Responding to Patriarchy in India: Resistance and Complicity in Samina Ali’s Madras on Rainy Days and Anita Desai’s Fasting, Feasting

Elizabeth JacksonUniversity of the West Indies
Vol. 37, No. 1 (Spring 2018), 157-171

This essay examines the ways in which female characters respond to patriarchy in two novels by Indian women writers: Samina Ali’s Madras on Rainy Days (2004) and Anita Desai’s Fasting, Feasting (1999). It argues that although the term “patriarchy” is less used in contemporary feminist scholarship than other terms and concepts like “gender,” it is still useful for analyzing family power dynamics in many parts of the world. Ali focuses in Madras on Rainy Days on the patriarchal control of female sexuality, while Desai in Fasting, Feasting emphasizes the patriarchal restrictions on female autonomy. Both novels portray older women as mostly complicit with patriarchy and younger women as victims who react in various ways, from the resentful resignation of Uma in Fasting, Feasting to the final escape of Layla in Madras on Rainy Days. Although the focus is mostly on the young female protagonists, both novels hint at the ways in which young men can also be oppressed by patriarchy.

Mary Wollstonecraft Sojourner Truth Margaret Atwood Abigail Adams Amy Tan H.D. Simone de Beauvoir Zora Neale Hurston Frances Burney Virginia Woolf

"The white saxifrage with the indented leafe is moste commended for the breakinge of the Stone."

— Turner, Herbal, III, 68 [1568]