An Introduction by Kamala Das Critical Analysis
An Introduction by Kamala Das Analysis
“ An Introduction ” is an autobiographical poem by Kamala Das . It is confessional in tone and modern in style. It is blunt, bitter and straightforward. The poem, in a very cryptic and epigrammatic way, dives deep into the inner chambers of mind and digs out the real self which generally remains subdued. It also contains some beautiful images and symbols, words and phrases which often attract the attention of the readers.
T.S. Eliot , in his well known essay, “Tradition and Individual Talent” shows that the man who suffers and the mind which creates are different things. He is also of the view that poetry is not the expression of personality but an escape from personality.
But the poems of Kamala Das are just the otherwise. They present the truthful picture of her life, her emotions of love and sex, her revolutionary attitude against the callous and cruel patriarchy and her bold pleading for feminism. She observes:
“A poet’s raw material is not stone or clay, it is her personality. I could not escape from my predicament even from a moment.”
In other words, as G.B. Shaw cannot write a single line without having a purpose in his mind, in the same way, Kamala Das cannot write beyond her personal experiences. In this respect, she is very close to Shakespeare, Balzac , Fielding , Standhal , Flaubert , Zola and Tolstoy who unlocked their hearts through their creative literature. About her attitude to art and writing, Kamala Das, in her poem, “Composition” observes:
“I must let my mind striptease I must extrude Autobiography”
The poem “ An Introduction ” opens with Kamala Das’s attitude to politics. She says that she knows only the names of politicians like the days of weeks or months. She also writes about her parentage, native home and the language:
“I am Indian, very brown, born in Malabar, I speak three languages write in Two, dream in one.”
She has a great fascination for English language . She wants to reveal her dreams through this language–half English, half Indian. This language is honest and human. But the people of her house tell her not to express her views in English. She is fed up with such types of restrictions posed by the domination of patriarchy. She is of the opinion that the language which a man speaks easily and conveniently must be free from clutches and restrictions:
“….Do not write in English, they said, English is not your mother tongue. Why not leave me alone, critics, friends, visiting cousins, Every one of you? Why not let me speak in Any language I like?”
Despite the dos and don’ts of the family members, Kamala Das went on airing her views in English. She says that English voices her joys, her longings, her hopes. This language is useful for her as cawing is to crows or roaring to the lions:
“It is human speech, the speech of the mind that is Here and do there, a mind that sees and hears and Is aware. Not the deaf, blind speech Of trees in storm or monsoon clouds or of rain or the Incoherent mutterings of the blazing Funeral pyre.”
It is interesting to note that in this poem the word “they”, stands for the members of her family and the other people of society who are conservative and patriarchal in their attitude to individual and social norms and practices. On the connotative scale, they also show the traditional and patriarchal domination of any societal framework where the women have little freedom to voice their views against and again them. In this poem, the repetition of the word ‘they’ comes again and again which reminds us of the term ‘they’ in the poem “ The Night of the Scorpion ” by Nissim Ezekiel . The word “he” in “ An Introduction ” is an imagistic variation upon the word ‘they’ which has a same implication of the sadist approach of patriarchy .
Now Kamala Das recalls her adolescent age when she in on the threshold of puberty, neither child nor young enough to be married. But the patriarchy of her family gets her married to a youth of sixteen.
“….I was child, and later they Told me I grew, for I became tall my limbs Swelled and one or two places sprouted hair. When I asked for love, not knowing what else to ask For, he drew a youth of sixteen into the bedroom And closed the door. He did not beat me But my sad woman body felt so beaten. The weight of my breasts and womb crushed me. I shrank Pitifully.”
These lines deal with the poet’s truthful portrayal of the sad woman body of Kamala Das, her piteous plight under the patriarchal domination, her yearning for love and freedom. They also show the miserable condition of an average Indian girl who is married immature to an unknown boy by the parents or the head of the family. Most of the parts of India where there is illiteracy, girls are supposed to be an unwanted thing and they are treated as dolls in the hands of their parents. They are viewed as burdens of the family. So, the head of the family wants to get the girl child married as soon as possible so that they may be able to free from the burden of the family.
The sentence “he drew a youth of sixteen” suggests this sense. In these lines, we get a very fine use of euphemism in the sentence “my limbs swelled and one or two places sprouted hair”. This sentence shows the age of puberty of a girl child. The age of puberty is full of new joys, emotions and a juvenile frenzy.
It is an age which needs love and freedom. But what happens to Kamala Das is just the otherwise. She is forcibly married to a man (Madhab Das) almost twice of her age and the door of the bedroom was closed. The closing of the bedroom door is again euphemistic and suggestive. It connotes the sexual copulation between the husband and wife so as to procreate issues. The closing of the bedroom door may also be interpreted metaphorically. The word ‘door’ is a universal symbol of liberty and freedom. So here the ‘closing of the door suggests the closing of liberty of a girl child. Now forward, she will have to live under the walls of patriarchy. It reminds us of the famous statement of Manusmiriti which says that a woman is never free. Before marriage, she is protected by her parents, after marriage, by husband and after the death of the husband, by her children.
Well, the sentence ‘he did not beat me’ is also very suggestive. ‘He’ stands for the poetess’s husband, an aged person. In this poem, he does not mean only the husband of Kamala Das, but it also suggests the universal masculine gender, the cruel and callous patriarchy that is notorious for creating unwanted bumps in the path of the women’s freedom. The word ‘beat’ in this line has been connotatively used. It does not show the physical beating, but the sexual and mental torture. Perhaps this is why Kamala Das used the phrase ‘my sad woman body’. These lines also show the pathos and helplessness of a woman who feels like a bird caught in a cage. The sentence shrank pitifully arouses pity and pathos for the women. The sentence “The weight of my breath and womb crushed me” is equally very connotative. It connotes the responsibility of a girl child as a mother who gives birth to children and nourishes and nurses them. This shows that the immature age is not suitable for giving birth to a child, but the pity is that the girl child has to abide by the dictates of patriarchy and so she has to bear the weight of breast and womb.
These lines have a poetic integrity and stylistic cohesion. There is a fine fusion of both the feeling and the form. The poet has very carefully and judiciously used some linguistic techniques. Here, the language is very cacophonic. The sentences are not poetic but prosaic. There is not rhythm. Sometimes, the sentence is broken in the middle of the sentence. So, this technique has an objective correlative. It is an emotional equivalent of the feelings and thoughts of a miserable, vulnerable and deserted woman.
At the end of the first part of the poem, Kamala Das asserts boldly and frankly that after her marriage, she has to live in restrictions posed by the conservative men of the family. But she wanted to lead a life of freedom even after marriage. So, she often wore a shirt and her brother’s trousers. She cut her hair short and ignored the womanliness. But it was against the attitude of the conservatives. So, they forbade her to do so. The poet observes:
“Dress in saries, be girl. Be wife, they said. Be embroiderer, be cook, Be a quarreller with servants. Fit in, oh Belong, cried the categorizers. Don’t sit On walls or peep in through our lace draped window”
Here in this stanza, Kamala Das’s poetic excellence is worth noticing. It has both the thematic and linguistic integrity. In the thematic plane, it shows how the fate of a woman is confined only to be a girl, a domestic wife, a cook, and quarreller. It also shows how the women have been prevented from sitting on walls and peeping through the windows. On the linguistic and stylistic plane, it contains the beauty of words, phrases and structural devices. The repetition of the verb ‘be’ again and again shows the chains and restrictions of masculine gender. The sentences are very short containing only two words, e.g., Be cook, Be girl, Be wife, Fit in etc.
They suggest the confinement of women under the wall and their little activities in the other social, spiritual and political affairs. So, the shortness of sentences show the shortness of women in the eyes of men. The repetition of the verb also shows the anger mood of the men of the house. The words, ‘belong’ and ‘categorizers have rich poetic and symbolic implications. The term ‘categorizers’ which is polysyllable and cacophonic, suggests the so called conservatives or the champions of patriarchy who never say ‘tell’ or ‘speak’ but only ‘cry’.
The word ‘belong’ is very connotative. It is here associated with the deep emotional and spiritual concern with the tradition, custom, rites, modesty and other healthy values of life which a woman has to follow. The sentence, “Be embroiderer’ shows that one of the chief characteristics of a woman is to behave like the embroidery of a saree. The embroidery is always on the margin. It enhances the beauty of the saree. Similarly, the women, though they are marginalized, enhance the beauty of the home with their beauty, righteousness, morality and chastity. The phrase ‘our lace draped window shows the closed window of the conservative men of the family. Window is the symbol of freedom and a sense of relief and openness. But here the window is under the control of the categorizers.
The second part of the poem again shows the monopoly of the patriarchal society.
“Be Amy, or be Kamala, Or better Still, be Madhavikutty, It is time to Choose a name, a role, Don’t play pretending game; Don’t play at schizophrenia or be a Nympho, Don’t cry embarrassingly loud when jilted in love.”
