Samanta, Sugata. “From Subjugation to Emancipation: The Emergence of Unshackled Womanhood in ‘Rajmohan’s Wife’”, Research Journal of English Language and Literature (RJELAL).3.3. 2015. WEB.
This article focuses on the shift from subjugation to emancipation through the female protagonist. Novels exhibit great powers in exploring human minds while delineating their characters. “unlike most other novelists of his time, was quite successful in proving that his women characters are no less prominent than men and are indeed made of flesh and blood rather than faint and shadowy figures. The way women characters are drawn in his novels show a special insight of the author into women’s heart and authorial sympathy towards them” (1). Some of the features that his women characters qualify are complex and exciting.
As established earlier, the literary world was unaware of the fact that Bankim was the first to publish novel in English i.e. Rajmohan’s Wife, a lesser known novel of the time. It may not be considered as one of the finest novels but it reflects the contemporary society.
“There is also no way of denying that the novel portrays faithfully a truthful picture of the society within a limited perspective, which enables us to witness a transition from medievalism to modernity, particularly in depicting the struggle of young women in society” (2). Looking at the fact from subjugation to emancipation, the question claimed is determining the position of Matangini in the colonial space. Therefore, the novel is story of revolution, a silent revolt of a young women of eighteen. The silent revolution against the domestic violence makes the novel have its place in the literary space.
“The novelist has portrayed Matangini with different colours and shades. Matangini oscillates in her deeds according to her conscience on one hand and in maintaining social norms as a marginalized woman on the other” (4). When Matangini is asked by her husband not to go out to fetch water is where we see the concept of subjugation but she retorts to this and goes out to fetch water showing emancipation. In return the fury of Rajmohan is seen on Matangini which she faces by being silent as said above.
“The novelist seems to preserve different narratives for Rajmohan’s wife and Matangini. From the title, it appears Rajmohan’s narrative is the prominent one and it is suggested that his wife is allowed no control over her own body as well as her sexuality”(5).
“The name ‘Matangini’ in the novel bears special connotation. From the derivative point of view, ‘Matangini’ is the name of goddess Kali and when she ventures to step out in the dark night to protect Madhab from the dacoits, she rises to superhuman heights of prowess and goes out to destroy the evil hands. She has now the power of an elephant (another meaning of ‘Matangini’) that may eventually crush everything which comes to her way in doing justice (Bangiya Sabdakosh). Like a delirious river, her immense inner strength is revealed in the language when she knocks the household of Madhab with the hope of informing him well before about the dacoity”(6).
In this novel the social orders become rigid while the protagonist changes it by her brevity.
“The symbolic significance of Matangini in this novel may be multifaceted, but it is also undeniable that the way the character of Matangini is portrayed definitely shows the motifs of feminine anguish and revolt. At the core of her character lies a rebel against accepted conventions. At first, she is portrayed as a stereotyped housewife of any Indian village ready to accept the patriarchal codes silently and uncritically”(9).