Richa Arora/Contextualizing Gothic Feminism, Bluebeard Patriarchy and Aesthetics of Sexuality: A Post-colonial Reading of the Select Novels of Angela Carter and Bapsi Sidhwa

Ms Richa Arora

Research Scholar

Ph.D.,   Regd. No. 41400056

Lovely Professional University

Supervised by Dr J.P. Aggarwal

 In the present research paper entitled “Contextualizing Gothic Feminism, Bluebeard Patriarchy and Aesthetics of Sexuality: A Postcolonial Reading of the Select Novels of Angela Carter and Bapsi Sidhwa, I have explored Gothic feminism, the issues of bloodthirsty patriarchy, sexuality and representation of female body in the fiction of Angela Carter and Bapsi Sidhwa. Feminism, patriarchy and sexuality are used as theoretical models and critical constructs to study, analyze and interpret all the women protagonists of Angela Carter and Bapsi Sidhwa. This paper has taken the theoretical framework of patriarchy, sexuality and body and combined it with insights from Post-colonial feminist theory. This study depicts the bloodthirsty nature of patriarchy and its use of culture and religion as powerful tools to establish control over the bodies of the women protagonists. The questions of patriarchal oppression, female objectification, marginalization and sexuality are the focus in this paper. Sexuality is of course linked to the very biology of human beings. Sexuality pervades people’s lives, on all levels of society. Most scientists today, however, seem to regard sexuality both as a social construct and a biological phenomenon. Sexual behaviour can therefore also be seen as a result of how society and culture help shape individuals in a society.

Angela Carter is a Nobel Laureate of Great Britain whose main thrust is on Gothic feminism, patriarchy, sexuality and representation of female body. Her fiction depicts the plight of the women protagonists who encountered bloodthirsty patriarchy in their quest for identity in colonized hostile world. Her main concern is to analyze the impact of oppressive patriarchy, quest for survival of women, their loss of identities, sexuality, and their desperate struggle to escape from the harsh realities of the cruel existence. The role of patriarchy is supreme in governing the behavior of men and women. A destructive patriarchal power still exists that is damaging to men and women alike. Subordination of women to men is prevalent in large parts of the world. Women are subjected to discriminations, humiliations, exploitations, oppressions, control and violence. Women experience discrimination because of their biological differences or sex, which is natural but because of their gender differences which is a social construct.

The novels of Angela Carter are gothic in nature. Body is the basis for the distinction between the sexes. The body determines personality. All experiences and behavior patterns of women are determined by their body. Representation of patriarchy, sex, sexuality, and abuse of body in the novels of Angela Carter and Bapsi Sidhwa is a new area. The textual analysis of all the novels highlights the application of patriarchal theory and objectification theory. Foucault (1980), in History of Sexuality, E. Martin (1987) in Cultural Anthropology and Shilling (1993) in Sociology describe the role of body and sexuality in conditioning the behavior patterns of women. It is averred that sexual objectification is another form of gender oppression. In Discipline and Punishment (1978) Foucault argues that instead of using violent methods to control individuals, modern societies rely on “systematic self-surveillance and correction.” Interestingly, the novels of Angela Carter and Bapsi Sidhwa are packed with the heartrending scenes of sexuality and oppression. Patriarchal, social and religious institutions coerce woman into docile bodies in a systematic manner. Critical analysis of the novels will prove how patriarchy, society, religion are used as tools for the objectification and subjugation of all women protagonists.