Here again in these lines we find the dos and don’ts of the male dominated family. A woman in such a family is never allowed to play schizophrenia and cry loud when jilted in love. These lines are heavily punctuated. This has been deliberately done by the poet to show the various gaps and bumps in the path of the women in a masculine society. This unwanted and undeserving restrictions made Kamala Das a rebel in her life. She boldly asserts that she wants a man who has love for her. She even goes to the extent of making an unbecoming, untraditional, illicit relation with a man:
“I met a man, loved him. Call Him not by any name, he is every man Who want woman, just as I am every Woman who seeks love. In him…. The hungry haste of rivers, In me. The oceans’ tireless Waiting….”
Here in these lines the confession of Kamala Das is very bold and frank. She does not speak of herself but speaks for a large number of women who are devoid of love and liberty. This is why she uses the phrase ‘every woman’ and ‘every man’. The illicit relation has been euphemistically and metaphorically rendered through the images of ‘hungry rivers and tireless ocean’. The lover has been compared to the hungry rivers that are very eager to merge in the eternal ocean. On the other hand, the beloved has been compared to the tireless ocean. So, here, there is a fine correspondence between the major and the minor terms.
It is to be noted that the sexual portrayal of Kamala Das cannot be branded as pornographic. In literature nothing is moral or immoral. The only thing that matters in art and literature is the presentation. In other words, in the domain of art and literature, manner is more important than matter. There are several nude and vulgar statues of men and women in the caves of Ajanta and on the temple of Konark , but they are recognized as fine pieces of art and beauty. So, in art and literature vulgarity may come, but it must come through poetic beauty. This is exactly what we find in these lines. The poetess has woven the vulgar theme of sex and pleasure through the medium of beautiful symbols and images. Here, her description recalls us of D.H. Lawrence and Arundhati Roy , the winner of the Booker prize, presents the theme of, sex through the beautiful connotative languages. In her well-known book ”The God of Small Things’, Arundhati Roy takes the image of sailing in the river which contains a sexual implication :
“Clouded eyes held clouded eyes in a steady gaze and a luminous woman opened herself to a luminous man. She was as wide and deep as a river in spate. He sailed on her waters. She could feel him moving deeper and deeper into her. Frenzied. Asking to be let in further.”
Well, Kamala Das, the worst sufferer of male chauvinism earnestly searches for a man who can quench her desire, the desire for love and freedom. She is in search of a man to whom she may share her grief and sorrow, pleasure and happiness.
So, she asks each and every one the question. “Who are you?” This question is very suggestive. She wants to be fully confirmed whether the man whom she is searching for is genuine or fake, conservative or liberal. And ultimately the man is found who calls himself “I”. The poetess says that he is tightly packed like the sword in its sheath. Here the phrase’ sword in its sheath’ is highly symbolic. It symbolizes the inner nature of behaviour of a man’s personality which is always covered or hidden. Modem psychology says that man’s mind is a complex organism which can not be fathomed so easily. It is, in the language of Freud, an iceberg. Virginia Woolf also points out that man’s life is not a series of a gig lamps, but it is just like a semi transparent envelope.
So, on the psychological plane, this phrase shows the unfathomable and invisible self which is seldom present in man’s actions. But Kamala Das is able to search for that man who was the same in both his inward and outward appearances. So she frankly observes that she enjoys the pleasures of life with him :
“…It is I who drink lonely Drinks at twelve, midnight, in hotels of strange towns, It is I who laugh, It is I who make love And then, feel shame, it is I who lie dying With a rattle in my throat.”
In these lines, we see the confession of Kamala Das on the metaphorical plane. Here the word, ‘I’ represents the inner soul of Kamala Das. It may suggest the inner longings of an average woman who wants to be loved by her husband free from the do’s and don’ts of the categorizers. And now, the poetess has got what she wanted. But by doing so, she is both ashamed of and happy, sinner and saint:
“….I am sinner. I am saint. I am the beloved and the Betrayed. I have no joys which are not yours, no Aches which are not yours. I too call myself I.”
These lines have got antithesis and balance. There is a figure oxymoron in the words ‘sinner’ and ‘saint’. This paradoxical rendering of the inner psyche of a deserted woman has a close conformity with the poetry of T.S. Eliot and W.B. Yeats in the modern period. Kamala Das uses the word ‘sinner’ because she thinks that she has committed blunder by breaking the age-old rule of the religious bondage of marriage. But after the marriage, her husband treated her like an inanimate object. He was only concerned with the body of the poetess. So, there was only a sexual or physical union. But in the second part of the poem, we get love, the identification of emotions of the lover and the beloved, the physical as well as the spiritual reunion of the two souls leading to a state of parmananda or the cosmic bliss which a Yogi attains through penance. But the case of Kamala Das is opposite. She gets it not through penance but through pleasure. Perhaps this is why she says that she is both sinner and saint, beloved and betrayed.
- Kamala Das’s Summer in Calcutta Poem Collection
The poem is based on contrast. The husband represents the patriarchal society where women have little freedom, where they are caught in the walls of do’s and don’ts, ifs and buts, where they are not allowed to sit on walls or peep in through the windows. In other words, in the first part of the poem, we get restrictions, constrains, chains and walls. We also get here the animal like attitude which makes the poets shrink pitifully. But the second part of the poem has a cosmic love between the lover and the beloved. Here the grief and sorrow of the one is that of the other:
“I have no joys which are not yours, no Aches which are not yours, I too call myself I”
The sentence “I too call myself I” contains very rich and philosophical things. It suggests a cosmic and eternal love. The first “I” suggests the beloved and the second, lover. Now it is very difficult to make a gap between them because the lover has fully surrendered himself to the beloved and vice-versa. We know that in religious domain, confession plays an important part for the purging of the impurities of body and mind.
After the confession, the man becomes fully prepared for surrendering his self to the Almighty and thereby he gets the relization of the soul. This is what here Kamala Das does to get rid of the conservative chains and surrenders her everything to that man whose soul has a close conformity with that of Kamala Das. Perhaps this is why in the last sentence, ‘I too call myself I’ both the bodies become one. It reminds us of Emily Bronte’s novel, “ Wuthering Heights ” in which Catherine has a cosmic and ideal love with Heathcliff and at one occasion she says: “I am nothing but Heathcliff”.
Thus, the poem “ An introduction ” is a representative confessional and autobiographical poem of Kamala Das. It is modern in both theme and technique. Harish Raizada rightly observes:
“Kamala Das’s poems of love and sex are characterized by emotional intensity and are among the best of her poems. With a frankness and openness unusual in the Indian context she expresses her need for love. The vocabulary used is blunt and imagery sensuous and fleshy. The description of man woman relationship include anatomical detail and body functions are expressed undisguised by metaphor or round aboutation.”
- Enterprise by Nissim Ezekiel | Complete Analysis
- Our Casuarina Tree Nostalgic Poem
- The Bird Sanctuary by Sarojini Naidu | Critical Analysis
- Kamala Das as a Feminist Poet | Feminism in Kamala Das’s Poetry
- The Pardah Nashin by Sarojini Naidu | Questions and Answers
4 thoughts on “An Introduction by Kamala Das Critical Analysis”
Hello! This is so well written! Thank you so much! you write very well.
You are heartily welcome, my dear.
A VERY GOOD EXLAINATION , TRULY HELPFULL TO STUDENTS OF LITERATURE .. MAY YOU KEEP POSTING NEW RICH CONTENTS
Thank you…. Obviously
Leave a Comment Cancel reply
Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.
An Introduction by Kamala Das
Kamala Das’ poem “An Introduction” was first published almost more than half a century ago in 1965 in one of her notable books of poetry, Summer in Calcutta . Being one of her earliest works, it strongly addressed some of Das’ most prominent ideas in the rawest form possible. This purely confessional poem clearly portrays her cry to achieve a sense of freedom in life. The voice that narrates the poem is clear, direct, sharp, and unhesitant. In spite of being highly personal and revolving around the poet’s own experiences, this poem makes an attempt to cover almost all social, political, cultural, as well as, emotional grounds.
- Read the full text of “An Introduction” below:
“An Introduction” is tangled from the very beginning in both history and memory. Das begins the poem with a sarcastic note indicating the broken political scene of the 1960s. She mentions that she does not know politics but can tell the names of popular political leaders like Nehru, just like one can tell the names of the days of the week. This sarcasm is underlined with a more serious socio-political stance that deserves notice as Das throws light on the position of women and how they were kept unaware even under the rule of such a government.
Das then moves around her personality, informing readers of her multi-lingual background and how it makes her who she is. She claims that every language she speaks is her own. Even if there is some distortion in the language, it should not be considered a flaw; it is the uniqueness of the speaker’s voice that counts. This line of thought is further continued with the idea that she is unafraid of what society expects from her. Das is essentially mentioning that she is her own person.
