MAYA OF CRY, THE PEACOCK
Anita Desai is a very popular Indian novelist. She is known as the Mother of the Indian psychological novel genre. Her meticulous depictions of modern Indian life have secured her a place of honor in the pantheon of Indian authors. Winner of the Sahitya Academy Award, Desai has authored as many as sixteen works of fiction. Her distinct style of writing, her original characters and her realistic subject-line is what made her writings so endearing. Over the years, Desai won many awards and recognition for her work and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize thrice. Apart from writing, Anita has been actively involved in teaching as well. She continues to be an inspiration for many young aspiring writers today.
Her maiden novel Cry, the Peacock has been written through the stream of consciousness method with very little conventional episodes. It was published in 1963. The suppression and oppression of Indian women were the subjects of this novel. This work immediately established her as a major voice in Indian literature in English.
Maya, the heroine of the novel, is a sensitive daughter of a well-to-do father. Her impressions are impulses-borne, reacting to human reality and environment according to her likes and dislikes. The novel is essentially a dream-stuff of the doom-haunted Maya. There is also an element of tragic pathos in her expressions, varying from one moment to another according to her anxiety-ridden moods. Thus, there is dreaminess in what she expresses and to what she reacts.
The novel deals with the mental rather than physical aspect of its characters. Maya is a hypersensitive young urban wife. She is the protagonist of the novel. She is an enthusiastic and sensitive young lady married to Gautama who is a rational advocate. He is a practical man. Maya is completely different from him. Maya needs a beloved spouse with broad understandings, extremely conscious, creative and susceptible disposition. Gautama lacks these qualities. The alienation between Maya and Gautama is because of Maya’s intense involvement in her own inner world of phantasm.
Maya is deeply attached to past, lives almost in world of memories while Gautama values the importance of action because of his rational nature. The reason is that Maya had lived a protected life that hampers her freedom of growing as an individual. The father’s over protective love does not allow her any independence to grow, think and act as entity. To Maya, Gautama is entirely different from her father. He is cold and feeling less, preoccupied with his work, efficient but indifferent to her presence.
Maya belongs to an orthodox Brahmin family. She trusts in astrology. The astrologer prophesized that one of the couple would die soon in unnatural way. She cannot get herself away with the thought of astrologer. The disturbed young woman quickly slips into insanity. Gautama and his family comprise the intellectual face of living. Maya’s sadness is a product of her own belief. She is not able to face the trivial truths of living. Thus Maya’s character exposes the psychological problems of an Indian woman.
Maya is the sensitive, poetic, intuitive, and unstable. She is extremely sensitive to the beauty around her. Gautama is her opposite. He is a pure rationalist. He is concerned only with absolutes. The characters’ names themselves epitomize their irreconcilability: Maya is illusion and Gautama is the Buddha who was able to rend the veil of Maya. Thus, while Maya revels in the world of the senses, Gautama rejects it entirely. Unable to resolve her conflict with Gautama, Maya pushes him from a terrace, thereby terminating her struggle. The novel concludes with the death of Maya. The novel ends with her total mental collapse. The mental retrogression proposes that Maya was not able to adapt her in the world of fact. And after killing her husband, she mentally gets back of her secure and spoiled childhood.
So in the role of Maya, Anita Desai has showed the feminine mind of both a girl and a woman. The issue of female, a hot subject in feminism, is addressed by Anita Desai with sensitiveness. By Maya's role, Anita Desai carries a new aspect of feminist publishing. Maya stands separate from every female character in the novel. She's the most exciting and psychologically amazing amongst whole Desai’s female characters. She stages a sort of women who silently abide from the men. The novelist has therefore spot lit the feminine predicament in several prospects.
About the author:
Dr. Hareshwar Roy, Professor of English at Govt. P.G. College, Satna, Madhya Pradesh, obtained his bachelor and master degrees in English from Patna University Patna, Bihar. He completed his Ph.D. from A.P.S. University Rewa, Madhya Pradesh. His ‘The Diasporic Articulation in the Novels of M.G. Vassanji’ is an incisive book that makes an in-depth study of the novels of M.G. Vassanji who is one of the best known literary members of Indian Diaspora. His research papers (more than 40) have been widely published in reputed literary journals. Currently he is teaching English Literature in Govt. Autonomous P.G. College Satna, Madhya Pradesh. He has attended a number of seminars and conferences. His area of interest is the writing of the writers of Indian diaspora.