The Concepts In Feminism English Literature Essay



2.1 Introduction

In this chapter, the concepts in feminism are explained and discussed followed by literature review and evaluation of past studies on Cry, The Peacock. The characteristics of feminism issues will be discussed touching the status of women in current society. In further consideration, this review will discuss on how patriarchy operates in the status of women thus resulting insanity towards the protagonist character Maya in Cry, The Peacock.

In the review of past studies, the articles “Superstition and Psyche”, “Treatment of Neurosis”, “Patriarchy, Solidarity and Sustainability” are related to the research on the status of women in Anita Desai’s Cry, The Peacock and also in the current society. Most of the points in the articles are relevant in order to combine the three concepts which are patriarchy, madness and insanity.

2.2 Critica

l Review of Feminism

Generally, many proponents of feminism focus on analyzing gender inequality and the promotion of women’s rights, interests and issues. Feminist theory aims to understand the nature of inequality and focuses on gender politics, power relations and also sexuality.

Feminism is also the term which can be used for describing three main streams which are cultural, sociological and political movement aimed at establishing the equal rights and legal protection towards women.  In the other hand, Feminism also involves political, cultural and sociological theories, as well as philosophies concerned with issues which related to gender difference. Feminism is a movement which advocates gender equality for women’s rights and their interests.

According to Li and Bolaria (1994), they define feminism as an “awareness of the special problems which is face by women in the contemporary society. Li and Bolaria also stated that it is a commitment to better the condition of women and also characterized by political involvement as well as an attempt to understand the roots of women oppression. There is a firm belief that, in eradicating women’s oppression, society itself will be transformed and become egalitarian for all peoples” (84). In a patriarchal society, it is believed and assumed that masculine and feminine behaviors match with the physiological makeup of men and women. This perception creates the rigid expectations of the gender roles that are thought to unchangeable. Here we can understand that culturally-determined gender roles have been created by a society that is patriarchal based. It has been a tradition where men who have dominated the social, politics and economic sectors throughout the history. Patriarchal societies also enforce hierarchies where men are thought to be more important compared to women. In this case, feminism is used as a tool or counter to practice where equal opportunity and equal worth for both gender is asserted.

Maggie Humm and Rebecca Walker utters that, the history of feminism can be related or divided into three waves. The very first feminist wave was happened in the nineteenth and early twentieth century’s.  Second wave of Feminism was in the 1970’s and 1970’s and the third extends from the 1990’s to present. Feminist theory basically emerged from these feminist movements. They mention that these movements are manifest in a variety of disciplines such as feminist geography, feminist history and feminist literary criticism.

In his journal Ng Andrew Hock Soon stated that, “I am interested in the possibility of the Feminism related to the theme of (female repression)” (202). According to him, feminism is a possible theme or tool that clarifies the theme of female oppression. The female oppression here means that the women being oppressed and domain by the patriarchy system, when Hock Soon states that “…..foreground women who pay for the corruption of patriarchy….” This sentence can be related with Maya, who are mad and being oppressed by the patriarchy system in the novel Cry, The Peacock. This is how patriarchy operates in the Feminism issue of the novel by oppressing the women which is one of the elements in this novel.

Lerner (1993) stated her believes that “feminist define as the awareness of women that they belong to subordinate group; that they have suffered wrongs as a group; that their condition of subordination is not natural, but it is societal determined; that they must join with other women to remedy these wrongs; and finally, that they must and can provide an alternate vision of societal organization in which women as well as men will enjoy autonomy and self determination” (14). In this citation she mention that feminist consciousness challenges patriarchal practices, and its purpose is to seek equality between man and women, rath than perpetuating notions of the superiority of men and inferiority of women that are apparent in patriarchy. Feminist consciousness developed over time and has taken different forms throughout history and is based on collective thought and action.

