The Desire to Break Patriarchal Shackle and to be Recognised, in Anita Desai’s ‘Cry, The Peacock’

Authors: Abu Shahid Abdullah (East West University, Bangladesh)
Speakers: Abu Shahid Abdullah
Strand: Language, Gender, Sexuality
Session Type: General Session


Anita Desai’s 1963 novel Cry, the Peacock deals with the life of the protagonist Maya who suffers from neurotic anxiety and marital dysfunction. She has an unsatisfactory marriage with Gautama where she discovers his indifference or rather detestation of emotional attachment. Unlike hers, Gautama’s family members never speak a word of love and never discuss a personal matter, but rather discuss things which are related to the society in general. Maya has difficulty in establishing harmony with her husband Gautama’s diminution of her with her own feelings of self-worth induced by her father. The presentation shows Maya as the insubordinate female who fights against different stereotypes in her life: male supremacy demonstrated by her husband; her female friends who are submissive wives; and her beliefs in karma and fairness. Maya’s feminist awareness protests against a society which underestimates women and expects them to realise that their socialisation is not representative. Maya is trying to substantiate her own values and self-esteem, while examining the larger issue of what forms an unprejudiced world, one that recognises her values. The presentation also shows the way Gautama’s reluctance to fulfil Maya’s expectation of her marriage creates a sense of frustration in her which ultimately instigates her to kill her husband before herself committing suicide.

Keywords: Stereotype, socialisation, emotional attachment, marital dysfunction