Alienation in Anita Desai’s Cry, the peacock
by RAM SHARMA, LECTURER IN ENGLISH, J.V.P.G COLLEGE, BARAUT, BAGHPAT, U.P. 30-04-2002
Anita Desai is a dominant figure in the twentieth century Indian English fiction. She has given a new direction to Indian English literature. Her novels are considered to be the great contribution to the Indian English literature. She started her literary journey with the publication of her first novel Cry, the Peacock in 1963. The 1960′s scattered a sense of great dejection and gloom all over India. In 1962 china obtain a victory over India and this defeat brought a sense of disgrace and humiliation to the hearts of Indians. During this period of dejection and humiliation, Anita Desai’s novel Cry, the Peacock published. Perhaps she must have had a nag of disillusionment in her subconscious mind, which came before us in the form of the novel Cry, the Peacock. She has measured the individual level of the abondoned self of her characters. Desai has delineated the self-alienation, despair, death, desolation and socio-psychic fragmentation of the protagonist. Through this article I have made a humble attempt to discover the meaning of alienation and inner life of Desai’s protagonist Maya in the novel Cry, the Peacock. I was, being human, borne alone; I am, being woman, hard beset; I live by squeezing from a stone The little nourishment I get1.
Every wife yearns for the intense intimacy with her husband. But in Cry, the Peacock the protogonist Maya receives hostility and indifference rather than delicacy and affection. In this novel Desai presents the silence, solitude, meloncholy and dark world of shadows in Maya’s life. Cry, the Peacock is concerned with its chief protagonist Maya’s Psychological problems. Based on the mythological and archetypal images and symbols, this novel explores the hidden and dormant impulses of Maya’s psyche. As a young sensitive girl, Maya desires to love and to be loved. She marries the friend of her father, Gautama, who is much older than herself. She belongs to a traditional Brahmin family which believes in astrology and other prophetic strains of Brahmanical order. On the other hand, Gautama’s family represents the rational side of life. Thus Maya is haunted constantly by the rationalistic approach of her husband to the affairs of life. Maya loves Gautama passionately and desires to be loved in return; but Gautama’s coldness disappoints her2. They are different with each other in tradition and modernity, trust and distrust in human relationships, brahmanical and non-brahmanical order of the society. The prophecy of albino astrologer creates a fear psychosis in Maya’s mind: The astrologer, that creeping sly magician of my hallucinations-no of course they were not hallucination, Arjuna had proved them to me, and yet-could they be real? had never said anything to suggest that it was I who would die young, unnatural and violently, four years after my marriage, nothing to suggest that he even thought that3. The astrologer’s prophecy proves to be true in the case of Maya’s brother, Arjuna. Gautama as a rationalist, fails to understand Maya’s emotional mental state. In the first part of the novel the death of her pet dog Toto serves as the symbol of an abondoned self doomed to loneliness: All day the body lay rotting in the sun. It could not be moved on to the verandah for, in that April heat, the reek of dead flesh was over powering and would soon have penetrated the rooms. So she moved the little string bed on which it lay under the lime trees, where there was a cool agueous shade, saw its eyes open and staring still, screamed and rushed to the garden tap to wash the vision from her eyes, continued to cry and ran, defeated, into the house4.
Maya feels alianation due to the death of Toto. It was intolerable to her. The death of dog indicates the eternal truth in human life. The idea of death terrifies Maya and she is obsessed with it. She is badly disturbed by the indifference of her husband Gautama to the death of dog and it shows his carelessness towards his wife. Because Maya is a childless lady and Toto was like a child to her. Both of them have different views about death. Gautam thinks death to be a normal event while Maya is disturbed by it. The second part of the novel reveals Maya’s psychic depth and narrates the tragic death of Maya’s husband Gautama. Maya and Gautama have different approaches towards life. Gautama is a lawyer. In his family one did not speak about love and affection and spoke of parliament, cases of bribery and corruption revealed in government while Maya’s family champions human values and rights. She is very sensitive and cannot ignore her feelings. Maya wants her fulfilment as a woman and as a wife. But her father like husband does not soothe her burning heart. She opts for an ideal love. Maya symbolizes the pangs of the peacock mating, narrates the secrets in the following lines: Do you not hear the Peacock call in the wilds? Are they not blood chilling, their shrieks of pain? – Pia, Pia-, they cry -Lover, Lover Mio, mio – I die I die-. ….. They spread-out their splended tails and begin to dance, but, like shiva’s their dance, knowing that they and their lovers are all to die….. when they have exhausted themselves in battle, they will mate. Peacock are wise. The hundred eyes upon their tales have seen the truth of life and death, and know them to be one. Living they are in love with life. – Lover, Lover-, you will hear them cry in the forests when the rain clouds come, – Lover, I die- …….5