Going further, Das elaborates upon her growth years, and the difficulties she had to encounter as a young wife. She mentions how often she was made fun of and embarrassed publicly for choosing not to follow the social/patriarchal norm. Her personality and her life, although to be fair, should have been her own, but Das reminds readers about how it was always subject to public scrutiny and unsolicited advice from everyone she knew. Her struggles to “fit in” and perform her “womanly” duties in a male-dominated society find unaltered space and importance in Das’ poetry. She refuses to be put in binaries and compartments of identity. Her desire to attain freedom and discover her “self” is rightfully expressed in the poem.
Finally, Das brings the poem to an end on the exact same notes that the beginning and the center of her poem explicitly stress, i.e., “I.” The struggle between her “self” and the world at large heightens towards the end, eventually blurring the lines between where her original self begins and ends. She is, therefore, the “sinner” and the “saint”; she is the one who is both loved and betrayed. The concluding lines of the poem still ring the song of protest. Das’ voice is still loud and resilient in her cause. Ultimately, “An Introduction” is almost the portrayal of a quest to discover the “self” and Das effectively takes all the right steps in the right directions.
Structure & Form
“An Introduction” is a fifty-nine-line poem that consists of two stanzas. The first 37 lines comprise the first stanza and the remaining 22 lines form the second. The poem does not follow any particular metrical pattern. Das also refrains from using a set rhyming pattern. The length and number of syllables in the lines also vary widely, making it a poem in free verse. Employing such a structure makes it simpler for the poet to experiment with different frameworks and more erratic rhymes. Other than that, the poem contains a number of half-rhymes and internal rhymes.
Literary Devices & Poetic Techniques
In poetry, enjambment or the use of run-on lines refers to the continuation of a sentence, a line of thought, or an idea from one line to the other without any pause or punctuation breaks. Das, in her free-flowing verse, efficiently makes use of this poetic device. Most of her poems, for instance, “An Introduction” go on like paragraphs without any full halts. They often read like a single portion of speech or a continuous chain of thoughts without any demarcations in place.
The poet successfully employs this technique in a significant number of places. It occurs in the following instances. The run-on transition is clearly noticeable in these lines quoted below:
I don’t know politics but I know the names Of those in power, and can repeat them like Days of the week, or names of months, beginning with Nehru. (…) I am saint. I am the beloved and the Betrayed . I have no joys which are not yours, no Aches which are not yours. I too call myself I.
Anaphora is a figure of speech that features the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of successive sentences or clauses. In “An Introduction,” readers find that Das strategically uses the words “I am” or the phrase “It is I” in multiple places throughout the course of the poem to convey, emphasize, and even reinforce the meaning of the “self”:
It is I who laugh, it is I who make love And then, feel shame, it is I who lie dying With a rattle in my throat. I am sinner, I am saint. I am the beloved and the
In this conversational poem, the use of anaphora also provides a sense of rhythm and flow to the text making it more engaging.
In addition to the already discussed techniques, Das also employs repetition at different places for better articulation and understanding of certain other traits of her personality. She repeatedly uses the words “language,” “English,” and “mine” in the beginning in order to highlight the roots of her multilingual identity:
I speak three languages , write in Two, dream in one. Don’t write in English , they said, English is not your mother-tongue… …Why not let me speak in Any language I like? The language I speak, Becomes mine , its distortions, its queernesses All mine , mine alone.
The repetition of “mine” further stresses the importance of self: her desires and her choices that society very conveniently shunned.
Allusion, in poetry, is referred to as the brief, implied, or indirect reference to a place, person, event, thing, or any other literary work readers are presumably aware of. “An Introduction” by Kamala Das is an autobiographical and confessional poem, this provides the poet the space and opportunity to refer to events and things with a greater sense of ease. Hence, it is right to mention that Das fully explored this literary device in the poem, such as in the very beginning:
…I know the names Of those in power, and can repeat them like Days of week, or names of months, beginning with Nehru.
Das alludes to the political figures of the time, such as Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, who was in his position from 1950 to 1964.
Imagery is a literary device employed to characterize the aspects of writing that engage readers’ senses. Strong sensory words are utilized in this stylistic technique to create a distinct mental picture for the readers, making them feel what the poet is trying to communicate in the composition. In her poems, Das incorporates a number of images and symbols. Her imagery is concise, sensual, allegorical, and expressive. In her poetry, she effectively uses images that influence the six senses: sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell.
The essence of such imagery elevates “An Introduction.” There is an abundance of visual imagery that occurs in:
Of trees in storm or of monsoon clouds or of rain or the Incoherent mutterings of the blazing Funeral pyre.
There is also evidence of auditory imagery in “cawing is to crows” and “roaring is to lions.” This transports readers to a completely different time and place. Apart from that, one of the most distinguished imagery in Das’ poetry is that of the human body, especially the female body.
The use of an object to represent something other than its literal meaning is known as symbolism. It’s an impactful poetic technique created by the vivid and creative articulation of reality. This poem brims with the mention of such symbols representing the struggles of women, their suppressed desires, and their innumerable efforts to escape from the clutches of the patriarchal society.
Das voices her desires wrapped in the delicate fabric of words. She portrays her longing for love, temptations, and endless yearning by comparing it to the “oceans’ tireless waiting” and that of her lover’s to the “hungry haste of rivers.” The vast and tireless ocean in this regard becomes a symbol representing the patient life that she led seeking and waiting for love. She also makes use of symbols like “Incoherent mutterings of the blazing/ Funeral pyre,” which resonates with the strong and disapproving theme that runs in the poem.
Das uses alliteration from the very beginning of the poem, such as in “ th em like/ D ays” and “very b rown, b orn.” Here the “d” and “b” sounds are repeated in neighboring words. It also occurs in the following instances:
- “ c ritics, friends, visiting c ousins”
- “ l anguage I l ike”
- “ c awing/ is to c rows”
- “ b eat me/ B ut my sad woman- b ody felt so b eaten”
- “be c ook,/ Be a q uarreller”
- “ c ried the c ategorizers”
- “ p lay p retending games”
- “ l oud when/ Jilted in l ove”
- “ m et a m an”
- “ h ungry h aste”
- “ S word in its sh eath”
- “ s inner,/ I am s aint”
- “ b eloved and the/ B etrayed”
Line-by-Line Explanation & Critical Analysis
I don’t know politics but I know the names Of those in power, and can repeat them like Days of week, or names of months, beginning with Nehru. I am Indian, very brown, born in Malabar, I speak three languages, write in Two, dream in one.
Das starts off her poem “An Introduction” by stating that while she is unfamiliar with politics, she is well-versed in the rulers of her nation, for instance, Jawaharlal Nehru. Considering Indian politics has historically been dominated by men, she has learned the names of all the politicians by heart like the days of the week or the names of months. These lines symbolize how men have ruled the country without granting women the same rights.
In the next lines, the speaker elaborates on her own life. She introduces herself as an Indian. She claims to have a brown complexion and to have been born in Malabar, a southern administrative district in British India. She informs the reader how unaffected she is by regional prejudices, initially defining herself by her nationality, and then by her skin color. Furthermore, she defends her freedom to speak three languages and her decision to write in two of them: Malayalam, her mother tongue, and English. She emphasizes the sense of being an Indian in this way.
Don’t write in English, they said, English is not your mother-tongue. Why not leave Me alone, critics, friends, visiting cousins, Every one of you? Why not let me speak in Any language I like? The language I speak, Becomes mine, its distortions, its queernesses All mine, mine alone.
In these lines, Das mentions how her friends and relatives anger her by advising her to speak in her mother tongue, Malayalam, rather than in English. She employs English in her writings because she is fluent in that language. Her friends, relatives, and critics, on the other hand, dislike her habit. They all attack her for writing in English, for it is the language of the colonizers.
This interference in her life brings out her assertiveness. “Leave me alone,” she says. She tells her peers, relatives, and society at large to let her be. She wants them to stop dictating and tracing every step of her life. She inquires as to why they are critical of her. Why is not she allowed to write in whichever language she wants?
Finally, she mentions that language is not an object to be owned by anyone. She will use that language that resonates with her personality the best, as it will be her own: “All mine, mine alone.”
It is half English, half Indian, funny perhaps, but it is honest, It is as human as I am human, don’t You see? It voices my joys, my longings, my Hopes, and it is useful to me as cawing Is to crows or roaring to the lions,
She writes in her own tongue, which is only complete with all of its flaws, irregularities, and peculiarities. Although the language is not totally English, i.e., it might not always be grammatically correct, she believes it to be at least an honest expression of herself. Her language, just like her own self, is nowhere near perfect. It comes with its own flaws, shortcomings, and strangeness, which is a perfectly acceptable thing.