Bluebeard is a powerful maniac in the folk tales of France. He is a wealthy aristocrat, feared and shunned because of his ugly, blue beard. He has been married several times, but no one knows what became of his wives. He is therefore avoided by the girls since he is brutish, commanding, oppressive and dominating patriarch. He enjoys in enslaving and terrorizing women in his death-like castle. Patriarchy literally means rule of the father in a male-dominated family. It is a social and ideological construct which considers men (who are the patriarchs) as superior to women. Sylvia Walby in “Theorising Patriarchy (1990) calls it “a system of social structures and practices in which men dominate, oppress and exploit women” (1990). Patriarchy is based on a system of power relations which are hierarchical and unequal where men control women’s production, reproduction and sexuality. Patriarchy is a constant and gender relation which is dynamic and complex. The nature of control and subjugation of women varies from one society to the other as it differs due to the differences in class, caste, religion, region, ethnicity and the socio-cultural practices. “Patriarchal ideas blur the distinction between sex and gender and assume that all socio-economic and political distinctions between men and women are rooted in biology or anatomy” (Heywood, 2003: 248).The women protagonists of Angela Carter and Bapsi Sidhwa suffer from experiences of sexism, psychological distress and mental torture in a patriarchal society. In all the selected novels, the women protagonists are subjected to sexual abuse, harassment, physical beating and rapes. Self-objectification involves understanding and treating one’s body as existing primarily for the use and pleasure of others. Women protagonists of Angela Carter and Bapsi Sidhwa are trapped in the male dominated set up in which women are marginalized and are used and abused. The only tools to survive in such a society are beauty and sexual attractiveness and submission to male domination..


After spending two years in Japan, Carter returned to England in 1972. She had experienced a new life as she confessed thus: “It was like a waking up, it was a rude awakening. We live in Gothic times. Now, to understand and to interpret is the main thing; but my method of investigation is changing” (Burning 459-60). Here Carter draws attention to the postmodern condition of the contemporary Western world in which the familiar old world has become uncanny. The postmodern condition of the world shares common characteristics with the Gothic world. The novels of Angela Carter are presentations of power, gender, sexuality and construction of gendered identities. In all her novels, she has depicted the oppressive and destructive power of patriarchy which is the social system in which men are regarded as the authority within the family and society. Angela Carter appears to the in different guises: feminist, fabulist, postmodernist and surrealist. She is best known for her fiction with its baroque prose and bizarre women characters appearing in The Magic Toyshop (1967), Nights at the Circus (1984) and The Passion of New Eve (1977).Maggie Tonkin focuses her scholarly study of Angela Carter’s work on ‘her project of revealing the insidious effects that patriarchal myths of femininity continue to exert in our culture’ (24). The fascinating feature of her novels is inter-textuality. Carter came under the influence of Hoffmann’s The Sandman, Proust’s writings and the tales of Edgar Allan Poe. Her Nights at the Circus is an embodiment for progressive feminism and freedom of sexuality. Her Shadow Dance (1966), The Magic Toyshop (1967), Heroes and Villains ( 1069), and Love ( 1971) are packed with allusions and dismembered phrases which imply a culture in collapse.

Angela Carter often works within the framework of the classic Gothic tradition. She has given Gothic setting and Gothic atmosphere to depict the modern malaise of society. So her novels are also set against the background of a modern world. . Carter also creates new settings, such as the post-apocalyptic worlds of Heroes and Villains, and The Passion of New Eve. Here, Carter retains a Gothic atmosphere through the “a fear of the barbaric not only from the past but also in the present and the future,” (David Punter 183) No wonder, throughout both novels maintains a pervasive sense of decay. There are many episodes in her novels describing the scenes of rape, incest, female sexuality and male sexual violence on the pattern of Gothic tradition. Reworking them within a modern reality, Angela Carter deals with modern transgressions of boundaries of sexual taboos. In the Gothic novels, women are imprisoned through marriage, stripped off all their property and shut in dungeons, labeled mad and locked in attics, trapped in labyrinthine corridors of gloomy castles and murdered, or chained to marriage beds to be legally raped In The Magic Toyshop Carter deals with female sexual awakening, rape, patriarchal domination, but also incestuous love. In Heroes and Villains she again deals with the same issue, yet in a more radicalized manner and with a different ending. In Love, Carter deals with sexual voyeurism, possession, and incestuous homosexuality. In The Passion of New Eve she adds a whole range of sexual taboos: illegal abortions, rape, and transvestitism, and overall with the question of male supremacy and the relation of power and gender.


