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Archives > 3. Discuss the role of women in the book.

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message 1: by Kristel (new)

Kristel (kristelh) | 3967 comments Mod
How does Dina's position within her family reflect the position of women in her culture and social class? Is the status of Om's sisters the same as Dina's, or different? What sorts of comparisons can you make between the roles and functions of women in India (as represented in this novel) and in America?

message 2: by Anna (new)

Anna Fennell | 107 comments Dina was considered her brother's responsibility until she married and then when she became widowed she became his responsibility again until she rebelled and left. Women are not seen as independent.

message 3: by Book (new)

Book Wormy | 1932 comments Mod
Women are viewed as possessions of men, first fathers and brothers and then husbands. Dina was lucky as she found a husband who treated her as equal and then when he died she was strong enough to try and remain independent.

Women are a financial burden to their families as dowries have to found to marry them off.

message 4: by Eadie (new)

Eadie (eadieburke) Dina's family was rich so she was more independent than Om's sister who came from the lower caste. Women in India are not as independent as the women in America. There are arranged marriages in India and dowries but not in America.

message 5: by Pip (new)

Pip | 1361 comments Arranged marriages are still prevalent in India. In my experience of living in Sri Lanka, where similarities exist, I became interested in how successful arranged marriages can be. My husband would joke that once a Sri Lankan woman married one never saw her again, and it was true that married women saw their role as within the family rather than in society, but many I spoke to were wholeheartedly in favour of the family taking charge of the marriage process. I look at the U.S. from the outside and see that there are still inequalities in how women's and men's sports are funded and treated. I am probably completely ill informed, but from my perspective it seems that physical appearance is still more important than other qualities when American women are concerned. An Indian friend lamented that his mother was autocratic in the home as a result of her feeling completely powerless in society. Conversely, India,Pakistan and Sri Lanka (the latter the first in the world) have had female Prime Ministers, which America has yet to achieve.

message 6: by Josh (new)

Josh | 13 comments Pip, that is really insightful.

Aziz Ansari, the Indian comedian, jokes about how successful arranged marriages are compared to "free will" marriages in the West. I think it makes sense. If you don't choose your spouse, you know that your spouse might not be exactly what you want. So, right off the bat there is some recognition that in order for the marriage to work, there is going to be a lot of give and take. There is going to be a lot of hard work in order for the marriage to function.

Compare that to our concept of marriage/long term relationships in the West. It is very "feeling" based. I want to be with you as long as you make me feel great. When that feeling is gone, move on to something new. We have this idea that "love" should be enough, and marriage shouldn't be hard work. Relationships don't work that way, and so disillusionment sets in and we hear people saying ridiculous things like, "I just fell out of love." When actually the problem is a lack of commitment to the relationship.

message 7: by Connie (new)

Connie D | 91 comments Interesting point about arranged marriages, Philbartu. The understanding beforehand that you will need to work at marriage and accept a spouse who may not be Prince or Princess Charming can make a marriage more successful.

Incidentally, the seemingly inconsistent roles of women in this book (and presumably women in India in general) is fascinating. Here they had a female prime minister long ago. Yet middle-class Dina seems unusual in her attempts to live independently, and it's a great struggle. Her sister-in-law is obviously playing the typical role of wife and mother, subservient (but not unhappily so) to her husband and tied to the house. The lower caste women in a village have a different experience, still tied to house, husband, and children, but what little we saw of them on their way to the wedding showed their involvement in a colorful community of women too. The Muslim wife of the town tailor seems quite able to share her opinions and influence family decisions. The wife of the tailor in the city, however, is completely restricted (and beaten). Of course, we also catch glimpses of miscellaneous hard-working women, women who are sexually assaulted, and prostitutes.

As in the U.S., women's roles and lives vary greatly. There's more possibility for upward change and independence in women's lives in the U.S., but having a solid foundation (loving family, decent education, financial stability) sure help. We don't have a caste system (thank goodness), but it's still hard to move out of deep poverty.

message 8: by Kristel (new)

Kristel (kristelh) | 3967 comments Mod
I think arranged marriages have a lot of good points and I don't see much advantage to how things are done now days in the US or more developed countries. And good point Pip about these countries being the ones with women prime ministers.

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