She follows the “to err is human” motto in her lifestyle and completely accepts her weaknesses because just like her language, they are her own. Furthermore, she elaborates on this stance and mentions how what makes her language unique is it understands her and voices her joys and concerns alike. Her language comes to her as second nature, as roaring does to a lion; she cannot help her instincts and impulses.
it Is human speech, the speech of the mind that is Here and not there, a mind that sees and hears and Is aware. Not the deaf, blind speech Of trees in storm or of monsoon clouds or of rain or the Incoherent mutterings of the blazing Funeral pyre.
The speaker goes on to argue that her speech—her English—is human speech that the mind has the capacity to comprehend. Though it has its own defects and flaws, her language cannot totally be considered or counted as a handicap, like not being able to see or hear. Das then takes the next few lines to make the readers understand that her language is not as unexpected as trees in a storm or monsoon clouds. It also does not repeat the raging fire’s incomprehensible mutterings. She stresses that it has its own sense of coherence and unity, one that only unfolds in emotions.
I was child, and later they Told me I grew, for I became tall, my limbs Swelled and one or two places sprouted hair. When I asked for love, not knowing what else to ask For, he drew a youth of sixteen into the Bedroom and closed the door, He did not beat me But my sad woman-body felt so beaten. The weight of my breasts and womb crushed me. I shrank Pitifully.
In these lines of “An Introduction,” Das moves up a stage in her journey and mentions her married life. Before that, she talks about all the changes that took place in her body, which denoted her transformation from a mere child to a woman. Though her body had undergone significant transformations, it was only after her friends and relatives informed her she had reached the age of adulthood that she realized the change. They made her aware of her bodily growth.
Her stature, as well as, the contour of her body had changed. She grew tall and lovely. Her limbs become swollen. Hair sprouted in one or two spots. She only realized she had grown up since her body started to exhibit womanly changes, according to others. Mentally, she was still the same girl as she was before her body underwent the transformations.
It is only after this reference that readers find out that she was married off relatively young. Her married life seemed torturous and terribly unfulfilling. She could be physically ready, but she was not prepared mentally. Indeed, there were no signs of physical abuse. Mentally and physically, the innocent mind felt broken, tired, and utterly damaged.
Then… I wore a shirt and my Brother’s trousers, cut my hair short and ignored My womanliness. Dress in sarees, be girl Be wife, they said. Be embroiderer, be cook, Be a quarreller with servants. Fit in. Oh, Belong, cried the categorizers. Don’t sit On walls or peep in through our lace-draped windows.
After going through a miserable married life, the speaker took it upon herself to process and overcome the pain left by an unhealthy marriage by changing her appearance and giving her personality a twist. She chopped her hair short and dressed in boyish clothes, oblivious to her femininity. People chastised her for her queer appearance and told her she needed to adhere to the stereotypical womanly responsibilities.
Everyone wanted to offer her some advice. Her counselors encouraged her to dress like a lady. They instructed her to wear traditional women’s clothing such as sarees and blouses and live the life of a devoted, condescending wife. She was expected to take up the role of a woman in its traditional sense.
The advisers told her to continue quarreling with the servants while embroidering or cooking. They also advised her to stay active with household chores. Apart from this, society also instructed her to stop being childish and pick one name that defined her role in the world.
Be Amy, or be Kamala. Or, better Still, be Madhavikutty. It is time to Choose a name, a role. Don’t play pretending games. Don’t play at schizophrenia or be a Nympho. Don’t cry embarrassingly loud when Jilted in love… I met a man, loved him. Call Him not by any name, he is every man Who wants woman, just as I am every Woman who seeks love. In him… the hungry haste Of rivers, in me… the oceans’ tireless Waiting.
In the next stanza, Das addresses how society advised her to stop playing silly childish games. They necessarily wanted to put her in a box and compartmentalize the person that she is. Her adapting to varying personalities was not something society could easily digest as it is not the norm. Therefore, she was strongly advised, “Be Amy, or be Kamala… be Madhavikutty.” It was time to take up her gender “role.”
The speaker then goes on to recall a moment when she met and fell in love with a man. She turned to a man with the hope of finding love, but instead of loving and caring for her feelings, he displayed the same sexual desires as the others. Under his passionate sentiments, he also stifled her emotions and desires for love. She discovered through her many interactions later that, just as every woman desire love, every male has the “hungry haste” of carnal desires within. She uses the “ocean” to refer to the deep and patient love she desires as compared to the hasty river-like sexual drives that she keeps encountering in men otherwise.
Who are you, I ask each and everyone, The answer is, it is I. Anywhere and Everywhere, I see the one who calls himself I; in this world, he is tightly packed like the Sword in its sheath. It is I who drink lonely Drinks at twelve, midnight, in hotels of strange towns, It is I who laugh, it is I who make love And then, feel shame, it is I who lie dying With a rattle in my throat. I am sinner, I am saint. I am the beloved and the Betrayed. I have no joys which are not yours, no Aches which are not yours. I too call myself I.
Toward the end of “An Introduction,” the speaker gets really existential. It is here readers figure that the pronoun “I” holds a great deal of significance for Das. For at one point, at the height of her emotions, Das gets courageous enough to ask the men she is seeing who they really are. Their reply is: “it is I.” The “I” therefore is the representation of the agency men have in the world. In this very line, readers can tell that the line between Das’ self and the all-powerful men gets blurry.
Men, unlike the other sex, are capable enough to make their own decisions and have the ability to get the objects of their desire by hook or by crook. The speaker expresses her desire to be just as free and comfortable as men are. She too wants to be able to drink alone until midnight without being judged. She wants to laugh, satisfy her lust, commit sin, and feel shame. Basically, she wants to do everything that a man is capable of doing. She wants the restrictions that come with being a woman to disappear.
Therefore, she, just like them, wants to be able to claim the label of “I” for herself. In conclusion, she too is a “sinner” and a “saint.” She is the “beloved” and the “betrayed,” just like men. Her joys and sorrows are the same as men. As a result, she takes pride in her choice and unhesitantly calls herself “I,” not a “woman.”
Finding the “Self”
As far as the theme of the self goes, there is no stone that is left unturned by Kamala Das to make her words count in this department. She is all for finding and exploring the meanings that the self holds for an individual. The theme of self-discovery, independence, and freedom are all explored under the umbrella term “self” in “An Introduction.” Having lived a hard life, Das knew the importance of finally being able to call her body and mind “home.” That’s exactly what she portrays in her poem. Although there are plenty of doubts, hardships, and uncertainties, Das points out that the journey to self-empowerment and growth is the most exhilarating and even fruitful.
In “An Introduction,” Das employs a prominent feministic approach toward everyday life and the world at large. She is the voice of millions of women who are also struggling to find their own voice in society. Das is the meticulous voice leading the revolution toward growth, equality, and empowerment of women. Her strength, her fight to live motive, and the clarity in her opinion make her stance valuable and loud. Women have for far too long been put in cages and compartments. Das is here to break the social stigmas and age-old patriarchal traditions. The wrongdoings and oppression against women are not only mentioned but also fought with a strong force in this poem.
In her writings, Das often analyzes the female body, with all its pits, corners, and demands. She never refrains from displaying women’s fundamental passions and exploring love and lust by engaging the two entities. Her poetry frequently expresses her enduring fascination with the human body and its complex intricacies and functions. Das, in this poem, resonates with her physical self while abandoning her insecurities and exposing her nakedness, her vulnerabilities, in order to achieve a sense of liberation. In its totality, this poem conveys the love that Das experiences for her body.
Das’ poetry is also especially notable for its continual focus on female sexuality. Ente Katha ( My Story ), her controversial autobiography sparked a hornet’s nest with its brutally honest portrayal of her youth, coming of age, sexuality, emotional confrontations, marital troubles, and extramarital affairs. She often addresses various facets of a woman’s journey to connect with her sexuality. First as a kid, as an adolescent, as a young wife, and then as an elderly woman. Sexuality is seen as a sign of strength in her poetry and not as a taboo topic deliberately undermined.
Sense of Alienation
Alienation is used to describe a state of detachment, seclusion, abandonment, or even withdrawal. It can be simply referred to as the condition where an individual is “alienated” from either themselves, the society they live in, or the idea of life itself. While reading Das, it is impossible to miss this crucial theme that informed most of her adult life. Since her poetry is widely a reflection of her personal life, the portrayal of this sense of alienation particularly arises from her own experiences with men, her marriage, and the male dominant society in general.
Time and again Das had been the subject of rejection and deprived of love and affection. She, in her quest for true love, had been abandoned by not just her husband but any and “every man” she developed a relationship with. Not only that, due to her radical ideas, rebellious nature, and unconventional perspective, Das had been neglected even by society, which is precisely male-centric and orthodox.
Kamala Das (1934–2009) is an Indian short story writer, novelist, poet, essayist, and activist. She is, even today, seen as one of the most prominent feminist voices to emerge in postcolonial India. Das’ identity as a writer is complex, varied, and layered even though her verse is probably one of the easiest to read and understand.
