed

by a German drifter whom he is trying to set free from drug addiction. The novel is a powerful

literary embodiment of Desai’s claim that East and West are parallel, not contrasting, worlds: 'I

could have made a contrast of the way Europe treated Baumgartner and the way India treats him

but I always discover that there isn't a great contrast, there are always parallels: India too

excludes him because he is a foreigner, the way he was excluded in Europe.

Fasting, Feasting might have as its epigraph the author’s assertion 'that different lives

are parallel lives', as constant correspondences are drawn between an Indian and an American

middle-class family. Uma’s traditional Indian parents, desperately trying to arrange a good

marriage for Uma with disastrous consequences, suffer from the same lack of communication

with their children as the Pattons, the American suburban family where Uma’s brother Arun is

staying while on vacation from his American University. Whether Desai’s characters live on the

banks of the Ganges or amidst the excesses of Massachusetts, they cannot find meaningful

personal relationships other than with their own solitude.

Women traditionally had been regarded as inferior to men physically and intellectually.

Both law and theology had ordered their subjection. Women could not possess property in their

own names, engage in business, or control the disposal of their children or even of their own

persons. Although Mary Astell and others had pleaded earlier for larger opportunities for

women, the first feminist document was Mary Wollstonecraft's Vindication of the Rights of

Women   (1792). In the French Revolution, women's republican clubs demanded that liberty,

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equality, and fraternity be applied regardless of sex, but this movement was extinguished for the

time by the Code Napoléon.

Little by little, women's demands for higher education, entrance into trades and

professions, married women's rights to property, and the right to vote were conceded. In the

United States after woman suffrage was won in 1920, women were divided on the question of

equal standing with men (advocated by the National Woman's party) versus some protective

legislation; various forms of protective legislation had been enacted in the 19th cent., e.g.,

limiting the number of hours women could work per week and excluding women from certain

high-risk occupations.

Anita Desai tries to show the anxiety of Sita who suffers because of her biased attitude

towards life. Sita is over-sensitive who finds herself confined in the urban life after leading a

carefree life in rural area under the protection of her father the artificialities , fast pace and

harshness of city life nauseate her to such an extent that she longs to go back to island where she

has cherished all the delicacies of rural life and where she thinks her roots are. After being taken

away from her father and her place , she feels the void and expects more love and care from her

husband Raman.

She feels insecure and finds everything wrong with Raman He had nothing more to give

her, or he was just unaware of her needs and demands. He raised his hand and stroked Karan’s

hair with a gentleness she herself ached to attract, and stared at him, bored into him with her

eyes, wanting and not being given what she wanted. (132)

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Sita craves for love from Raman and wants him to pamper her like her father, whereas,

Raman who is pragmatic in his approach fails to understand her. Sita unable to understand this

continues accusing her husband and dislikes her kids for being like their father – practical and

insensitive. She is a bit abnormal and introvert. She wants to escape from the brutal realities and

harsh facts of human life. She forgets that life is one part full of violence, suffering and pain.

Treasons, betrayals and treacheries are mixed up with pleasure, joy and happiness to colour it.

She is not satisfied with her present life that she decides to leave for Manori. Raman tries to

enlighten her mind about the ‘contraries’ in life, saying “other people put up with it – it’s not so

– so insufferable. ” (143) But she lacks courage, practical knowledge and wisdom which make

others believe that “life must be continued, and all its business…why can’t you? Perhaps one

should be grateful if life is only a matter of disappointment, not disaster.”(143) Sita always

prefers to live alone with her husband away from his friends and relatives. She could never

tolerate Raman’s friends visiting them for she feels ‘appalled’ and ‘frightened’ by the guests.

Their guests were his business associates who according to Raman are pleasant and tolerable.

He regards them with little humour and with restraint. But to Sita, “they are ‘nothing’ –


but appetite and sex. Only food, sex and money matters. Animals” (47). She uses harsh

words about her guests and calls them “pariahs… in the streets, hanging about drains and

dustbins waiting to pounce and kill and eat” (47)

She never got used to anyone, not with his friends or with his relatives. When they lived

in the first years of their married lives with his family in Queens Road, she had great problem in

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getting along with his relatives and even after moving to this new flat in the city, too she has not

changed itself.

