Anita creeping sly magician of my hallucinations- no

AnitaDesai is a dominant figure in the twentieth century Indian English fiction. Shehas given a new direction to Indian English literature.

Her novels areconsidered to be the great contribution to the Indian English literature. Shestarted her literary journey with the publication of her first novel Cry, the Peacock in 1963. The 1960scattered a sense of great dejection and gloom all over India.

In 1962 chinaobtain a victory over India and this defeat brought a sense of disgrace andhumiliation to the hearts of Indians. During this period of dejection andhumiliation, Anita Desai novel Cry, thePeacock published. Desai has delineated theself-alienation, despair, death, desolation and socio-psychic fragmentation ofthe protagonist. AnitaDesai’s first novel, Cry, the Peacock isconcerned with its chief protagonist Maya’s psychological problems. Based onthe mythological and archetypal images and symbols, this novel explores thehidden and dormant impulses of Maya’s psyche. As a young sensitive girl, Mayadesires to love and to live. She marries the friend of her father, Gautama, whois much older than herself. She belongs to a traditional Brahmin family whichbelieves in astrology and other prophetic strains of Brahmanical order.

On theother hand, Gautama’s family represents the rational side of life. Thus Maya ishaunted constantly by the rationalistic approach of her husband to the affairsof life. Maya loves Gautama passionately and desires to be loved in return: butGautama’s coldness disappoints her.Infact, the distinction between Maya and Gautama is one of tradition andmodernity, trust and distrust in human relationships, brahmanical and non-brahmanical order of the society. The root of the entire novel lies in theprophecy of albino astrologer who creates a fear- psychosis in Maya’s mind:The astrologer, that creeping sly magician of myhallucinations- no of course they were not hallucinations, Arjuna had provedthem to me, and yet- could they be real? had never said anything to suggestthat it was I who would die young, unnatural and violently, four years after mymarriage, nothing to suggest that he even thought that.

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Theastrologer prophecy comes true in the case of Maya’s brother, Arjuna. Gautama,as a rational egoist, fails to respond to Maya’s emotional intensity. Maya as asensitive young lady sees ill- omens in her family even on the death of herdog, Toto.

Asa rationalist, Gautama laughs at Maya’s traditional and fatalistic views inlife. He makes Maya understand the unpredictability of life. She develops aprocrastinating nature and suffers from a fear- psychosis. The climax of thestory is reached when she loves the balance of her mind. Thus Anita Desai’sshows the interior regions of the human psyche through the main characters ofthis novel.

Cry, the Peacock,in three parts deals with the multifarious aspects of Maya’s struggles. Delineatingthe death of her dog, Toto, in the first part, the novel reveals the psychicdepth of Maya’s mind in the second part and finally, it narrates the tragicdeath of Maya’s husband Gautama. The third part becomes symbolic of Maya’sloneliness and isolation after the death of her husband. The presence of Mayain the novel heightens the gloomy and melancholic atmosphere in the structureof the novel. She is a patient of fear- psychosis stands for the pervadingfeeling of isolation, alienation and the strained relations between husband andwife. Apparently the inner pangs and the turmoil of Maya remain undiagnosedbecause of her sensitive and imaginative mind.

Sensitive, imaginative, fear-ridden and neurotic as she is, she falls a prey to the anxieties and never-ending callousness of her mind. She tackles her inner pangs through theflashback and is lost in a world of her memories. Here is the prophecy of anastrologer in which she submerges herself sensitively and sees the impendingperils for Gautama’s life.Threatto Gautama’s life creates a neurotic feeling in Maya. Maya’s recollection ofthe past memories is always linked with the prophecy of the astrologer. Thecremation of her dog, Toto, so pierces the unconscious regions of her mind thatshe restrains Gautama from following ” the antediluvian” approach towards life.The death of the dog signifies an ill-omen and she becomes gloomy about herfuture: “I wiped away my quick tears, and wept more, I cried to myself what isthe use? I am alone.