Das began writing when she was just a teenager and ever since her work is looked upon as a medium for breaking taboos, standing up against the patriarchal society, against domestic oppression, and celebrating independence. Her literary career took off with the publication of her first book of poetry, The Sirens (1964), followed by her collection, Summer in Calcutta (1965). Her signature poem “An Introduction” was published in the later collection. It was written when she was in her thirties struggling to find her voice long subdued in marriage.
Questions and Answers
In “An Introduction,” Kamala Das works on breaking the fourth wall, and she exposes her bare “self” in front of the readers. This she does in such a manner that her experiences do not in any manner feel forced or fabricated. They are a revision of her original self. It not only provides Das’ poem with a touch of the familiar but also helps give it both conversational and confessional appeal. Das aspires to achieve a number of goals by exposing herself or admitting her personal struggle. She saw, lived, and experienced closely the personal and political issues brewing in contemporary Indian society. Therefore, the world of power that she desperately seeks lies within her. In that sense, her confessional mode of writing becomes a carrier of her political, social, cultural, and, most importantly, personal struggles. This poem, therefore, predominately speaks to the oppressed women in the society making their issues her own.
“An Introduction” by Kamala Das undoubtedly reads like a radical and unfiltered expression of a firm feminist voice. The poem features a conscious feminist woman who is aware of herself and her surroundings. She is bold, empowering, honest, and unapologetic for the person she opts to be. She says, “It is as human as I am human, don’t/ You see?” In her poem, Das is also willing to challenge the norms and rules set by an orthodox and highly patriarchal society. In order to do the same, she makes it a point to address topics revolving around love, lust, desires, female sexuality, and the gender binary – all of which are considered taboo in a society that primarily revolves around the desires of men. Her unafraid and glaring introduction about herself, therefore, is not just a feminist poem but is also a standard for what feminist poetry should aim to be.
“An Introduction,” as the very title suggests, is an autobiographical poem portraying in fifty-nine concise lines the entirety of Kamala Das’ life, struggles, and journey to self-acceptance. Das expresses her personal sentiments, experience, and reaction to the circumstance in her poem. This piece walks readers through almost every stage of Surayya’s life. The poet ironically illustrates her early childhood, adolescence, puberty, and subsequent maturity. The poem acts as a brief window into the life of the poet. Within a few lines, Das describes her nationality, the color of her skin, her birthplace, political inclination, and her multilingual background with great directness and honesty.
The title of the poem, “An Introduction,” holds great significance as it clearly informs the readers of the content that lies ahead. It is an accurate description of the poem, as Das utilizes this platform to “introduce” her unfiltered self and her encounters with the patriarchal society to readers. She, using several metaphors, comes clean about her perspective on life and her relentless battle for survival. The frequent use of the phrase “I am” in the poem also justifies the title of the poem as it unfolds the personality, affiliations, and inclinations of the poet.
“An Introduction” by Kamala Das is a poem of resistance and protest. There is a constant theme of protest and acquiring one’s own hold in a society that runs throughout the poem. It is evident that the narrator is in an ongoing battle between her desires and what is considered right to others. Therefore, her resistance to the patriarchal setup and her unwillingness to accept the roles stereotypically associated with women is a subject that is worth talking about while discussing Das’ poetry.
“An Introduction” is one of the earlier poems by Kamala Das, written in her thirties. It was first published in her best-known collection, Summer in Calcutta in 1965.
Kamala Das introduces herself in the poem “An Introduction” as a strong, independent, and defiant woman. She is unashamed of the life she has carved out for herself. She is proud of her roots and her place of origin. Thus, she assertively mentions at the very beginning of the poem, “I am an Indian, very brown, born in/ Malabar, I speak three languages, write in/ Two, and dream in one.”
Kamala Das, the speaker of this poem, is an icon for women in India and elsewhere. Her words, voice, and the courageous manner in which she conducts herself speak volumes to her audience. Her stance in “An Introduction” carries a sense of bravery, passion, pride, anguish, love, as well as, hatred. The speaker’s attitude is unapologetic and it resonates with her feminist ideology. Kamala Das, in her writing, as in her being, was full of raw and enthralling emotions. This reflects in the speaker’s attitude as well.
The central idea of this poem concerns a woman’s rejection of patriarchal norms and denial to fit in. This autobiographical poem provides a snapshot of Kamala Das’ life and features her individuality.
This poem includes a number of themes, such as women’s struggle, femininity, the female body, patriarchy, and individuality. It revolves around the poet’s firm rejection to fit in and how she evolved as a person and rose from the ashes of subjugation.
At the beginning of the poem, Das straightforwardly claims the ownership of the English language by saying that the language she prefers speaking in becomes her and her alone. Being a native Indian speaker, she might distort the language in the way she wants, making it a queer mode of communication. Still, the language is hers.
After attaining puberty, the sixteen-year-old persona got married. She was not ready both mentally and physically though her body showed womanly changes. Due to this, she felt crushed from inside. Later on, her pregnancy laid the final blow. The experiences made her reject her womanliness. She started to wear her brother’s trousers and shirt as a gesture of rejection and resistance.
In “An Introduction,” Das employs enjambment, symbolism, metaphor, anaphora, repetition, alliteration, allusion, and imagery.
The message that Das wants to convey through this poem is that it is better to be oneself rather than be a mute adherent of patriarchy. She tells women not to allow society to dictate their lives. They must live in the way they want to live.
Similar Poems about Identity & Femininity
- “ The Woman ” by Kristina Rungano — This feminist piece describes how a woman feels suffocated and stifled by her domestic tasks.
- “ I Shall Paint My Nails Red ” by Carole Satyamurti — This poem is about a woman who wants to paint her nails in bold red color, asserting her feminine identity.
- “ I’m “wife” — I’ve finished that — ” by Emily Dickinson — In this poem, a woman describes how she finds herself liberated after she rejected being a wife or daughter.
- “ Bequest ” by Eunice de Souza — In this piece, de Souza talks about how patriarchal norms shape the destiny of women.
- “ The Survivor ” by Marilyn Chin — This poem is about an Asian girl’s struggle that starts right from birth.
- Check Out Selected Poems by Kamala Das — This collection offers a unified perspective on Das’ poetic achievement.
- Check Out Childhood in Malabar: A Memoir — In this memoir, Das recounts her childhood in Malabar during the Second World War.
- Kamala Das on Sexuality — How does Das’ poetry voice gender roles? Watch this lecture to learn more about her stance on sexuality.
- About Kamala Das — Watch this lecture on the poet’s life and works.
- A Biographical Sketch of Kamala Das — Read more about her life and best-known works.
Sejal Jain is currently pursuing her master's in English literature. She is a poetry enthusiast and a voracious reader. Her interest in literature arises primarily from her love for the world of stories and the sense of belongingness these stories emit.
My Mother at Sixty-Six Summary, Poetic Devices, & Analysis
“My Mother at Sixty-Six” describes how a speaker leaves her aging mother. This poem taps on the themes of death, aging, and relationship.
Leave a Reply Cancel reply
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *
Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.
Notify me of follow-up comments by email.
Notify me of new posts by email.
Facebook sdk, critical appreciation of "an introduction" by kamala das. critically analyse the poem "an introduction" by kamala das..
CRITICAL APPRECISATION OF “AN INTRODUCTION” BY KAMALA DAS
INTRODUCTION TO AN INTRODUCTION:
An Introduction is the most famous poem written by Kamala Das. The poem is written in confessional tone. This poem gives a very strong remarks about the patriarchal society and how women are forced to follow the men. Her poem is full of complex pattern of sentiments and emotional feelings. She through her poem brings light upon griefs, harassment and the pain suffered by the young girls and women. She was the first Indian English female writer to write against patriarchal society and talked about feminism.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR OF AN INTRODUCTION:
Kamala Das also known as Kamala Suraiya was an Indian author and leading Malayalam author. She was born on 31 March, 1934 in Kerala. She was born in India when there was British. She grew up in Calcutta. She always stood up and speak against domestic violence, marital problems, sexual oppression and about prostitute in more than 20 books. Her famous works are Padmavati the Harlot , My story , A Doll for Child Prostitute . She was rewarded with many awards like Vayalar Award, Varkey Award, Kerela Sahitya Akademi Award for Story, Muttathu Varkey Award and more. She died on 31 May, 2009 in Pune, Maharashtra.
CRITCAL APPRECIATION OF AN INTRODUCTION:
The poem “An Introduction” is perhaps the most famous poems of Kamala Das with an autobiographical mode of writing. Kamala Das plays a very significant role in making the feminist concern and point of view through her poetry. Besides being a feminist poet, Das is also prominent for her confessional strain in her writing. “An Introduction” is a confessional poem that makes a lot of disclosure about the poetess personal life: Dravidian blood, brown skin tone, political knowledge, linguistic attainments, her writing talent, her nerve-wracking experience in married life, distancing from the society, expedition for identity and attempt at self-examination. Das is a woman of firm belief.