Reference to Bluebeard and his bloodthirsty patriarchy appear in many of Carter’s novels. He makes up his appearance in the guise of Uncles, fathers, leaders and husbands terrorizing Carter’s women in the past, present and future. Bluebird tale incorporates all the elements of the Gothic. He is figure of the aristocracy, lives alone in the gothic castle. He is a figure haunted by a gothic family curse, the alienation and cruelty of his ancestors creates for him a destiny of murder. Kate Elis observes that in Carter’s novels “women are locked in” by the dominating male characters. Bluebeard lives in a lonely room in a mysterious manner, and this Gothic Bluebeard imprisons women and controls all the activities of women from what they wear to what they feel. Bluebeard represents an ideology and thrives on patriarchal domination, women are dismembered from their own selves and Bluebeard enjoys sadistic pleasure in brutalizing and destroying them. Interestingly, Carter’s women fall in the trap of Bluebeard who has eerie figure and imposing personality threatening the existence of women. No wonder, Carter’s women suffer, surmise and slip into violent eroticism as they are lured into the lonely castle of Bluebeard and become prey to his vultures. The plots of the novels of Carter are very simple. There is a gothic maiden who is innocent and simple, she is seduced by the wealth and glamour of the Bluebeard and marries him. She is given the run in the castle, she is free to go anywhere but she has limits also. She becomes curious about the little room that is off limits for her. Desire for knowledge inspires her to enter into the forbidden room and the consequences of this disobedience are disastrous Bluebeard has manipulated her to commit disobedience. She is caught; his cruelty begins as the price of rebellion is execution depending on the tastes and whims of the Bluebeard. Carter’s Bluebeard characters take control of pleasure as well as knowledge. Her women protagonists are seen struggling to find an identity as they face a sensual and intellectual awakening and a Bluebeard who uses their confusions against them.

Indeed, Angela Carter is modern writer of the Female Gothic and she has used various strategies to represent the female body and sexuality, in her Gothic novels blending of Gothic with modern reality. Carter utilizes this new genre to re-historicize female sexuality from feminist lens through rewriting conventional Gothic texts that position women as victims, subjected to the dominant authority, and confined to patriarchal ideology. Carter’s novels are endowed with great imagination, wit, and humor which help her to challenge the conventions of patriarchal ideology. Her fascination with eroticism both delights and disturbs the readers because the violent representations of sexuality in her works expose the hierarchical power relations between the two sexes. As Carter contended: “I am all putting new wine in old bottles, especially if the pressure of the new wine makes the old bottles explode” (Shaking 37). In this respect, Carter blew up all kinds of oppressive boundaries that define the world in her rewritings. While she is doing this, Carter “is always on the side of the less powerful against the powerful, and in her context, as she freely admits, she is mainly concerned with “women’s experience” (Eaglestone 204). Therefore, her works deal with entrapped heroines struggling to liberate themselves from phallocentric logic by asserting their own will.

Carter’s first novel, Shadow Dance (1966) was published in the year André Breton, the founder of the surrealist movement died. The image of ‘woman’ played a crucial part in the surrealist aspiration of reshaping the world in the name of desire: to this end, the female body was played with, fragmentized and transgressed. Philip Morris is the Bluebeard in Shadow Dance. The novel opens as he meets Ghislaine who has come out from the hospital after treatment. She is a beautiful woman but Honeybuzzard, the business partner of Morris disfigured her. Carter describes the cruelty of Honeybuzzard thus:

The scar went all the way down her face, from the corner of her left eyebrow, down, down, down, past nose and mouth and chin until it disappeared below the collar of her shirt. (2). Morris is quite aware of the cruel scar of Ghislaine since he had given instructions to Honeybuzzard to “teach her a lesson” (34).

