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Gender, Resistance, and Identity: Women’s Rewriting of the Self in Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s Before We Visit the Goddess

Nur Ain Nasuha Anuar and Moussa Pourya Asl

Pertanika Journal of Social Science and Humanities, Volume 30, Issue 3, September 2022

DOI: https://doi.org/10.47836/pjssh.30.3.15

Keywords: Écriture féminine, the feminine, identity, India, resistance, the other

Published on: 6 September 2022

The image of Indian women has often been associated with the act of obedience and submission. Previous studies on gender and sexuality in India’s literary tradition and culture point to the dominance of heteropatriarchal normativity and the scarcity of the image of a powerful woman capable of contesting and dismantling such impositions. In this study, we argue that Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s Before We Visit the Goddess (2016) presents a more nuanced image of the Indian women who constantly problematize the mainstream prescriptions of gender roles and boundaries. In pursuit of the argument, this study aims to explore the novel to examine the multiple ways in which the leading female characters contest, negotiate, and reconstruct pre-existing definitions of gender identities. As an analytical framework, we draw upon the poststructuralist feminist Hélène Cixous’s notions of “the feminine,” “the other,” and “écriture féminine” (feminine writing) to shed light on female characters’ struggles against submission to patriarchal discourses. The findings reveal that the three female characters—i.e., Sabitri, Bela, and Tara—resist discourses of masculinity through empowerment in their unique ways: establishing a business, getting a divorce, and having an abortion. Through such practices, the female characters demonstrate the will of both a woman and a mother and a strong sense of love that works as a key factor in their resistance to patriarchy and rewriting identity relations.

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ISSN 0128-7702

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