“I don’t know politics but I know the names
Of those in power, and I can repeat them like
Days of week, or name of months, beginning with Nehru”
The poetess says that she is not interested in politics but she claims to know the names of all politicians in power beginning from Nehru. In these lines, she is complaining about the male-dominance in politics. According to Das she says that the women in India have been deprived from the politics. Das is greatly annoyed with the trend as the names of all impowers beginning from Nehru proves the dominance of male community in the society.
“I am Indian, very brown, born in Malabar,
I speak three languages, write in
Two, dream in one”
Das now declares that she is an Indian of brown skin tone and is born in Malabar. She is far from religious biases as she defines herself in term of her nationality then by colour and last by the place, she is born in. Further she announces that she speaks in three languages, write in two and dream in one. By saying so she advocates that the medium of writing in a language is not significant as the comfort level of a narrator is important.
“… Why not leave
Me alone, critics, friends, visiting cousins,
Everyone of you? Why not let me speak in
Any language I like? The language I speak
Becomes mine, its distortions, its queernesses
All mine, mine alone.”
She requests her critics, friends and cousins to leave her alone. There is a conflict between writing in regional language and exotic language. They say the language she speaks is essentially hers. She is appealing to everyone to let her speak any language she like. In these lines she shows her ownership of the English language and also the freedom of using it along with its imperfections and its strangeness is all hers.
“… It voices my joys, my longing, my
Hopes, and it is useful me as cawing
Is to crows or roaring to lions …”
She says that the language is though not fully English, it is half English half Indian yet she considers it to honest. Like her, her language is as human as human she is with imperfections which is quite normal. The language expresses her joys, griefs and hope. It is very much similar cawing to the crows and roaring to the lions. It is not deaf and blind speech it has its own message. The opinion of a person or the thinking pattern is dynamic. That’s why the language of a person should not be illogical.
“… I was child, and later they
Told me I grew, for I became tall, my limbs
Swelled and one or two places sprouted hair.
When I asked for love…
…, He did not beat me
By my sad woman-body felt so beaten.”
Das was an innocent child like others. With the passage of time she grew up. Despite the emotional frame of her mind was unchanged, she was still a child from heart. She got married at very young age of 16. Das was confined in a single room by her husband. She being a 16 years old girl just asked for love. She says that she was not beaten by him but her womanly body felt to be beaten. She got tiered of her body and started hating it for giving her so much pain.
“… I wore a shirt and my
Brother’s trousers, cut my hair short and ignored
There is an underlying sense of emotional agony. She was ashamed by her womanliness she tries to overcome it by acquiring the look of a boy. Interestingly and ironically, even as she tries to ignore her womanliness it is the woman in her that emerges in the process. She cut her hair short and wore boyish clothes. People criticized her and told her to be familiar with the various womanly roles. She was accused for violating the law of society.
Post a Comment
- _G.C.E.(A/L) Past Papers
- _G.C.E. (O/L) Past Papers
- E-book Store
- _Litspring Community
Analysis of An Introduction by Kamala Das
The poem ‘An introduction’ was published in her first collection, Summary in Calcutta in 1965. The poem reveals the attitude of Kamala Das to poetry and life, through her discussion of the life of a woman in a search for self-discovery and self-exploration, in a patriarchal society. It is also personal and autobiographical as it seems to address issues encountered by Das herself, the female poet who chooses to write in the English language. As such, it can be categorized as a confessional poem, exposing and unraveling herself. She also has the experience to back up her assertions about freedom and oppression as she played a critical role in the establishment of the Indian feminist movement.
Title : Starts with an indefinite article to highlight the topic as one of the introductions of a certain subject. She may point out her own introduction to a certain subject. When reading through the poem, the reader understand this is an introduction to her self-exploration in a patriarchal society.
Form : sixty-line poem that is contained within a single stanza. The lines range from three words up to eleven, lines vary greatly in length and syllable number.
Meter : no specific metrical pattern.
Rhyme : no proper rhyme scheme, written in free verse. There are several examples of half-rhyme and internal rhyme.
Tone : confessional.
Theme : feminism, equal rights, woman’s quest for identity, freedom, and marriage
Narration : first person, this seems to be the story of the poetess herself.
The poem is divided into meaningful portions, however, the poem contains only one stanza.
I don’t know politics but I know the names Of those in power, and can repeat them like Days of week, or names of months, beginning with Nehru. I am Indian, very brown, born in Malabar, I speak three languages, write in Two, dream in one. Don’t write in English, they said, English is Not your mother-tongue. Why not leave Me alone, critics, friends, visiting cousins, Every one of you? Why not let me speak in Any language I like? The language I speak, Becomes mine, its distortions, its queernesses All mine, mine alone.
Allusion : names of the politicians in India
Colour Imagery : very brown
Anaphora : “I” (give conviction filled statement about who she is.)
Enjambment : the whole poem runs as a single portion of a speech; so, enjambment can be seen throughout the poem.
At the beginning of the poem, it is notable of the honesty of the speaker through her casual and colloquial way of presentation. She at the beginning sets the tone to her inferiority before the powerful figures in the country. Their names are a part of her, a tribute to their overwhelming power. This contrasts significantly with the lack of power she felt while growing up, as it is the way they are brought up, drawing a rigid line between powerful and powerless.
The poem first deals with her desperate attempt to rationalize her linguistic choice in writing and speech. This refers to the linguistic legacy of colonialism where writers in most post-independent nations are blamed for writing in the colonial language which is seen as a tool of cultural subjugation. She continues to describe language and the role it plays in her life by saying that she is judged for writing in English.
She protests against those stereotypes, claiming that the language she uses is a part of her; through “distortions,” her language can only be defined as her own. So, at the beginning we see a rebellious character who wade against the conventional social streams.
It is half English, half Indian, funny perhaps, but it is honest, It is as human as I am human, don’t You see? It voices my joys, my longings, my Hopes, and it is useful to me as cawing Is to crows or roaring to the lions, it Is human speech, the speech of the mind that is Here and not there, a mind that sees and hears and Is aware. Not the deaf, blind speech Of trees in storm or of monsoon clouds or of rain or the Incoherent mutterings of the blazing Funeral pyre.
Compare and contrast : half English, half Indian (Her identity, seen through her voice, Indian have very unique way of using English, therefore there is a variety of English called Indian English)
Visual imagery : blazing funeral pyre, trees in storm, monsoon clouds, rain
Auditory imagery : crow “cawing” (an image which is simple, ordinary and familiar in an Indian context, and therefore, appropriate to suggest her ease with the English language.) roaring of lion
Das exclaims what English language meant to her. To her, it is a part of herself. To her, language is a living breathing thing which helps her to convey her emotions. Das describes the control she has over her voice, whether through speech or text. It can display all of her emotions and her inner self. As she says, the language she uses is no more foreign, it is full of meanings unlike the distinct sounds heard in certain untamed forces of nature.
I was child, and later they Told me I grew, for I became tall, my limbs Swelled and one or two places sprouted hair. When I asked for love, not knowing what else to ask For, he drew a youth of sixteen into the Bedroom and closed the door, He did not beat me But my sad woman-body felt so beaten. The weight of my breasts and womb crushed me. I shrank Pitifully.
Paradoxical : He did not beat me/ But my sad woman-body felt so beaten . (She felt humiliated for losing herself before male dominance)
Stream of consciousness : her speech is instinctive, flows like a stream, connecting her past to present like a spontaneous speech.
Flash back : She relates the past incidents in her life.
She introduces her loss of childhood innocence under the grip of patriarchal society. Though in her heart and mind she had been a child, she was defined as a grown up mainly due to the changes visible in her body. Her pre-mature marriage is a revelation about the system of child marriage prevailed in India. The simplification of a woman as nothing more than a body that led her to marriage at sixteen. She reveals how her feminine self was squeezed into a small domestic frame. She also places blame on her own body for leading her to this place.
Then … I wore a shirt and my Brother’s trousers, cut my hair short and ignored My womanliness. Dress in sarees, be girl Be wife, they said. Be embroiderer, be cook, Be a quarreller with servants. Fit in. Oh, Belong, cried the categorizers. Don’t sit On walls or peep in through our lace-draped windows. Be Amy, or be Kamala. Or, better Still, be Madhavikutty. It is time to Choose a name, a role. Don’t play pretending games. Don’t play at schizophrenia or be a Nympho. Don’t cry embarrassingly loud when Jilted in love …
Anaphora : be (emphasizes the patriarchal force upon her)
Repetition : Don’t (repeated ‘no’ to her radical actions)
The speaker is ridding herself of the female image that has harmed her. Her role as a woman is supposed to be meek, quiet, and contained. She rejects her assaulted female identity through a rejection of female attire and instead attempts to embrace a more empowering image in a patriarchal society. But she is once again blamed for being nonconformist.