”  The death of thedog makes her suffer from death- mania; she senses everywhere such objectswhich are directly or indirectly related to death:He approached me again, with dancing steps when theweak flames of the single lamp suddenly guttered and died. We all sprang up, andthe darkness was filled with crowding, pursuing, grasping bodies, moist withperspiration, reeking with evil, the emanation and apprehension of it.Mayais hallucinated and disenchanted even by the sight of the cat. Gautama tries tomake her understand about the ineffectiveness of the foretelling of theastrologer. He reminds her traditional story of Indian mythology and tells herhow Krishna saved Prahalad “countless times, through love and mercy”. Such aninstance relieves her tense mind for the time being. She often becomesnostalgic and, through her memories, she suggests to readers the strainedrelations with her husband: she finds her married life “neither true norlasting”; but it exemplifies “a sacred icon”. Her married life does not suggestthe heart-beat of the young couple; it was a forced decision of her father.

Gautama, being a “protégé” to Maya’s father, becomes an example of a courtesymarriage. Maya being the daughter of a freedom fighter represents thebehaviorism of such a family which allows the freedom of ideas. Her father as afreedom fighter participated in the freedom struggle of 1942.Thevarious episodes in the novel are combined together for the structural unity.Maya while staying with her husband recollects the memories of her childhood bywhich she links her past with the present. She introduces her brother Arjuna’scontribution to the freedom struggles of the country to the readers. Theinstances of her father and brother unveil her family tradition. In her family,the freedom of expression and sometimes even critical discussion on any topicwas permissible.

Her brother is a good example of ideological differencesbetween father and son; he even leaves his house because of his differenceswith his father; and nobody is sure of his whereabouts.Onthe other hand, the environment of Gautama’s family stands at the opposite pollof Maya’s; she has always given the human love in abundance. She after hermarriage craves for human love; she is love-hungry. She sometimes becomesnostalgic for relieving herself from her tension. Gautama’s family is symbolicof artificial human behavior of the city- sensibility. Being a lawyer, he is aman of arguments and ceases entirely to be an emotional man. He is fond ofcabrat dance. Maya does not reconcile herself with the city- sensibility of herhusband; she regards it as a world of degeneration.

Her aversion to theartificial life of the city teases her body and spirit:It seemed to me that we alone existed upon an islandin a city of dead, and that we too, were gripped by a fatal disease and wouldsoon, slowly perish since the youngest, freshest generation was touched by itand had no hope of survival. Amidst such psychic fluctuations, Maya as asensitive young lady tries to pursue her idealistic objects of life.Love-hungry, she does not get solace to her burning heart through “unseeingeyes” of Gautama. She has a wider concern for the new generation; but Gautama’sdisinterestedness in sharing her emotional height disappoints her.

Even thevery names Maya (illusion) and Gautama (knowledge) represent two polarities ofplot structure. Maya outlines all that emerges from the heart and Gautamasymbolizes the working on the mental approach of human behavior.Gautama was not a man to whom confessions of theheart could easily be made- of the mind, yes, readily, as soon as the idea hadformed, shifted and settled into coherence. But of heart no, it was of no use.

Mayaas young lady hopes for the fulfillment of her womanly desires, especially thefulfillment of the nerve- soothing impulses and instincts, which once sheenjoyed as a girl with her father; but her mind wrestles with the free flow ofher youthful instincts, which once she enjoyed as a girl with her father; buther mind wrestles with the free flow of her youthful instincs and the fear-psychosis created by the prophecy of the astrologer. The instinctive cradle” ofMaya with “possessive embrace” is linked with “the speechless need” of Gautamato Maya for his domestic management. Here the natural inhibitions of a woman inMaya creates a desire to have a possessive hold on Gautama. The inner eagernessof Maya as a woman extends the plot. There comes a communication gap betweenhusband and wife because of their differences in opinions.

