The Dark Room

Essay by nefariasUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, March 2008

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The Dark Room, illustrates the inescapable dependency and suppression of Brahmin women at the time by demonstrating four women’s inability to be self-sufficient within a high-caste society. The novel, set in 1938, focuses on a household controlled by a modern man and served by a traditional wife. Ramani’s existence is structured so that he can benefit from having a traditional, obedient wife at home and modern social life- one that she remains separate from. However, Savitri underlying dissatisfaction with this role and her relationship to her modern friend Gangu, implies her own suppressed, modern side. This protagonist acts on her hidden, contemporary thoughts and desires three times within Ramani’s traditional home. However, because Savitri’s home and high-caste society evidently make no room for a modernized woman, she continuously ends up lost in darkness and ambiguity. This pattern and motif reveals the embedded suppression of women in India’s Brahmin society at that time.

Moreover, Narayan presents two modern types of Brahmin women that, despite (Shanta Bai’s) education, (or Gangu’s) ambition and supportive husband, still fail to be self-reliant. Savitri is only able to find empowered women, like Ponni, and a self-made place for herself when she escapes high-caste expectations by living with a lower-caste. Ultimately though, Savitri finds that she cannot abandon her role as a mother, even if it means she must give up her newfound independence. Her surrendering to this traditional role and the modern Shanta Bai, Gangu, and Ponni disappearance from the novel, illustrates the inescapable pressure to be a traditional Brahmin woman in a modernizing India.

The opening chapter of Narayan’s novel establishes Ramani’s balance of a traditional home in a modernizing India, evident as Savitri’s daily routine at home revolves around Ramani’s commands. The chapter begins with Savitri preparing her husband and...