I met a man, loved him. Call Him not by any name, he is every man Who wants. a woman, just as I am every Woman who seeks love. In him . . . the hungry haste Of rivers, in me . . . the oceans’ tireless Waiting. Who are you, I ask each and everyone, The answer is, it is I. Anywhere and, Everywhere, I see the one who calls himself I In this world, he is tightly packed like the Sword in its sheath.
Metaphor : …the hungry haste of rivers, in me…the oceans’ tireless/waiting. (her emotional desires wanting to be fulfilled)
Repetition : I (The “I” represents the agency he has in the world. Men make their own decisions and have the ability to use the pronoun in order to get what they want.)
Simile : he is tightly packed like the sword in its sheath (the place of the man is well placed in the society and the sword might represent the power the male possesses.)
Das describes the lover she met as a symbolic representation of patriarchal society. The name ‘man’ is of little importance as he is meant to represent every man in the world who uses women as he pleases. she celebrates her sensuousness, and is unashamed of her quest for love and satisfaction. Das describes the way that men are able to move through the world with a solid identity. They are allowed their choices and emotions. She is frustrated as he is a product of patriarchal society which is rigid and unyielding.
It is I who drink lonely Drinks at twelve, midnight, in hotels of strange towns, It is I who laugh, it is I who make love And then, feel shame, it is I who lie dying With a rattle in my throat. I am sinner, I am saint. I am the beloved and the Betrayed. I have no joys that are not yours, no Aches which are not yours. I too call myself I.
Repetition : I (at the beginning, the “I” represents the male who enjoys freedom without any limit of time or space; later, the “I” changes into herself who tries to enter the world of equality)
Paradox : I am sinner, I am saint. I am the beloved and the betrayed (the confusion inside herself in searching her identity. In a way this is identifying her true self; nobody is perfect.)
As Das put forward, a free person like a man is able to go and “Drink… at twelve” and stay in “hotels of strange towns.” As the lines continue the division between the speaker and the “I” is blurred. She is trapped between her own need for free life and the world which tries to keep her contained. Eventually, a reader comes to understand that she is trying to come to terms with her own independence and identity as both “saint” and “sinner.” The final statement is one of protest and resistance. Das states that she has “Aches” which belong to no one but herself. She too can be “I.” She concludes by attempting to figure out who he is, and determines that as a woman, she will remain both “beloved” and “betrayed”, forever unfulfilled.
Das uses the medium of poetry to protest and rebel against societal restrictions and taboos, and reawaken her stifled identity. She writes about love, betrayal, and anguish. She celebrates female sexuality, and recounts even the frustrations of her own marriage. As such, she is brutal in her sincerity and honesty, and is identified as a confessional poet, and has been seen as one of the most controversial women writers in India.
Hope you had a clear understanding of the poem. It is rather a long poem but the diction she used is not very hard to unwrap. Leave a comment to enrich this post. Share the post if you find it useful.
Sources: www.poemanalysis.com , resource book provided by NIE
You may like these posts
Post a comment.
Thank you very much for sharing this valuable introduction......
Thankyou very much for this in depth analysis! It is indeed very hepful !
Get new posts by email:
- B.A. Ja'pura 8
- Drama Scripts 3
- G.C.E (A/L) Literature 56
- G.C.E (O/L) Literature 73
- Students' Corner 5
Visit Us on Social Media
The story of Osiris and Isis
In the history of African literature, the Egyptian gods play a major role. They beli…
- Watch us on YouTube
Analysis of Father and son by Cat Stevens
Analysis of Lepidoptera by Richard de Zoysa
Analysis on Clown’s Wife by Johnson Agard
Analysis of The Huntsman by Edward Lowbury
Menu footer widget.
- Terms and Conditions
- Poets and Writers
Indian english history, poem an introduction by kamala das—summary and critical appreciation.
Summary of the Poem:
The poetess shows her frank indifference and distaste for politics. She tells us that although she does not have much knowledge about politics, yet she is aware or the names of the persons who had been in power from Pt. Nehru to her time. She is able to arrange their names according to their times when they came in the power. She can never feel confused in repeating their names in correct order like the days of the week or names of months. She, then, describes herself as an Indian. She tells that she has brown complexion and she was born in Malabar. (She is far from regional prejudices. She first defines herself in terms of her nationality, and the second by her colour.)
She asserts her right to speak three languages and defends her choice to write in two-her mother- tongue, Malayalam, and English. She thinks to have command on the third language. Her friends and relatives irritate her by advising her that she should use her mother-tongue, Malayalam instead of using English. They badly criticise her at the use of English while speaking and writing. She thinks why these people make her angry by giving their advices and why they interfere in her personal matter. In fact it is the matter of her choice. She may speak and write in any language she likes. The language in which she speaks and writes becomes her own. She gets the complete possession over that language. She can use that language in her own way. She can twist out the usual shape of the language and can impart it a kind of singularity due to having sole right on it.
The poetess presents the conflict between writing in one's regional language and utilizing a foreign language. The language that she speaks is essentially hers. She takes complete possession on the language which she uses. For instance if she used English language, she makes distortions by using Indian language. This kind of mingling may be called funny, but it is an individual change. She distorts the language by using her own ideas and expressions and in this way she makes it real, honest, human and very expressive language. By making distortion and bringing a kind of queerness, she makes it completely natural and individual. In spite of having imperfections, the language used by her presents the reality and naturality and it is an appropriate language to human beings. Her language speaks of her joys, longings and hopes. It comes to her as cawing comes to the crows and roaring to the lions and is therefore impulsive and instinctive. It is not the deaf, blind speech, though it has its own defects, it cannot be seen as her handicap. It is not unpredictable like the trees on storm or the clouds of rain. Neither does it echo the incoherent mutterings of the blazing fire. It possesses a coherence of its own: an emotional coherence.
The poetess could not feel and understand that she was going to get the functional capability of procreation. She still thought herself as a child and sometimes made childish activities and behaviour. In fact she was unaware of the changes taking in her body. There were remarkable changes in her body. Those who were her friends and relatives told her that she had stepped in the age of maturity. They made her feel of her physical development. A change could be seen in her stature and in the shape of her body. She grew tall and beautiful. Her limbs began to swell. One or two places sprouted hair. She knew that she grew up only because according to others her size had grown. The emotional frame of mind was essentially the same. She was married at an early age. Love for which she greatly pined in her adolescence was badly suppressed under the sexual exploitation. After her marriage she became only an embodiment of sex. She was sexually tortured and exploited by her husband. She could not get emotional fulfilment. Her husband, who was extremely hungry of sex, took her on the bed and after closing the door, enjoyed the sexual intercourse. He had sole concern with sex. He had no care of her emotions. Though he did not give her any physical harm, he crushed her feelings. Her husband confined her to a single room. She was shamed of her feminity that came before time, and brought her to this predicament. This clears her claim that she was crushed by the weight of her breast and womb. Her husband's way of performing the sexual act with her in the crudest possible manner made her condition very pitiable. She was greatly frightened of this kind of state of woman. Though she was compelled to accept the traditional feminine role, she began to hate the traditional and social institution of marriage which suppressed her emotions, desires and ambitions. Her early marriage did not allow flourishing her desires. Her aspirations remained unfulfilled. She tried to overcome this pitiable and miserable state of woman by changing her appearance of a Tomboy (a romping girl). So she cut her hair in boys' style and adorned herself in boyish clothes and tried to ignore her womanliness. Seeing her in such a boyish appearance, the people criticised her and told her to conform to the various womanly roles. Everyone wanted to give some advice to her. Her advisers advised her to come in the appearance of a woman. They asked her to wear woman clothes such as saree and blouse and to lead a life like a girl and wife. They asked her to fulfil the traditional form of a woman. They urged her to do some embroidery or cooking and also to keep quarrelling with the servants. They also urged her to remain busy in domestic duties. They told her to call herself Amy or Kamala or better still Madhavikutty. They urged her not to pretend to be a split personality suffering from a psychological disorder and not to become a sex-crazy woman.
