Date of Completion

Spring 5-10-2009

Thesis Advisor(s)

Patrick Hogan

Honors Major



English Language and Literature | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Literature in English, Anglophone outside British Isles and North America | Other Languages, Societies, and Cultures | South and Southeast Asian Languages and Societies | Women's History


Through the study of numerous authors such as the famous Rabindranath Tagore, Manju Kapur, and Anita Nair, my main goal of the thesis was to study and find the progress women have made in India since 1900s. Rabindranath Tagore’s THE HOME AND THE WORLD plant the seed of the women’s movement in India as Bimala, the female protagonist steps out of her household sphere to experience and encounter the “world,” Manju Kapur’s DIFFICULT DAUGHTERS is a story of Virmati, a woman ahead of her times suspended in the hindering traditions during the last years before the partition of 1947. Finally, Anita Nair’s LADIES COUPE is an attempt by Nair to confront the taboo, which a spinster has in India. In these novels, the agency of the protagonist is the main focus. How much are they assertive to make an identity for themselves? What circumstances hinder their actions? Do they conform to the societal expectations or make choices that challenge these expectations? What happens to the women who do?

In the thesis, I have relied on the study of Manusmriti, or the Laws of Manu, who has indirectly influenced the status of women and while not all, but some continue to play out in the mythological epics especially in the form of Sita of Ramayana. I will also use sociological books such as May You Be The Mother of A Hundred Sons by Elizabeth Bumiller, and Bharati Ray’s Early Feminists of Colonial India. I will compare many characteristics of the fictitious protagonists with the women who have experienced or have been part of the historical events and/or have faced social injustice. And then, I will combine the notions of Manusmriti, historical events such as the Swadeshi and Satyagraha Movement and the Partition, and social issues such as the plight of an unmarried woman in India to discuss the overall progress women’s status has achieved in the past six decades since 1947.