Neurotics Issues in Bharati Mukherjee’s Novel "Wife"

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Psychoanalysis is a theory about the human mind. Psychoanalytic the concept is prevalent in our everyday life, and criticism related to these is psychoanalytical critics. It came into being during the 1920s. This criticism can be understood as emerging from the romantic view that Literature is an expression of its author’s persona. The psychoanalytic view of human behavior to our experience of literature, Psychoanalysis is defined as a form of mental therapy which aims to cure mental disorders by investigating the interaction of the conscious and unconscious elements of the mind.

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Many of the principles of such a therapy are derived from the works of the Austrian medical practitioner, Sigmund Freud (1856-1939). Whose ideas about psychoanalysis evolved over a period of time. He said that people are motivated by desires, fears and conflicts of which they are unaware. They are unconscious of these forces. These forces are stored in our memory and are repressed. This is the unconscious mind. This is a part, or section, a sub-system of mind, but lying below the level of consciousness, and it organizes our current experiences and emotions. The unconscious is dynamic, and is always at work, controlling us from the very depth of our being, there are many defenses by which we keep the unconscious under check.

Transference and projection are two of these defenses. There is also what is called regression, a short return to the past experience which is relived. It is a good literature too for cure. When some of these defenses break down, we have anxiety. We have partial access to the unconscious through our dreams, and creative activities. During our dreams the unconscious is free to express itself. The dream becomes a nightmare, when it is too fearful or threatening, It may lead to trauma when the conscious defense breaks down. Death and sexuality are fascinating themes for study in psychoanalysis. Critics of this persuasion have varied notions on how these concepts can be fruitfully applied to literary criticism.

Neurotics Issues In Wife

Bharati Mukherjee’s novel Wife (1975) deals with the neurotic issues of the protagonist Dimple. The novel is about the life of a middle-class Bengali woman who migrates from Calcutta to New York. Dimple (the name sounds more Western than Indian), the protagonist Dimple Dasgupta is an immature girl who dreams of marriage. She has set her heart on marrying a neurosurgeon but her father was looking for engineers in the matrimonial ads. She dreams a different kind of life and fantasized about young men as “With mustaches, deemed in spotless white, peering into opened skills” (1).Dimple comes to Amit’s residence at Dr. Sarat Banerjee Road after her marriage.

Basus are good people but their house is not that spacious and attractive. From the very beginning Dimple does not feel easy and comfortable there. She does not like Amit’s mother and sister also. To her surprise, her mother-in-law dislikes her name Dimple and wants to call her Nandini. However, she thinks that all these problems are temporary and with the confirmation for immigration they will eventually come to an end. She frequently talks with her husband about the anticipated foreign trip.She hates Amit’s taking her to cheap place, Kwality. She feels that he should have taken her to luxury place, Trinca’s. Her friend, Paramita Ray, whom everybody calls Pixie, has brought for her magazines and she has seen in those magazines how young married women are always going to decorators and selecting their colors especially their bed room colors. That is supposed to be the best part of getting married being free and expressing yourself. Dimple thinks that marriage has robbed her of all romantic yearnings so tastefully nourished.

Amit is not the man Dimple has imagined for her husband when he is out of the house she starts creating the man of her dream. “She borrowed a forehead from an aspirin ad, the lips, eyes and chin from a bodybuilder and shoulders ad, the stomach and legs from a trousers ad and put of time the excitement the ideal man” (23). With the passing of marriage diminishes and she becomes pregnant, a stage known for vomiting tendency. However, her nauseating proneness is abnormal because she deliberately vomits and never leaves any opportunity of doing so at all hours of the day and night. She feels a strange sensation. The vomit fascinated her. She is locked in the bathroom expelling brownish liquid from her body. She takes pride in brownish blossoms.

Pregnancy is a boon for Indian women because they are supposed to maintain the continuity of the clan. They are shakit-incarnate. They are the very source of creation. If a woman fails to reproduce a child she is condemned and becomes an object of hatred in society. Her act of killing the mice which looked pregnant also suggests that she does not feel at ease with her pregnancy. She becomes almost hysteric in killing that creature without any reason:She pounded and pounded the baby clothes until a tiny gray creature ran out of the pile, leaving a faint trickle of blood on the line. She chased it to the bathroom. She shut the door so it would not escape from her this time…I’ll get you she screamed. There is no way out of this my friend. And in an outburst of hatred, her body shuddering her wrist taut with fury, she smashed the of a small gray head.This act of killing is a manifestation of violence is shouldering inside her. Her repulsion with her own pregnancy is born out of her hatred for Amit who fails to feed her fantasy world. Dimple is about to migrate and she thinks as, “Not want to carry relics from her old life” (42). She counts her pregnancy also among the relic and ponders over the ways of getting rid of it. At last she decides to end it by skipping ropes.

The description of her self-abortion is very poignant and touching:She had skipped rope until her legs grew numb and her stomach burned then she had poured water from the heavy bucket over her head, shoulders, over the tight little curve of her stomach. She had poured until the last of the blood washed off her legs then she had collapsed. Dimple’s act of abortion is a sacrament of liberation from the traditional roles and constraints of womanhood. Symbolically, by revoking her motherhood Dimple liberates herself from the traditional role of a Hindu wife of just bearing and rearing a child. Like the western feminists she asserts her will but her abortive acts is a kind of moral and cultural suicide.

When Amit’s confirmation for migration to U.S. comes Dimple’s happiness is inexpressible. She prepares well and sees to it that nothing she misses which is necessary for a new life. She feels like being freed from the traditional restrictions and domination. On the eve of their departure, pixie organizes a grand party at which she invites mostly the media persons. Dimple meets Ratna Das, a middle aged modern wife, who does not give any importance to America. She says “It might be fun to go for a vacation… but I would not want to settle there”. But for Dimple, the real happiness is to lead a luxurious and comfortable life in America. She expresses as, “Real happiness was just in the movies or in the West”.

The long-awaited day of migration comes and Mr.& Mrs. Amit Basu set their feet at the Kennedy Airport where Jyoti Sen, Amit’s former classmate at the I.I.T., Kharagpur receives them. They discuss about the town and shocked to know, man murders three persons including the ice-cream vendor just for the simple reason that the fellow doesn’t have a chocolate ice-cream cone. On the way to Sen apartment, Amit is unmindful of the scenes outside the car and is busy enquiring about job opportunities in America.

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