When the poetess tried to come out from the traditional role of the woman by changing her outward appearance, she was badly condemned by the people of society and she was advised to perform the role of a domestic woman and wife. They asked her to take interest in household activities. They asked her to remain sincere towards her duty for her husband and to satisfy her husband's desire. They suggested her that she should be satisfied with her present life. Next she describes her experience. Under the great aspiration of love, she turned to a man and loved him, but instead of loving and caring her emotions, he showed the same interest for the sexual intercourse as the others had. He also suppressed her emotions and aspirations for love under his lustful feelings. He also regarded her an embodiment of sex and used her to satisfy his utter lustfulness. She found out that as every woman pined for love, in the same way every man showed the great fondness for sexual intercourse. In that man she found great eagerness and hastiness for making sexual intercourse with her. Whenever she aspired love from him, she got only sexual exploitation. She had ceaselessly been waiting for her emotional fulfilment. She developed many relations with different persons, but she got the same sexual response from them. Every time her tender feelings of love were crushed under the lustfulness. Wherever she saw, she found every man wrapped with the tendency and attitude of sexuality. Every man pined for a sexy and beautiful woman so that he might be able to satisfy his hunger. Every man took the woman to be the source of performing sexual act. In search of love, she kept on turning to different persons. She could not get a true lover who could soothe her offended feelings with his love. She always longed for a true company, but in vain. In spite of having many concerns, she felt herself alone. Sometimes she passed sleepless nights. Under the great impact of frustration and dejection, she drank at midnight in hotels of strange towns. She was so crazy in search of true feelings of love that she kept on changing the company of man. Sometimes she laughed at her craziness, but another time she felt ashamed. She thought that she was not different from other human beings. Like every other human she was sometimes sinful because she committed a kind of sin by shifting her love from one man to another man in search of true love. In other words, it was also an immoral act. But sometimes she thought ber act pious because she was after true love and she wanted to get true feelings of love. She was sometimes loved and sometimes betrayed in love because every man was fond of her fleshy body and showed interest in sexual act. She had the same joys in love as others had. It means that like other women she met the same destiny when she yearned for true Jove. She suffered the same disappointment which others suffered.
Critical Appreciation of the Poem:
The poem entitled An Introduction introduces Kamala Das as a rebellious poet in the tradition of confessional poetry. It deals very frankly with the poet's search for cultural-linguistic as well as sexual identity in a post-colonial reality so oppressive and overbearing. It is extremely quintessential poem embodying the strict traditions and confessions of a true Indianness. This poem is a truth at its best that flows out with a mixture of rebelliousness and helplessness at the same time. The poem included in Kamala Das' first volume of poetry, Summer in Calcutta (1965) , begins with a statement that shows her frank distaste for politics, especially in politically free India ruled by a chosen elite. The poetess asserts her right to speak three languages, and defends her choice to write in two-her mother-tongue Malayalam and English. She does not like to be advised in this matter by any guardian or relations. Her choice is her own, authentic and born of passion. The poet looks upon her decision to write in English as natural and humane. As an Indian woman, the poetess has shown the confidence to speak against the things which are not to be spoken by a woman of India.
The poetess, after discussing her indifferent attitude and distaste for the politics, goes on to articulate that she speaks in three languages, writes in two and dreams in one; as though dreams require a medium. The poetess echoes that the medium is not as significant as is the comfort level that one requires. The essence of one's thinking is the prerequisite to writing. Hence, she implores with all—"critics, friends, visiting cousins" to leave her alone. The language that she speaks is essentially hers; the primary ideas are not a reflection but an individual impression. It is the distortions and queerness that makes it individual. And it is these imperfections that render it human. It is the language of her expression and emotion as it voices her joys, sorrows and hopes. It comes to her as cawing comes to the crows and roaring to the lions, and is therefore impulsive and instinctive. it is not the deaf, blind speech : though it has its own defects, it cannot be seen as her handicap. It is not unpredictable like the trees on storm, or the clouds of rain. Neither does it echo the incoherent mutterings of the blazing fire. It possesses coherence of its own: an emotional coherence. From the issue of the politics of language, the poetess passes on to the subject of sexual politics in a patriarchy-dominated society where a girl attaining puberty is told about her biological changes by some domineering parental figure. As the girl seeks fulfilment of her adolescent passion, a young lover is forced upon her to traumatize and coerce the female-body since the same is the site for patriarchy to display its power and authority. Where thereafter, she opts for male clothing to hide her feminity, the guardians enforce typical female attire, with warnings to fit into the socially determined attributes of a woman, to become a wife and a mother and get confined to the domestic routine. She is threatened to remain within the four walls of her female space lest she should make herself a psychic or a maniac.
Moral of the Poem:
The poetess opens the loneliness of pot just Indian women but women of many a ration. She presents crankiness, distority, honesty and brutal frankness and a tradition and culture of that time and the earnest rebellion of a growing girl who was trapped in a time zone different from her mental time. The poetess has grown to see her rebellion in many a women. The poetess, who is an individual woman, tries to voice a universal womanhood and tries to share her experience, good or bad, with all other women. Love and sexuality are a strong component in her search for female identity and the identity consists of polarities.
The Use of Sex Imagery:
In the poem, the poetess gives us a vivid picture of how she grew up from a child to an adult, becoming tall, with her limbs swelling (or becoming bigger) and hair sprouting at one or two places in her body. Here she also gives us a picture of her husband, to whom she had just been married, drawing her into the bedroom, closing the door, and performing the sexual act with her in such a rough manner that her body felt beaten, with the weight of her breasts and womb crushing her. This is sensuous, nay sensual imagery, candid and inhibited. The reader would enjoy this imagery because of its very candour.
Style and Language:
The assertion of the self against the various given social roles, identities and communal demands is an indicator of the existentialist leaning of the poetess. The first person narrative of the poem also reinforces the idea of the asserting self. The use of the indefinite article 'An' in the title is also indicative of the fluid but resisting and self-determining position of the poet. She explains her encounter with a man. She attributes him with not a proper noun, but a common noun-"every man" to reflect his universality. He defined himself by the "I". the supreme male ego. He is tightly compartmentalized as "the sword in its sheath". It portrays the power politics of the patriarchal society that we thrive in that is all about control. It is this "I" that stays long away without any restrictions, is free to laugh at his own will, succumbs to a woman only out of lust and later feels ashamed of his own weakness that lets himself lose to a woman. Towards the end of the poem, a role-reversal occurs as this "I" gradually transitions to the poetess herself. She pronounces how this "I" is also sinner and saint, beloved and betrayed. As the role-reversal occurs, the woman too becomes the "I" reaching the pinnacle of self assertion.
The poem is remarkable for its compression and for the compactness of its structure even though it contains a diversity of facts and circumstances. The rules of punctuation have here been fully observed; all the lines are almost of the same length. The words used and the phraseology show Kamala Das' talent for choosing the right words and putting them in highly satisfactory combinations. Indeed, the poem contains many felicities of word and phrase. In the poem, she very appropriately writes:
“...…., He did not beat me But my sad woman-body felt so beaten. The weight of my breasts and womb crushed me."
In the same poem she speaks of her lover's longing for her and her longing for him in the following words:
"In him...…the hungry haste of rivers, In me...…the oceans' tireless waiting."
You may like these posts
Social plugin, popular posts.
Poem The Abandoned British Cemetery at Balasore: Summary and Critical Appreciation
Critical Appreciation of the Poem Small-Scale Reflections on A Great House
Summary and Critical Appreciation of Poem A River by A.K. Ramanujan
Gitanjali: Summary and Critical Appreciation of the Poem No. 1—Thou Hast Made Me Endless
Gitanjali—poem No.35—Where the Mind Is without Fear—Summary and Critical Appreciation
- A Woman Observed
- Background Casually
- Dance of the Eunuchs
- Harvest Hymn
- In Praise of Henna
- Indian Weavers
- Love Poem for A Wife-1
- My Grandmother's House
- Night of the Scorpion
- Of Mothers Among Other Things
- Our Casuarina Tree
- Poem A Hot Noon in Malabar
- Poem An Introduction
- Poem Death of A Bird
- Poem Guerdon
- Poem I know Why the Caged Bird Sings
- poem in india
- poem marriage
- Poem The Ghaghra in Spate
- Poet Lover Birdwatcher
- Routine Day Sonnet
- Savitri by Toru Dutt
- Small-Scale Reflections on A Great House
- The Abandoned British Cemetery at Balasore
- The Bangle Seller
- The Blue Horse
- The Looking Glass
- The Railway Station
- The Royal Ascetic and the Hind
- The Striders
- The Tree of Life
- The Unrest of Desire
- Yeshwant Rao
- Dominant Themes in Indo-Anglian Fiction
- Features of Indian English History
- Techniques used in Indo-Anglian Fiction
- An Astrologer’s Day
- the lost child
- Nectar in a Sieve
- Shadow from Ladakh
- The Serpent and The Rope
About Poets and Writers
- A K Ramanujan
- Arun Kolatkar
- Bhabani Bhattacharya
- Girish Karnad
- Jayanta Mahapatra
- Kamala Merkandaya
- Keki N Daruwalla
- Maya Angelou
- Mulk Raj Anand
- Nissim Ezekiel
- R K Narayan
- rabindranath tagore
- Sarojini Naidu
- English Language 2
- Indian English Dramas 7
- Indian English History 3
- Indian English Novels 32
- Indian English Poetry 99
- Short Stories 4
Search this blog
For students and researchers of English
An Introduction by Kamala Das: A critical Appreciation - Sandal S Anshu
Post a comment, popular posts, john donne as a metaphysical poet, the cherry tree (text) by ruskin bond: a complete study, the axe by r.k.narayan: text & summary.