Emancipation Of Women and their role in nationalist movement in Raja Rao’s Kanthapura
Raja Rao’s first published work in English, the Kanthapura had a rather controversial and revolutionary plot in accordance with women being participants of nationalist movements. The third world countries, at that time, were opposed to the idea of women in the socio-political realms. Kanthapura drove through barriers of male dominance and female regression that prevailed in India at that time and Raja Rao was much criticized for the idea of female liberation.
In kanthapura, the fact that the narrator is an old woman, acchaka, who comments on the actions of characters with a sharp eyed wisdom makes evident the fact that the author was of view of freedom of speech for women. The ...view middle of the document...
It is an extreme shift from the position of women in the patriarchal Indian society to that in a strong movement against colonialism. This without doubt also reflects the Gandhian ideal to encourage emancipation of women and support women encouragement. However, Senath Perera in his study of Kanthapura argues that the emancipation of women in the novel is only limited. He argues that though the women resolved to fight the Raj, still they had to venerate their male leaders like moorthy and also be subservient to their husband in their own homes.
A fine example is that when, in the novel, Rangamma tells the other women about fighting against British Raj she faces resistance. The narrator reports-
“ And nose scratching najjama said “why? I am not a man to fight sister” and Rangamma said “why sister? You need not be a man to fight”
It is proof enough that Indian Women characters were still tied to their social position which chains them to their homes and domestic chores. The women in kanthapura established a sevika sangha, but immediately afterwards najamma experiences a nightmare bout being beaten by her husband. This nightmare reflects women’s subjection to oppression and male dominance.
In conclusion, one may assert that women in Kanthapura have one strengthas participants in the struggle; Their ability to endure suffering. Their conscious suffering is only fit for gandhian idea of non-violence. The characters of rangamma and ratna confirm the idea that women in the novel are capable of going beyond the confinements of the patriarchal system and hence are to a certain extent- an inspiration. However the fact that they feel the need for male protection cannot be ignored. It is clear that Kanthapura is only a process of liberation struggle for women. It is an example of their limited emancipation, their subaltern position.