The image of the scarred Ghislaine reflects of sexiness, innocence, mutilation and provocation. She is a doll-like child-woman, ‘like a young girl in a picture book, a soft and dewy young girl.” (2). She despite her apparent innocence, Ghislaine is highly sexually charged, “a burning child”, “a fiery bud”.(3) Carter has used surrealistic devices to paint her figure. Her childhood and adulthood, beauty and innocence and its destruction, her scarred face is described in a manner characteristic of surrealism. Honneybuzzard murders Ghislaine in a fit to colonize her body. The crime scene is an exhibition of eroticism and death bound up together in a mode crucial to surrealism. Ritualistically, Ghislaine has been arranged on an altar-like table in the abandoned church-house: Naked, Ghislaine lay on her back with her hands crossed on her breasts, so that her nipples poked between her fingers like the muzzles of inquisitive white mice. (177) Morris who is the real Bluebeard in the novel is sick and unhappy over the Ghislaine scars. Her scars threaten him to “absorb him, threshing into the chasms in her face.” In Morris’s imagination, Ghislaine has become a “vampire woman walking in the streets.” Carter gives the powerful image of mantis to describe her loss of self. Ghislaine is a typical wounded and suffering woman of Carter. His fear of her dominates his daily activities too: the memory of Ghislaine follows Morris everywhere he goes, ‘clutching him with her white legs and her long, slender arms’ (37). Ghislaine is a vulnerable doll; her love affair with Honeybuzzard is ambiguous and murderous, as Honeybuzzard plays erotic love games including posing together in erotic photographs. Honeybuzzard is seen masquerading with a “wide variety of false noses, false ears, plastic vampire teeth etc.” Honneybuzzard murders Ghislaine drunk on his desire to master her. Carter has depicted the crime scene like a gothic ritual since Ghislaine has been arranged on an altar-like table in the abandoned church-house:” Thus, Angela Carter took up the challenging theme of the colonization of female body to depict the oppression and subjugation of British women. On one hand the Third wave of Feminism was propagating the ideas of emancipation of women in England and Rebecca Walker was emerging as a formidable force in politics. The Third Wave feminists focused on ideas like queer theory, and defended sex work, reproductive rights but Angela Carter punctured their ideals in her novels.

Angela Carter’s second novel The Magic Toyshop (1967) is often discussed in connection with mythology and fairy-tales. Carter uses these two oldest literary genres in her novel to depict the psychic pressures of a modern woman caused by cruel patriarchy which crushes identity of a woman. Angela Carter’s The Magic Toyshop discusses the effect of social and patriarchal pressures on woman whose sexuality is ignored. The main focus of the novel is gothic patriarchy, feminism and sexuality and this novel reiterates how women are alienated as a result of patriarchal gendering. The famous critic of Angela Carter Maggie Tonkin has done her project “on the insidious effects that patriarchal myths of femininity continue to exert in our culture” (24). Melanie is 15 years young girl, rich, lovely and vivacious and the background of the novel is post-war period in England “where homogeneous Britishness has disappeared.”(45) Carter concentrates on Melanie’s experiences in exploring her flesh and sexuality and her hesitation between childhood and adulthood. Even before the action starts in the novel, she is kept by the idea of marriage. She is so much affected by the social pressure that her only concern becomes her future marital status. Melanie’s parents are killed in a plane crash and this tragic event starts the events in the novel. Ironically the accident happens the day after Melanie’s ritual with her mother’s wedding dress. Putting the dress on, she creeps into the moonlight garden in her grown-up attitude. Melanie, her brother Jonathan, her sister Victoria are orphaned and sent to Uncle Philip’s house in London where “there is a disparate group of individuals in varying relationship to each other” ( 45). This is a place where Uncle Philip’s dumb wife Aunt Margaret, Francie and Finn live together. Aunt Margaret is beautiful and speechless. She is like a puppet; she has arms that were like “two hinged sticks.” (49). She is ageless and soulless, like a wooden puppet, with no power and no say in family affairs. Carter argues in the novel that in Philip’s toyshop, psychic repression is brought about by the eerie Bluebeard figure who threatens the very existence of women. Uncle Philip loves only the life-sized wooden puppets he creates in his toyshops. Melanie feels emotionally and psychologically stranded after her parents’ death since she considers herself as the cause of the accident. The orphaned live in a dirty, cramped house behind Uncle Philip’s toyshop which seems like “a way of revenge-taking for Uncle Philip” (Cantrell, 55). Thus, the magic toyshop becomes a sign for the ruling system in patriarchal society. This move to London bears particular importance in the sense that it happens at a time when Melanie is awakening to her sexuality. It becomes the place where Melanie resolves her main obsession and submits to the expectations of society in terms of development of female sexuality. She has no ability to refuse, or no idea that she can refuse sexual domination when Melanie and Finn are close, Melaanie can only wait for Finn to do something, having never learnt the ability to initiate sex. After facing the nightmare f domestic patriarchy, she takes control of herself and tells Finn that “she will not be rushed.” Melanie is Carter’s dismembered woman. She ponders over the meaning of her own hand, it becomes a symbol of lost sexuality:

“ This is my hand. Mine. But what is it for?” (153). Melanie’s sexual abandon is not a negation of female sexuality but a protest against the patriarchal manipulation. Melanie has been separated from her own senses; they belong to the puppet master Uncle Philip, the dominating Bluebeard of the novel. For Philip, family, values, life and its enjoyments are meaningless things; he is only for the making of puppets and using his puppets. To conclude in both the novels, Angela Carter depicts the real condition of the British women who are subjugated in spite of rights and liberties granted to them by the British Constitution. The colonization of woman’s body in the post-colonial society is indeed an anachronism, her themes are antithetical to the much talked Third Wave Feminism of the West.

Gothic Patriarchy, Feminism and Sexuality in Bapsi Sidhwa

Bapsi Sidhwa does not bring old fairy tales, gothic fantasies in her novels and there is no gothic Bluebeard in her novels as we find in Angela Carter. But the situation is the same; the patriarchal system is very callous. The image of the female body is the image of Sidhwa’s novels, and the most powerful symbol in them. Women protagonists of Bapsi Sidhwa encounter mental tortures, gender discrimination, physical tortures, segregation and alienation being women in a male dominated society. The fiction of Bapsi Sidhwa, deal with patriarchy, sexuality, feminism and alienation of women who suffered because of borders, migration, repatriation and exile. If we take up the socio-cultural perspective, Bapsi Sidhwa’s An American Brat (1993) and Pakistani Bride (1984), Cracking India (1991),Water (22006), depict the sexuality and the struggle of women to survive in male dominated world. She has depicted the plight of women living in Pakistan. It is a woman’s voice raised in awareness of her exploitations at the hands of men. It is a cry against a society where women are allowed little recognition as individuals, where they exist and are defined in relation to men to whom they belong. Pakistani society is patriarchal, repressive, oppressive giving privileges to men and its harsh treatment of women justified in the name of cultural traditions and religion. In this society men are born with respect, dignity and worth whereas women have been treated as “ Other”. Men are considered as individuals and women are thought of as bodies. Therefore, it is next to impossible for a woman to walk out into the public without being made conscious of her body by the looks she receives from total strangers. Throughout her life a woman’s body is subjected to scrutiny, at home by the father and brother, and outside by strangers.

Her novels The Pakistani Bride (1983) and Cracking India (1988) explore some of these social issues such as marriage, sexual commodification and victimization of women in Pakistani society. The Pakistani Bride offers a deeper analysis of male domination over female sexuality (body) especially through marriage as Zaitoon’s marriage, her sexual awakening and consequent escape from the murderous tribe of her husband. The plot of the novel highlights the biased and gender discriminating attitudes towards female sexuality. Neluka Silva in her article Shameless Women: Repression and Resistance in We Sinful Women (2003) observes that Bapsi Sidhwa has focused all her novels on female body in Pakistani society:

Writing about the body, breaking down its taboos, and soliciting individual freedom and self-realisation by women, for women, has a clear political imperative within a landscape of religio-social repression and patriarchal authority, since the body is simultaneously a surface on which social law, morality values, and lived experiences are inscribed. Meanings are carved into and out of bodies. (.34)