Ann Oakley and Juliet Mitchell states that “Feminists are guilty of similar determinism insofar as they implicitly or explicitly castigate women as necessarily fools or victims in a horror show, as Margaret Walters puts it, in which they portray themselves – at least in the case of Catherine MacKinnon and Camille Paglia respectively – as melodramatic saviors or villains.” (273). Relating to the quotation, Maya is actually a female victim of gothic horror in the novel Cry, The Peacock. She is ‘used’ foolishly by the author Desai, in order to degrade the self-respect of women with the intention to portray a message of the importance to become conscious of the horror and the cruelty of the patriarchy which resulted the outcome of madness in the character, Maya. The elements in the novel helped to enhance, improve and increase the effectiveness in conveying the madness of women which occurred by the patriarchy system. 

There are few examples from the novel by Shirley Jackson, The Haunting of Hill House possessed similar characteristics of the novel Cry, The Peacock such as the repetition of the word fear, madness, horror, and secret. Maya and Eleanor Vance saw the ghost which but the ghost actually did not appear, and it is them who faced mental-distortion such as illusion and delusion which made them to see or imagining things that is not real.

In the other hand, Ong Siok Hong me in his “In the Madwoman in Attic, (1979) which they co-wrote, mention that they are able to point out how the madwomen or the figure of  the monster are actually represents the author’s self image and elements of the author’s anti-patriarchal strategies.” (20). When he mentions about the madwomen and the monster figure in her thesis, he was indirectly assumed that both the authors from Cry, The Peacock and The Haunting of Hill House who are Desai and Jackson respectively illustrate about female character who is portrayed as a madwomen/monster figure in order to give a message of an intention to fight or oppose patriarchy. But, at the same time, the patriarchy element ‘fight’ them back by oppressing them and at the same time giving them the feeling of horror, depression and fear until they become weak, mad and consequently defeated by the cruel patriarchy system at the end of the novel.

2.3 Critical Review of Studies on Cry, The Peacock

In the article of “Superstition and Psyche”, there are some feminism elements that we can trace. Prophecy of an albino astrologer about the death between Maya and her husband Gautama is the first sign. This prophecy is worsened by the incident of the Maya’s pet dog Toto’s death. The death of her beloved dog resulted to Maya’s fear and depressed. Maya is being secretive about the prophecy. This statement has mentioned by M.Rajeshwar. Being secretive is one of the element which fits feminism issue in this novel. Other than that, Maya also has been caught into an effusive emotionality or in the other word extreme emotionality. This showed that Maya has reacted so without her conscious due to the pressure and she was mentally unbalanced. Reacting extremely and effusive emotionality also can be link with psyche characteristics.

In the “Treatment of Neurosis”, Maya has been criticized and stated as a neurotic (mad) figure in the novel, Cry, The Peacock. Being mad is also a part of feminism elements. When Q.F Inamdar states that “her loneliness is caused by the heartbreak house” (23), we can say that the fellings and mind set of being loneliness in Maya’s heartbreaking house fits with the elements of madness and depressed. Inamdar also states that her neurotic concerns are the fear of death, loneliness, poverty and destruction. Meanwhile, it reveals the use of animal as the image of death such as Toto, Maya’s pet dog, the owl and the cry of the peacocks that lead Maya to tear and faced “a mute horror” as mentioned by Inamdar (28). The article also point out a strict stand that the ultimate fears of Maya is death she was very much under pressured and confused.

Furthermore, Rajeshwar has explained on how the power of the patriarchy oppressed the female and to show on how the patriarchy system degrades the status of women in Cry, the Peacock.  In the Cry the Peacock, Maya had to obey her father’s wishes to marry Gautaman and after Maya get married to Gautama, he treated her unfairly by being insensitive towards her feelings and emotion. Due to this situation, Maya become mad because of the escapism from the cruel world of patriarchy.

2.4 Conclusion

This research paper would help the readers to become more understand about the novel, Cry, The Peacock written by Anita Desai. This research paper will also help them to know and understand about the matters of patriarchy, madness and insanity through the character of Maya in Cry, The Peacock by using the theory of some writers which has been related and connected to Anita Desai’s novel, Cry, The Peacock.

The elements of the background of the study in this research paper elaborates and ponders on how, patriarchy, madness and insanity affect the literature review which concentrate among those theories in Cry, The Peacock and also the status of women in current society. The methodology which is used to clarify and explain, and to obtain the concepts and theories are applied in this research paper.

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