She is a symbol of nature and cannot adjust with the mechanical world. She seems to be

an ‘odd one’ where she is alienated from her family and society. She is upset by the sight of

crows feeding on a young eagle. Immediately she rushes for a toy gun of Karan and uses it on

the the poor eagle. Her childish behaviour that she has exhibited in this incident throws light on

her innocent nature. She failed in her attempts to save the eagle from the crows and later when

Raman came to know about this, he took it lightly. In the morning, there was nothing on the

ledge but some feathers and stains of blood. Raman said, “They’ve made a good job of your

eagle. Look at the feathers sticking out of that crow’s beak.”(41)

Raman seems to have a very ‘practical’ view of life and nothing disturbs him in anyway.

His nature is exactly opposite to that of Sita’s who takes anything and everything seriously. She

feels that the outside world is filled with cruelty and destructions .For her ,the city is nothing but

a place of madness where children

enact scenes from movies, fight with each other , even the grown up quarrel in the road

side dumps. She is shocked at the behavior of ayahs, who in an uncivilized manner indulge in

cheap quarrels in the streets. She is shocked when

she sees the destructive element in her children’s behaviour. She watches Menaka, her

daughter crumble a sheet of new buds and unable to bear the sight of such destruction shouts at

her. She is upset when Menaka destroys her paintings which she has drawn with great care and

were really good too.

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Sita as s symbol of nature finds herself a stranger in that atmosphere. She feels disturbed

by this chaotic and violent society. She finds fault with everyone around her and even with her

own children and husband. She feels that the world around her is not moving according to her

whims and fancies and can no more offer security to her. As Jasbir Jain remarks, “whole

aberrance of life in Bombay is triggered off by the violence around her.”(79)

The husband wife alienation forms the basis of the novel as Raman and Sita differ a lot in

their temperaments. Sita always accuses Raman for his lack of understanding and Raman, could

never understand the emotional state of Sita and he considers her deeds as immature and foolish

ones. Sita appears to be a woman of contradictory thoughts. She is a woman of complex

character and even Raman her husband could not understand her. She does not want her child to

be born in this violence filled society. She says that she does not want her baby to be born.

When Raman asks her about abortion she shouts “mad! You’re quite mad. Kill the baby?

It ‘s all I want. I want to keep it, don’t you understand.”(35) Raman is totally confused with her

words and says, “You just said you don’t want it. Now you say you do want it. What’s up?

What’s up?”(35) Raman is an ordinary husband who like any other man has great care for his

family. He is indeed an affectionate husband who cares for his wife and this is evident in his

reluctance to send Sita to Manori. When she wants to escape to Manori, Raman with all care for

his wife and baby says, You must stay where there is a doctor, a Hospital, and a telephone. You

can’t go The island in the middle of the monsoon. You can’t have a baby there.(33) Sita loses all

feminine, all maternal belief in child birth. She does not want her child to be born in this chaotic,

violent society. She fears it as one more act of violence and murder in the world. Srivastava

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observes: The incident in which a number of crows assault and kill an eagle becomes symbolic

of Sita’s own plight amid violence so much prevalent in society.

Her neurotic fears and anxieties make her aware of the violence around her that she wants

to escape to her island where, she believes a miracle could happen. When Raman, as usual asks

the question, ‘Where shall we go this summer?’, Sita immediately responds ‘to Manori’ and Fed

up with the dreary metropolitan life in Bombay and tormented by the ‘paranoiac’ fear of her fifth

and reluctant pregnancy she leaves for Manori islet off the Moris mainland. (Swain 21-22) Sita’s

character can be evaluated in the light of her childhood experiences. She is a motherless child

and she experienced partiality, neglect, indifference right from the beginning of her childhood.

Sita’s father has no time for his children and especially Sita did not get even a drop of his love

and care. It was Rekha, Sita’s sister who was close to his heart. She always has a doubt about

Rekha and her relationship with her, for there is no resemblance between the two sisters. When

she learns that Rekha is not her sister, from Jivan she is upset that “his words had dropped on her

skin like acid…”(79) Sita always feels discarded and unwanted. Due to her father’s partiality she

is deprived of Rekha’s company also. Her much suppressed emotions in her childhood is

responsible for her perturbed mental state in future. The indifference of her father, alienation

from sister, lack of love and care from her mother has made many psychological changes in her.

