Feminism can be considered as a struggle of women for freedom and equality in economic, social and political aspects. Feminist criticism is a school of thought which is concerned with “…the ways in which literature and other cultural productions reinforce or undermine the economic, political, social, and psychological oppression of women” (Tyson 83).
The novels ‘Wuthering Heights’ by Emily Bronte, ‘The God of Small Things’ by Arundhati Roy and the short story ‘Homecoming’ by Vijita Fernando try to reinforce the oppression of women in above mentioned fields and incriminate the gender-bias, self-centered patriarchal society.
‘Wuthering Heights’ is a novel written by Emily Bronte during the Victorian era, which comprises an effort to bring forth the economic, social, political and psychological oppression of women in the society. The writer emphasizes oppression of women through the female characters: Catherine, Isabella and little Cathy who deteriorated by self-centered and overbearing male characters: Heathcliff and his son, Linton. Emily Bronte portrays Catherine as a victim of social circumstances, since she marries Edgar to climb the social ladder concealing her unconditional, tremendous love towards Heathcliff.
The writer plunges to highlight the plight and psychological oppression of Catherine through her understanding: ‘heaven did not seem to be my home; and I broke my heart with weeping to come back to earth’ (81)
Here, Bronte creatively but powerfully demonstrates how Catherine is lost between her desires and social requirements. Catherine’s beliefs ‘it would degrade me to marry Heathcliff’ (81) and ‘if Heathcliff and I married, we should be beggars?’ (81) reveal how she is victimized due to economic and social circumstances.
It seems that the idea: women need to depend on men for survival, is well established in Victorian culture where ‘Wuthering Heights’ takes place. Not only that, even the law proclaims that property can be entailed only on husbands after the marriage. Isabella is also a victim of male dominated society and she realizes that Heathcliff has married her ‘on purpose to obtain power over’ Edgar, since all the properties she inherited belong to the husband after the marriage. It is obviously shown the social and political oppression that Victorian women have undergone. Heathcliff’s son, Linton’s statement, ‘uncle is dying, truly, at last-I’m glad, for I shall be master of the Grange after him-and Catherine always spoke of it as her house. It isn’t hers! It’s mine.’ (280) uncovers the injustice and cruelty of the patriarchal society.
While Emily Bronte deals with feminist criticism involving Victorian era, Arundhati Roy focuses to reinforce the oppression of women in India. In the novel ‘The God of Small Things’, Arundhati Roy spotlights the way male figures overpower women in economic, social and political aspects. The writer depicts Indian reality and the role of women in the contemporary society. The character of Ammu is used to draw the position of women in the patriarchal society. She is a divorcee ‘from a love marriage’ and a mother of two children. Though she divorces her husband because of his obscene proposal, she is not welcome to her own house where she grew up since birth. It is explicit that, the notion: ‘a married daughter had no position in her parents’ home’ is a ‘commonly held view’ in India. When gaining an insight into the issue: marginalization of women, it is clear that this issue is not only concerned with married women but also the young girls. When Ammu is young, she is forbidden from education, because her father, Pappachi believes that ‘college education [is] an unnecessary expense for a girl’ The law: ‘Ammu as a daughter [has] no claim to the property’ elucidates how women are socially oppressed.
Then the writer ventures in criticizing the male dominant society comparing a selfish, illogical man to a ‘male chauvinist pig’. One day, ‘Pappachi [brakes] the bow of Mammachi’s violin and [throws] it in the river’ for the reason that Mammachi’s talent in playing violin. Here, the writer’s attempt is to disclose the real nature of the patriarchal system and the way male figures try to defend the inferiority complex. The most hilarious part is Mammachi’s justification of Chacko’s ‘libertine relationships’ while concerning them as ‘Man’s Needs’. On the contrary, Ammu’s relationship with Velutha results her to being locked in her room and makes Mammachi ‘lost control’. Here, Arundhati Roy’s endeavor is to juxtapose the dual kind treatment for a man and a woman in the same family.
In the short story, ‘Homecoming’ Vijita Fernando has strengthen women power as Millie becomes the breadwinner of the family, taking over the traditional position of the man. However, Millie’s psychological oppression is well exhibited through her continuous question as ‘she wonder[s] for the millionth time’: ‘what about my money’ and ‘what had they done with it?’ Moreover, the description of the way Millie spends the night in a stranger’s house and her excessive fear ‘Trembling like a virgin in that closed up box-like room, listening to foot falls that pause at your door, keys softly turning in locks.’ vividly explain the reality of male dominant world and how women are objectified.
Vijita Fernando exemplifies the economic oppression of Millie as she has worked-hard as ‘a beggar’, ‘on her knees shining their floors’ and ‘on her knees cleaning their lavatories’ to fulfil her innocent, selfless dream: ‘a piece of land, a better house, a dowry for little Pushpa, a decent life for all of them’ As this short story continues, the discovery of pathetic situation that Millie strives, paves the way to make the story emotional. When gaining an insight into the three literary works: ‘Wuthering Heights’, ‘The God of Small Things’ and ‘Homecoming’, it is obvious that the writers Emily Bronte, Arundhati Roy and Vijita Fernando have reinforced the economic, social, political and psychological oppression of women.
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