The novels The Pakistani Bride (1983) and Cracking India (1988) are examined to expose patriarchy’s use of culture and religion as powerful tools to establish its hegemonic control over the bodies of Women. Questions of female objectification, socio-religious positioning are the main focus and efforts are made to depict the corporeal and gendered existence of Sidhwa’s women. When a woman walks in the streets of Lahore or Karachi in covered clothes, she feels as if she is walking naked as the leering hungry eyes of men watch her hips, breasts and vagina. The novels of Bapsi Sidhwa depict the perpetual struggle of women against sexism, gender discrimination and bodily abuses.

Bapsi Sihwa’s Cracking India, was originally published in 1988 as Ice-Candy-Man and was re-published as Cracking India in 1991. The story of Cracking India is set in Lahore. Sidhwa represents the Partition through a young girl’s narration about what she experiences before, during, and after the Partition. Cracking India deals with the violence of the Partition through the eyes of an eight-year-old girl, Lenny. Lenny’s innocence is observed in her question when she knows the coming division of India:

India is going to be broken. Can one break a country? And what happens if they break it where our house is?” (101).

Her innocence suggests her immaturity due to her age. Her narrative focuses on “everyday” experience; she narrates the uneasy mood of people with the coming of the division, the changing relationship between friends, the outbreak of violence, the colonization of female body, abduction of her Hindu ayah, and the impact on the people around her during and after the partition. The novel is packed with the scenes of killing and amputating, depicting the struggle of the women to survive in the hostile environment. Her The Pakistani Bride and Cracking India are about marriage and female sexuality.            Women in the novels are seen and treated as objects in the power of men. Men’s power over women in this male dominated society is shown through the socio-cultural power of the fathers and the husbands, but also more violently through the physical power of men in general. There is also a focus in these novels on the more diffuse power of the culture and traditions of the society in which the characters live. In The Pakistani Bride and Cracking India female women are given away in marriage transactions, secluded and hidden in the female quarters, beaten into submission and subjected to rape and prostitution. To varying degrees, the men in these novels try to gain and assert their power over women and, hence, over female bodies. Men’s control of women’s lives implies male control of female bodies. In The Pakistani Bride and Cracking India there is an ongoing power struggle over who should have the right to control the female body. The men’s physical and social power is challenged in different ways by the central female characters. These women demand to be trusted with the status of acting and speaking subjects rather than passive and silent objects. These demands, and the actions they lead the women to, are the central driving forces in the plots in both novels. Sidhwa brings tales from the women’s private lives in the women’s quarters, where they are free to talk and act like they want to live with their female friends and relatives. Sidhwa shows the contrast between the outside, ‘male’, world and the inside, ‘female’, world, and she lets the women speak of their private thoughts and feelings. Female sexuality is also focused on, something which is quite uncommon in a Pakistani novel. Through an array of different characters, Sidhwa explores women’s conditions of life, love and self-worth in Pakistan. The Pakistani Bride is a novel of women in marriage, women and sexuality, women as objects of male control and women as subjects of their own feelings. All through the novel, the focus is on women characters. The bride becomes a symbol of men’s power over women’s lives and women’s bodies.

            In The Pakistani Bride, the main issues concerning female protagonists are patriarchal oppression, marriage, gender segregation, violence and sexuality. For the men in the novel, a sharp line is drawn between the women of their own family and the women on the outside. Women who are relatives are protected, guarded and kept secluded from public life and from men who are not family. Women, who are not relatives, are viewed with lust. In both cases, women are treated as objects. This perspective on women is predominant in the first part of the novel, and it remains central throughout the second part as well.