Soon after their father’s death the family disintegrates. Rekha, leaves, without even shedding a

drop of tear, Jivan vanishes without any sign and only Sita remains to marry Raman. Family

plays a vital role in the growth and development of individual and broken homes definitely has

its worse effect on an individual.

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Sita is one such victim who because of her bitter experiences in her childhood alienates

herself from everything around her. The betrayal of her husband, his family, her children and

acquaintances violently tears her apart only, later does she starts feeling bad about her doings.

Raman criticizes her for her wrong doings and tries to draw her attention to the trauma and

tensions she has caused her family. When Raman prepares to leave Manori, she mends her ways

and follows his footprints. She lowered her head and searched out his footprints so that she could

place her feet in them, as a kind of game to make walking back easier, and so her footprints,

mingled with his.(150) The magic and charm of the island has vanished and instead of silence

and peace Sita experiences unrest. They are frightened by the threatening weather and feels that

her visit to the island is an act of madness. She realizes that, life in Bombay is the reality, the

island represents a stage world, an act of imagination of make belief, a world which collapses on

close contact.(Jasbir 87) Sita is forced to accept the reality and she is confused. how could she

tell, how decide? Which half of her life was real and which unreal? which of her selves was true,

which false? All she knew was that there were two periods of her life, each in direct opposition

to the other.(153) She believed that she could get satisfaction in the island, but she could not

achieve it the island too. She is unable to achieve temeperamental compatibility with her

husband at home and now in Manori she is unable to achieve the same with her children. At last

wisdom dawns on her and she wants to return to reality.

She had come to the island, ...in search of some magical solution. But she realizes that

There cannot be a solution to man’s indifference in the pervading Menace around, she chooses to

return and face life.(Singh 158) Finally, Sita realizes that illusion and reality are two sides of life

and they cannot be separated. Anita Desai in her interview observes that in order to survive in the

world, one has to compromise with life: of course if one is alive, in this world one cannot survive

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without compromise, drawing the lines means certain death and in the end, Sita opts for life –

with compromise.(21)

Unlike Maya in Cry, the peacock, Sita neither commits suicide nor kills anyone but she

simply gets compromised with her destiny. As Hariom Prasad observes: sita has come to accept

the prosaic nature of life which runs through difficult human situations in different ways. She

finds the courage to face life, in the end, with all its ups and downs.(119) Sita’s character has

been portrayed in such a way that it represents the predicament of a modern married woman in

the society. She initially escapes from reality and later reconciles to the circumstances. Desai’s

heroines often act violently but in this novel there is a positive change. Sita reconciles herself to

her lot. She strikes a perfect balance between her inner self an outer world. Unlike Maya’s her

alienation is not temperamental or environmental. Ramachandra Rao rightly observes: The novel

may, thus, be seen as a parable on the inability Of human beings, to relate the inner with the

outer, the individual with the society.(59)

Anita Desai’s novels are certainly reflective of socials realities. But she does not dwell

like others on social issues. She delves deep into the forces that condition the growth of a female

in this patriarchal male dominated society. She observes social realities from a psychological

perspective without posing herself as a social reformer. Her novels are studies of the inner life of

characters and her talent lies in the description of minute things that are usually unnoticed. The

novels of Anita Desai are ‘modern’ in the very sense of the word suggested by Irwing Howe.

Meena Belliappa writes “the focus of interest has shifted from girlish romance to a more

complex search for value in human relationship.” (52)

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Anita Desai has handled the theme of reconciliation skillfully in this novel that it reflects

our modern society in too many ways. Sita’s character is a reflection of a modern woman in this

changing materialistic world.


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………. Cry, The Peacock, New Delhi: Orient Paperbacks, 1980

………..Where Shall We Go This Summer? New Delhi: Orient Paperbacks, 1982


Ahmed, sheikh musthaq, Existential Aesthetics. New Delhi:

Atlantic Publishers, 1991.

Brown, calwin s. The Reader’s Companion to World Literature , New York :

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Penguin , 1984

Chatterjee, Margaret. “Introducing Existentialism” Ed. Chatterjee. New Delhi:

Arnold – Heimannn, 1983. 17-30.

Choudary, Bidulata. Women and society in the novels of Anita Desai. New Delhi:

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Weir, Ann Lowry, “The Illusions Of Maya: Feminine Consciousness In Anita Desai’s “Cry, The

Peacock” Journal Of South Asian Literature, XVI,No.2,1981