The Bull and the She Devil is a story from Zaib-un-Nissa Hamidullah’s collection of short stories The Young Wife and Other Stories that raises various social and cultural issues in Pakistani society. The Bull and the She Devil is written in a simple and subtle style. It exposes the psychological responses originating from the repressed sexuality in a conservative society. The story is a representation of gender roles and the system of beliefs in a Punjabi village. It demonstrates the sexualities of men and women in response to pre- existing beliefs about gender roles.
The story provides a deep insight into the mind of a patriarchal man who is a victim of patriarchal masculine values. It shows that the protagonist wants to maintain the image of a patriarchal man through his words and actions but after creating this image, he feels a sense of regret rather than satisfaction. As the text shows, In his annoyance at remembrance of the night before he picked up a stone and aimed it straight at the animal’s head…Even now, even in mere remembrance of it, he was embarrassed (Hamidullah 45).
The title The Bull and the She Devil itself shows the use of extravagant gender metaphor. It shows the perspective of the protagonist that he uses the word Devil for his wife just because of her soft accent and pure smile that can compel people to like her. According to her husband she is bad woman because of her nice behavior and affection for other people.
Whereas, she is made to fulfil the needs of her husband and this is what society demands.Ghulam Qadir, though, obsessed by the power of his wife’s desirable charms was also aware of the threat it poses to the patriarchy because of her power to persuade. He has always a fear about his wife that more people could have a share in her love because of her soft accent.’To possess her was his one object in life now. And yet, had he not already possessed her a score of times and over? Had he not claimed her again and yet again, night after night? Was she not, without any manner of doubt, his woman? His, by every claim that man can have over woman? And yet And yet there was this doubt that disturbed and tormented him, this new element in the relationship between man and woman of even the possibility of which he had been oblivious. (Hamidullah 43)
The male dominant figure like Ghulam Qadir wants complete obedience of his wife. Furthermore, the wife is supposed to satisfy the sensual desires of her husband. It shows that how woman is treated as an object of male fantasy.Ghulam Qadir perceives his wife, Shirin, just as a body to satisfy his sexual desire. According to the training of our society Shirin must suppress her sexual desire whereas Ghulam is trained to express his sexuality as an expression of his manliness. For him, there is no difference in his wife and bull. He gave no importance to his wife. To him she was, those first few weeks, a body. A body and nothing more. A body beautiful and soft that eased the so long suppressed desires of his senses (43).
The word body shows that how Ghulam Qadir treats his wife. He is not treating him as a partner but merely as an object. This shows how usually the male figure are trained to treat their wives in Punjabi socio-political culture. If women reject any proposal by his husband than beating would be the only option, she is left with. Ghulam also beats his wife for her politeness and soft accent towards others. The girl punished just for being a separate identity and not being a part of her husband. The way she walked, the way she smiled at others, the tender look in her eyes as she patted the bullock, in his mind a doubt was born. For she remained a separate being, an individual in her own right, a stranger. Yes, a stranger, even though her body grew sweetly familiar. (44)Ghulam Qadir usually beats his bull because it was sharing love of his wife. He also hated his brother and nephew for the same reason. Faithless creature (47), he shouted at the poor animal.Even you have surrendered your soul into this She Devil’s keeping. .. She’s after my soul as well, he shouted. She wants to ensnare me as she has ensnared all the others. She Devil, She Devil, She Devil! (47).
The lexical items such as verbs, adverbs, nouns and adjectives also build up the theme of the story. The verbs and adverbs used by the writer in the story shows the psychological state of Ghulam Qadir’s mind. The words which shows his actions like hit, struck, dragged, caught, shouted out loud’ show the image of oppressive and authoritative man. The other group of verbs such as longing, wanted to get, longing to be reassured’ are also used to express his inner feelings.
These groups of verbs and adverbs shows a strong image of dominated man but with a need of peace. It displays that patriarchal society though tends to make men powerful, but it actually makes them weak. It makes men powerful only from outside. The nouns and adjectives used to describe the appearance of Shirin shows the reader the image of an object. As the story is written from Ghulam Qadir view point so readers see the image of Shirin from his eyes. the words like softness and roundness, curled eye lashes and fair complexion’ shows the stereotypical perception of a patriarchal man about woman. These words express her apparent characteristics which shows that the patriarchal man is physically attached to his woman but emotionally he is far away from her.
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