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Women´S Literature: The First Promise By Ashapurna Debi

3257 words - 13 pages

The primary question that comes up while we look at a certain text is the way in which the author has exercised the choice in terms of narrative modes, and the ways in which the imaginative world is communicated to the reader. In case of writers who are women, these questions demand a more rigorous reading of the text in terms of the dominant ideological frame against which the test is displayed. Speaking about the complex relationship between women’s writing and the social matrix, Tharu and Lalitha point out that, in the post independence era Indian women engaged with “the profound rearticulation of the political world and of imaginative life that took place in the 1940s and 1950s with the birth of the Indian nation” 1. The term “rearticulation” implies the presence of a system of articulation, a matrix of meta-narratives not concerned only with women as objects of gaze but also with women as agents of articulating their subjectivity, with women as writers. In problematising the position of the narrator one may hope to detect the negotiations, debates, protests and above all, the choices available to and exercised by a female writer.
The first thing that one would notice about Ashapurna Debi’s The First Promise is the position of the narrator with respect to the central character Satyabati. The narrative process is neither a third person objective rendering, nor a first person subjective one where the narrator is usually an intricate part of the narration. In Bakhtinian terms, the narrative goes beyond the monologic framework and even beyond a dialogic one (exposing a variety of narratorial, authorial and characterial voices dismantling temporal boundaries) to expand into a transgenerational polylogic level. The voice speaking out doesnot belong entirely to either Bakul or Subarna or Satya. It is about an experience lived by Satya, recorded by Subarna and communicated by Bakul. Such positioning (and dis-positioning) of narrator’s voice can be seen as a dominant narrative strategy associated with women’s writing. To understand the necessity of such narrative mode it is better to contextualize women’s writing than see it as an isolated entity outside the influence of historical and social forces. A close look at The First Promise helps one to detect the presence of a far more complex matrix of manipulation that possibly led to such need for dislocation.
Describing the “point of view” the narrator speaks from in The First Promise is near impossible as the perspective from which the reader is engaged constantly shifts from character to character, from an omniscient god-like being to one who seems to have human knowledge and qualities. Thus, simply stating that the narration is written in the third person omniscient is insufficient in truly encompassing all aspects of the narrative voice. For this reason it is helpful to turn to Gerard Genette’s description and terminology of this style of narration: focalization.2 The term...

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