Empowering Women: An Analysis of Language and Autonomy

O'Donnell, Sara
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy and The Purple Line by Priyamvada Purushotham are both contemporary novels written by Indian women that examine the lives and experiences of the female Indian characters they create. Both of these novels represent a response to the silencing of subaltern, marginalized voices because of colonialism. The purpose of the study is to identify the ways in which women respond to subjugation and continued oppression in India because of colonialism and the patriarchy, as well as the extent to which giving marginalized women a voice is possible. The character development, use of language, and position of the author are analyzed using feminist, postcolonial, and deconstruction theories, which help to illuminate the ways in which these novels act within the constraints of patriarchal, Westernized control, as well as rebel against it. Analyzing the development of the female characters through feminist, postcolonial, and deconstruction theory reveals the plethora of identities Indian women can associate with, therefore undermining the Western perception of a homogenized female Indian identity. Deconstructing the use of language, both as used by the characters and by the author, examines the ways in which reality is constructed and is therefore a subjective experience. This deconstruction exposes the fallibility of dominant discourse in stereotypical representations of Indian women. Language also provides a means of subtly or explicitly rebelling against the patriarchal system for the female characters as representations of Indian women and for the authors themselves. Analyzing the position of the author shows the complexity of giving a voice to subaltern groups. These kinds of stories must be told in order to enact change, but in some ways, lending one's own voice to such groups reinforces their inferiority. The impact of this study is its acknowledgment that the intersection of colonialism and patriarchal social systems continue to oppress women in India, but that women are able to respond through language and continue to break down restrictive social barriers, even while continuing to act within them.
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