There is a feigneddrama of relations between them, and Maya feels “shamefulness of this falselove”. She is as stupefied in human relations as she prepares herself “tolisten to the words of those who, too, had been drunk with life as with wine”.As she fails to have a possessive grasp on her husband, she is hallucinated andbecomes neurotic in her behavior. Maya’s neurotic behavior unites all otherparts of the story into a well-knit plot. As a disinterested onlooker at thedrama of human relations, she longs for her existence.Thearrival of Gautama’s sister Nela and his mother during Maya’s illness unfoldsyet another thread of the story. The presence of both the mother and sisterrelieves Maya’s nervous breakdown for the time being.

Maya follows the motherand sister to Connaught Circus at Delhi just for purchasing some domesticarticles; but the departure of them leaves her again in her alienation andisolation from the rest of the world. She again feels miserable: “No, I cried miserable,what the house empty again, and I alone with my horrors and nightmares”. Thenovelist reveals the psychogenic traits of her personality.

Disenchantmentand disappointment in human relationship make Maya hallucinated, leading her tothe verge of madness. And in such a rush of negative emotions, she insists uponGautama to have a fresh air out of the room. She hears the constant ring ofdrum- beating.

This drum- beating is nothing but to keep her attention to aparticular object in the psychic depth of her mind. She perceives once againthe prophecy of the astrologer in her mind as “clear as a drum beat on awaiting night”. The waiting night symbolizes the time of death. The working onhuman attachment “hauled her, slowly and steadily, down the dark corridor tothe pit where knowledge lay”. She witnesses a “strange behavior in Gautama andat the same time she exhibits so many ill-omens.

She sees an “absurd image” inthe mirror- only of “cat” and an “antic owl”. She follows Gautama upstairs andrecollects her past memories and finds Gautam like disembodied spirit “clothedin off- white and a fayed tie”. Seeing a grey shadow in the sky, she throws himwith a jerk and he falls down from the roof and dies.Thisis the end of the second part of the story.

The third part containing a fewpages deals with the sobbing and suffering of Maya. She once again becomesalienated and isolated from the rest of society. Once again she dwells into herpremonition and thinks that ‘it had to be one of us… and it was so clear thatit was I who was meant to live”. The fear still surrounds her and she comes outof her room; and she is lost in her fantasy by which she watches a screaming”white figure”. She meets that figure appallingly and “then both disappearedinto the dark quite.

All around the dark was quiet then”.Cry, the Peacockis a remarkable novel which reveals skillfully Maya’s search for an individualidentity. As a motherless girl, she engages herself in battle between herindividual self and her social obligations in search of human love. She enjoysa prosperous and happy childhood with her father; but she always feels a voidand a need for the mother in her life. She dreams of human love and her dreamslink her conscious and unconscious levels of the mind. Her dreams fill her mindwith imagination, fantasy and nostalgia. She asks Gautama, her husband: “Gautama, what does it mean when you dream of the dead? I dreamt about my motherthis afternoon … she was all in grey what could it mean?” Gautama is obsessiveof his own existence. He responds to Maya that “dreams mean nothing”.

Mayawants her fulfillment as a woman and as a wife. Gautama again convinces her ofdreams that are distant perceptions of the unreality of life. He suggests Mayathat the dreams materialize an eagerness of the present through imagination.Maya always hopes for her fulfillment; when she fails to have her instinctsfulfilled, she feels loneliness, isolation and desertion. Herloneliness so hallucinates her that she undergoes an idea of “a struggle ofdespair that continued beyond the sleep of death”. The hallucination anddisenchantment born in her isolation and loneliness makes her a psychosispatient. She develops a negative approach towards life and finds its entireessence as useless and meaningless.

She struggles with all her might and seemson the verge of a nervous breakdown. The disenchantment goes so deep in herunconsciousness that she loses the equilibrium of her mind. She becomesexpressive of her negative sensibility to all the objects of life. Sometimesthe simple dream of her mind becomes a nightmare; it gives through memories abizarre world of her conscious mind. The nightmares haunt her and createsleepless conditions for her. Being aware of her sad existence, she sees “apainful smile” on Gautama’s face. The regular process of day-dreaming, fear andrecurrent nightmares give her many sleepless nights. Doctor diagnosesanxiety-phobia in her mind.

