Where there is war, there is the rape and abuse of women. From the Trojan War to the Middle East conflict, rape has been a tactic of war. Rape is commonly viewed by society as a symbol of female degradation, female submission, and the stripping of honor and humanity. “OpenIt,” by Saadat Hasan Manto, the rape of women is a common theme. In Manto’s “Open It,” a young girl, Sakina, is raped by young men of her community. the author uses the disrobing of garments to create a dramatic climax. However, the respective climaxes convey contrasting ideas about the rape and degradation of women. In “Open It,” the disrobing of garments reveals helpless female submission. the act of disrobing result in a striking male reaction and symbolize the remarkable survival of this battered and abused woman.
, a father is desperately looking for his daughter, Sakina, in the midst of the chaos and disorder of Partition. He asks self appointed social workers of the community to help him find Sakina. When Sakina is approached by these men, her initial reaction is one of fright: “The moment she heard the truck, she began to run” (Manto 360). She agrees to go along with the men, only after being repeatedly reassured and treated kindly by them. Despite her reluctant compliance she still feels uncomfortable for “she tried to cover her breasts again and again with her hands” (Manto 361). In this context, Sakina sees her bareness as a weakness and a symbol of her submissiveness. The author’s initial presentation of Sakina as a terrified, hesitant young girl trying to cover herself in front of intimidating men is dramatically contrasted with her behavior at the end of the story.
In the last scene of “Open It,” Manto presents an extremely powerful and climactic conclusion. Sakina, only half conscious and barely alive, responds to the doctor’s command (referring to the opening of a window), “open it” by unveiling herself: “The girl on the stretcher stirred a little. She moved her hand painfully towards the cord holding up her salwar” (Manto 362). The youthful innocence and conservative, hesitant mannerisms that Sakina expressed in the initial scene of the story is replaced by a shocking submissiveness. The horror and abuse that Sakina experienced stripped her of her humanity and honor. The author implies that the violent rape and abuse that she endured, transformed this once naive girl into a robot expecting to be raped and ready to strip on command. Sakina’s reaction to her rape confirms the common conception that rape degrades women and strips them of their honor and humanity.
This extremely loud and desperate reaction to her impending situation is very different from Sakina’s shy and hesitant behavior when she is approached by the men.
In the story the disrobing of garments stimulates powerful male reactions. In “Open It,” “The doctor broke into a cold sweat” (Manto 362). The meaning of this reaction is debatable. Many interpret the doctor’s sweat as a reaction to Sirajuddin’s ignorance of and naiveté to the violence and rape that his daughter experienced. However, the doctor’s cold sweat could be a reaction to Sakina’s horrifying submissiveness, symbolized by her opening her garments. Unlike Sakina, who unintentionally instigates a reaction from the doctor,he has dramatic reaction when the unmistakable brutality of rape is directly in his face.he is not able to regard rape as a political war tactic anymore. The doctor, realizing the gravity of the situation, breaks into a cold sweat with the reality of rape. The respective reaction demonstrates the intense horror and actuality of a woman being raped.
Although Sakina reacts to her rape in submissiveness, she survives. The disrobing of her garment is most importantly a symbol of her remarkable survival. Although society will always have preconceptions of rape and how a woman should and will react to being raped, it is apparent through “Open It” that being raped is a very personal experience. It is an experience unique to women that can yield very different reactions. Rape can break a woman like it did Sakina. Because being raped is such a personal experience, a woman’s reaction to such a trauma should not and can not be judged. Whether a woman is strengthened or weakened through rape, it does not matter. What matters is that she survives.