Representation of women and children in the novels of Arundhati Roy and Anita Desai : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Philosophy in English at Massey University
This thesis explores the representation of women and children in Arundhati Roy's novel, The God of Small Things, and Anita Desai's novels, The Fire on the Mountain and Clear Light of Day. Each of these novels has at its centre a female protagonist who resists the demands of tradition. The interactions of these women with the antipathetic forces of tradition and culture are seen from a female point of view and with a profound understanding of female sensibility. How far to conform, how far to break away to assert one's selfhood, and how to resolve the crisis brought about this challenge – these are the questions asked, and the answers are slightly different in each case. While resistance to traditional norms leads the protagonists of The God of Small Things to a complete rejection of them, Anita Desai's protagonists turn inward, and achieve a wider and more unified vision of life by coming to terms with socio-cultural realities. The chosen novels also display remarkable insights into the minds of children, whose perceptions are based on a different order of reality from that acknowledged by the adults. However, overwhelmed by adult reality and faced with demands beyond their comprehension, they are unable to sustain their distinctive view of the world. At best they are able to synthesise their childhood fantasies with a more adult discretion.