She makes an unconsciousness journey through herdreams to an unknown world. She perceives a bizarre world of differenthappenings. Thesensitive nature of Maya becomes apparent in her failure to realize heridentity as a wife. She meets the emotional stimulus response of her husband incoldness for relationship.

The sexual repression makes her nervous systembreakdown. She realizes the physical debility and emotional hallowness in herhusband. When she fails to realize herself, she yields to her past memories forrelieving her tense mind. She recollects “half- forgotten mnemonic words” fromher “childhood”. Whenever Maya is afraid of her horrible dreams and memories,she always tries to draw Gautama close: “I drew close to him again, impulsivelydrew him close to me.

No, I did not wish him in a Muslim paradise, no more thanI wished myself in a Christian hell. Ah, the thing to do was not to die,neither he now I, but to live, and living sleep. I want to sleep”. Hereagerness to live justifies her natural desire for belongingness.

As a marriedyoung lady, she expects her womanly fulfillment. In the company of Gautama herwomanhood remains unfulfilled. She desires to materialize the vision of theflesh.

The novelist reminds the reader about her natural desire to “recreatethe world”. She as a wife, but Gautama fails to fulfil the dream of herexistence in the society. If Gautama observes father- obsession in Maya, shetoo realizes the unsentimental behavior of Gautama and the lack of manliness inhim. His unsenti mentality keeps him at a distance from his wife.  Thus,the father- obsession, unfulfilled womanhood, emotional stimuli unrestness,debilitative husband and the over ridden death- phobia make her neurotic in herbehavior. The often occurring images like “window” and the “mirror” suit thepurpose of the novelist in analyzing the inner psychic turmoil of Maya’s mind.In her self-analysis, she blames herself for the “attachment” to humanrelationships. She thus yields to the reality of life and finds her existencefulfilled in the total ‘annihilation” of the world.

Defeated as an egoist, Mayaanalyses the higher motives of life; but her learning to higher consciousnessdoes not linger long. The image of “window” awakes in her a yearning forfreedom and that of “mirror” for the self-analysis of her psyche. Maya gets thegist of human relationship and recovers her lost will. Thesymbol of the Peacock’s cry fits into the negative aspects of albino’sprophecy. Representing an emotional and ideal love, the peacock is symbolic ofa life-in-death and death-in-life. Anita Desai’s novelsare certainly reflective of socials realities. But she does not dwell likeothers on social issues. She delves deep into the forces that condition the growthof a female in this patriarchal male dominated society.

She observes socialrealities from a psychological perspective without posing herself as a socialreformer. Her novels are studies of the inner life of characters and her talentlies in the description of minute things that are usually unnoticed. Mayawould like Gautama to meet her at the level of her inner life, which to him isa closed book. He knows nothing of the astrologer and she deliberately avoidsany reference to that phase of her childhood in which she had been troubled bythe astrology’s prediction.

He is an ignorant about the fact that she has abrother and is successfully unable to know what is worrying her. From thisarises a conflict of expectations leading to a failure in communication and toemotional incompatibility. The element of companionship is sadly missing in therelationship between husband and wife. The devotion in Maya and thoroughly lackof it in Gautama is the root of the maladjustment that creates the fear complexin her. Maya feels lonely, companionless, physically and emotionally starved.

She pines for Gautama’s contact, but he cannot spare long hours for hiswife.  AnitaDesai occupies a very prominent place in Indian novelists in English. She hasportrayal the lively characters from upper class to the middle class of thesociety.

Through her most of the novels, it is clear that the protagonists arealienated from the society. In this novel she has explored the theme of husband-wifealienation. After all, the prediction of an astrologer makes a deep impressionon her, owing to which she is obsessed with the fear of death. In the fit ofinsanity, she pushes her husband from the parapet of house and at last, shecommits suicide.

This is the tragic end of their married life.


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