The tribals do not practice dowry. In the tribal hills, a wife is bought with bride-price. It is more difficult to find a wife in the mountains, due to hard living conditions and a high mortality rate. The bride is thus bought, like a commodity. Thus, a woman is not an independent person. The tribal practice of bride-price as well as the common attitude towards women in The Pakistani Bride is introduced on the first page of the novel, when Qasim’s father thinks about the girl that has been promised to his son:

Any girl – and he had made sure this one was able-bodied – was worth more than the loan due. […] To begin with, he had thought of marrying the girl himself. He had only one wife; but in a twinge of paternal conscience, he decided to bestow the girl on Qasim’ (7-8).

Major Mushtaq explains the tribal marriage traditions like this:

A wife was a symbol of status, the embodiment of a man’s honour and the focus of his role as provider. A valuable commodity indeed and dearly bought’ (137).

Qasim, who is at this point ten years old, already has incorporated his father’s attitude to women. He sees his bride as a toy and thinks about ‘the prospect of a playmate he knew he would have the sanction to tease, to order about, and to bully!’ (8) Qasim’s family has had a feud with the girl’s family over a loan given by Qasim’s father. Now, they are given a wife for Qasim instead to settle the feud. Tribal men have no respect for women and for women’s individual rights. This is a result of women being treated as objects in their society. These men take advantage whenever they have the opportunity. This leads to sexual harassment, to violence and rape. When the men in the novel want to enjoy the company of women, they go to Hira Mandi, the Diamond Market, which is the prostitution district of Lahore. The focus on the sex as seen from the outside is very strong in the first half of The Pakistani Bride, with prostitution as the central theme. The looks resting on Zaitoon and Carol, both the wanted and unwanted ones, in the second half are outweighed by the deep focus on female sexuality. Both the women’s feelings about their own sexual and sensual feelings, as well as their experiences of sex are explored by Sidhwa. The focus on female sexuality is foreshadowed in the early days of the marriage between Qasim and Afshan, where Afshan tells Qasim openly about her sexual feelings before marriage:

I used to wander by streams […] or sit on some high place dreaming of my future husband. Gusts of wind enveloped me and I’d imagine the impatient caresses of my lover. My body was young and full of longing. I’d squeeze my breasts to ease their ache’ (10)

Both Carol and Zaitoon have these fantasies that Afzal-Khan writes about. Zaitoon’s sexual relationship with Sakhi has as its foundation that he represents the man from the fantasy, and she does not realize what his possessive behaviour will entail outside of the bedroom. . Interestingly, the non-existence of sex does not initially make Zaitoon ashamed of her yearnings or make her control herself. Not knowing what her behaviour signifies or what her impulses arise from, she is totally free of shame and she follows her feelings unchecked.

Due to poverty, Zaitoon and Qasim sleep in the same room, something which is fundamentally against the regulations of purdah system. Zaitoon spends a night in the cave with Qasim as an unmarried woman. She begs him to take her home and rather marry her to a Punjabi, and she “clung to him desperately, digging her fingers into his shirt, her legs grasping him in a vice. He felt her body quiver against him” (157). Furiously, Qasim closes his hand around her throat, and threatens to kill her if she makes him break his word. Both in the United States and in Pakistan, Carol has been insistent on her right to freedom and she has been intellectually aware of the oppression of women. This experience, however, shakes her to the core and wakes her up to a feminist, political view of the world:

Women the world over, through the ages, asked to be murdered, raped, exploited, enslaved, to get importunately impregnated, beaten up, bullied and disinherited. It was an immutable law of nature.. (90).          .

Sexual violence against women is a social reality as all the women protagonists of Sidhwa suffer from male domination. The background and escalation of the violence of Partition is shown through Ice-candy-man’s news reports and the kidnapping of Ayah.     Sidhwa has depicted the heart rending scenes of barbarian brutalities, naked women crying for help, babies snatched from the mothers, smashed against walls and their howling mothers brutally raped and killed. These scenes are examples of how the bodies of women and children got the most brutal treatment from the enemy in the religious and ethnic conflict during Partition. In ethnic conflicts, violence is more often taken out on civilians than in military conflicts. The urge to humiliate the enemy people and to try to extinguish their ethnicity results in women being the main target of violence.



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