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The appearance of Indian women writers in English is intimately connected with the rise and development of Indian English Literature itself. Toru Dutt and Sarojini Naidu represent the early creative release of feminine sensibility. After them, women writers appeared sporadically and it was only after 1950 that there was an emergence of Indian English women Novelists like Kamala Markandaya, Nayantara Sahgal, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala and Anita Desai. The glorious beginning further resulted in the creative bloom in the post-Rushdie period so that one could speak of women's fiction. In this connection one may mention Shashi Deshpande, Shobha De, Bharati Mukherji, Juliette Banerjee, Raji Narasimhan, Anjana Appachana, Githa Hariharan, Nisha da Cunha and Neelum Sharan Gour.
The leading new novelists of the last two decades of the twentieth century have generally been men, Arundhati Roy being an exception. However, the genre Short Fiction seems to be largely a feminine preserve in this period. Most male novelists have written short stories as a kind of subsidiary activity to their novels “a by-product of the novel workshop”; but the situation seems to have been reversed in the case of contemporary women writers whose favoured form is the short story. Some leading short story writers like Bulbul Sharma, Anjana Appachana and Neelum Sharan Gour have attempted writing novels, others like Nisha da Cunha, have dedicated themselves to short fiction alone.
Like the novel, this genre also deals with women’s issues and is nowadays the most popular genre because it suits female sensibility and temperament. Women writers have revealed their peculiar experiences in this form and presented their vision of life. Their central characters act as a picture camera and present the real image of society and the predicament of women in a male dominated world. Within this patriarchal society, they are in search of identity. In other words, their lyric awareness reveals the inner self of women, their peculiar feelings, emotions and search for identity. They also examine Indian women as a stereotyped wife, as a child bearer, and as an object to please and allure men with her physical charms. Even a first casual reading of their stories reveals the shameful attitude of men towards women and their obsessive desire for sex.
A historico-critical survey of short fiction by Indian English women writers shows remarkable changes not only in society but also in women’s approach to traditions, social conventions and their personal priorities. The submissive woman of the ‘forties and ‘fifties and the educated and assertive woman of the ‘sixties and ‘seventies, have been replaced by the ‘new woman’ of the ‘eighties and ‘nineties. This new woman has realised her woman-power. She is not in conflict with the male, and she has rejected, finally, choicelessness.
The significance of the present study lies in its critical focus on the contemporary Indian English short fiction by women and portrayal therein of women in the present social milieu. Women writers have depicted the social and psychological reality of the post-independence period. The Indian English short story by women writers has considerably matured and is now able to reflect social and individual reality with precision. Women writers have used it as a literary barometer and they have noticed political behaviour, joint family system, the generation gap, changing attitudes towards love, marriage, sex and the impact of feminism on contemporary women in the Indian society.
In Indian English short fiction by women, the feminist voice is loud enough to be heard. In neo-colonialism era in India, women short story writers are examining the role of family and society very positively. The present book aims at studying the writers chosen with a view to analyzing their themes (in the light of feminist theory), characterization and style.
The book is divided into five chapters. Chapter I – “Introduction” deals with the theory of short fiction, development of short fiction as a genre, followed by a historico-critical survey of Indian English short story particularly by women writers and a brief discussion of Feminism and feminist literary theory / criticism.
Chapter II – “Anita Desai” deals with her short stories. It contains a discussion of the making of the writer and analysis of her short stories from the angles of pessimism and feminism. It also focuses on the elements of symbolism and portrayal of women characters in her short stories.
Chapter III – “Shashi Deshpande” presents a synopsis of Deshpande’s literary career, influences on her writings and analysis of her representative short stories in the light of feminist literary theory and consequently presentation of women in them.
Chapter IV –“Other Indian English Women Writers of Short Fiction” deals with the analysis of the representative short stories of Attia Hosain, Raji Narasimhan, Kamala Das, Nergis Dalal, Githa Hariharan, Anjana Appachana, Shalan Savur, Prema Ramakrishnan and Tara Deshpande. Chapter V - forms the conclusion, where arguments of the preceding chapters are summarized and a cohesive picture is given. The analysis of short stories by contemporary Indian English women writers shows how cultural patterns run like a thread in the short stories of these women writers. Despite provincial disparities, they are successful in portraying the socio-cultural ethos which is basically Indian. Their short stories show formal diversity but there is a common denominator: feminist consciousness.
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