This thesis sets out to do close readings of the Pakistani author Bapsi Sidhwa’s novels The Pakistani Bride and Cracking India. It sheds light on the ways in which the image of the female body is used in the two novels and in what ways this image represents the novels’ feminist message. The close readings reveal many similarities between the novels’ treatment of the female body, but also interesting developments that take place in Sidhwa’s feminism from The Pakistani Bride of the 1970s to Cracking India of the 1980s.
The Pakistani Bride focuses on female suffering and the powerlessness experienced by women within the patriarchal society depicted. The suffering is linked closely to the female body, and the control exercised over it by male society. The female protagonists of the novel rebel against patriarchy, but in spite of this male control takes over in the end. The novel does not change the society in which it is set, but it does show the reader a reality which must be told. Cracking India is a more optimistic novel than The Pakistani Bride. The novel focuses on the cracks in the patriarchal system – cracks that can be used for self realisation or for the common good. The women of the novel all perform their own acts of rebellion or challenge to patriarchy and, even though some of them are punished for their independence, the novel still lets these women speak and be heard at the end of the story. Cracking India opens for a future in which women will be able to look at the world through their own eyes and gather their own knowledge and power.
The feminism of The Pakistani Bride and Cracking India is a feminism which aims to break the silence regarding the oppression of women in Pakistan. Since the novels set out to inform and shock the reader into action, the feminism has a focus on the description of the different ways on which female bodies are oppressed in the patriarchal society of the novels. Because the female body is something that is supposed to be hidden and not talked about, showing abuse and injustice through the female body makes the message doubly powerful. The novels’ focus on injustice and violence aim to enrage the reader into taking action. The eyes of women looking at the world are introduced as an inspiration to women of patriarchal societies to question traditions, to gain their own knowledge of the world and to assert their intellectual power.