The Present study entitled The Role of Marriage: A feminist study of The Immigrant tries to identify the problems experienced by a married woman. Manju Kapur is a contemporary Indian feminist writer. She focuses on the NRI (Non Resident Indian) marriages where men and women both are uprooted and move to live in some alien land. Consequently, both suffer from frustration, displeasure and nostalgia while leaving their homeland. As a feminist writer, she mainly deals with the common issues relating to the life of Indian women. Some of the most dominant themes found in her novels include marriage, family relationships, mother-daughter relationship, husband-wife relationship, separation, premarital affair and extramarital relationship.
Marriage is one of the tools for a creative writer to depict the cultural code representing Indianness. The main idea of feminism is that women should enjoy all her rights, power and the opportunity. During early days the women were struggling to get equal rights in the male dominated society. Kapur in all her novels portrays the exact mind set of the modern women of this new era and their desire to become self independent. According to the Indian society, Marriage and Motherhood are the two most important cultural dials that switch the girl into proper womanhood.
The title of the novel The Immigrant signifies the reinvention of the protagonist, Nina by herself in a foreign country.
Manju Kapur is a contemporary Indian novelist in English who has established herself with her first novel Difficult Daughters (1998), which won her prestigious Commonwealth Writers Prize (Eurasia Region). She has also written novels such as A Married Woman (2002), Home (2006), The Immigrant (2008) and Custody (2011). Her novel The Immigrant has been shortlisted for the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature. Her female characters in all her novels are the modern women of this new era and their desire is to become self independent. They never accept the Tennyson’s fact that:
Man for the field and woman for the hearth:
Man for the Sword and for the needle She:
Man with the head and woman with the heart:
Man to command and woman to obey…
Weddings are joyful occasions in India celebrated with the beautiful decorations, music, dance, costumes and rituals. Marriages are contrived in heaven but it is true that efforts from both husband and wife are important for an auspicious marriage. In Indian tradition, Marriage is considered to be the ancient, the most important ritual and it is a part of their life. Myles Munroe in his Purpose and Power of Love and Marriage has stated that “Marriage is two imperfect people committing themselves to a perfect institution, by making perfect vows from imperfect lips before a perfect God” (13).
The story of The Immigrant is set in Halifax, Canada, Delhi and India. It is the story of Nina and Ananda. Nina is a thirty year old English Lecturer at Miranda House University in Delhi, living with her widowed mother. She was brought up in a conventional orthodox society. She lost her father at her very young age. Nina and her mother suffered a lot after her father’s death. Nina got a job and settled in Delhi. All the ‘Mothers’ in Kapur’s novels are eager to get their daughters married immediately after finishing their studies or even before finishing it. People in India thought that ‘Marriage’ is an essential thing for female children than getting educated. They feel that it is their responsibility and an inescapable thing which is the most expected one in Indian culture and society. Likewise, Nina’s mother is also worried and she is in search of a suitor for her daughter. It is described in the novel as:
The major topic of conversation in the last eight years had been Nina’s marriage-who, whom, where, how?… From where could fresh possibilities be unearthed on the eve of her thirtieth birthday? The lack of these, reflected in her mother’s dull, mournful eyes, was what she was going home to. (The Immigrant.03)
Nina has been married to Ananda, an NRI dentist living in Canada. He was born into a strict Brahmin family who followed some principles. Ananda’s parents died in a road accident and after that his maternal uncle forced him to move to Canada because he has settled in Halifax for past twenty years. Ananda performed well in the dental college and he broke all the principles that his parents had taught him. He drank alcohol in the college. He thought of starting a new life with Nina in Canada when their marriage proposal has done.
But after settling down in Canada, both of them started breaking down all the values that they have learnt. She breaks the social custom by eating flesh for the first time. When she comes to Halifax, she remained true to her upbringing by not eating them. After two weeks of their marriage he leaves her and moves to Canada. Nina goes alone to Halifax after getting her visa. Her first experience at the Toronto airport has been very unpleasant various questions by the immigration women which she thought were all irrelevant. She feels humiliated. Being an immigrant Nina faces many problems like search for self-identity, sexual dissatisfaction in her marital relation etc,. in Canada.
Nina becomes lonely at a place 10,000 miles away from her mother and ex-colleagues in Miranda House. Ananda remains engaged in his clinic. She feels alienated and caught in the change of eastern and western culture. Once Ananda rightly called her as “the perfect mix of east and west.” (85).
Nina lost her marriage. She has lost her home and her job. She cries, “I miss home – I miss a job – I miss doing things. I feel like a shadow. What am I but your wife?” (237). Their marriage becomes an unhappy one when she came to know about Ananda’s impotence and it serves as the main cause for their separation.
Nina then starts to wear jeans and t-shirt. Even though, she is not comfortable in her western outfit she does not give up the new vogue. Just to make friends and to reveal her identity she dressed and behaved according to the western culture. Nina faces multiple problems in the new surroundings. Even after changing her outlook, she is not able to convince people and gain respect. Before marriage she was identified as lecturer but things are different in new place. Sue, wife of Ananda’s friend suggests her to come out of her distressed state and encourages her to join two year Library Science Course. During this course she happens to meet Anton with whom she developed an extra marital affair. Her relationship with Anton is also same as her premarital relationship with Rahul, her colleague who always had some evil thoughts about Nina in his mind. He is a serial lover and he pretends to love her only to have physical relation with her. Because of the unhappy situation in their married life Ananda also finds his happiness in another woman, Mandy, his newly appointed receptionist with whom he developed an extra marital affair.
When Nina realized her mistake she bravely decides to begin a new life. When she realizes the mistake or the identity she has lost in aspiring the new, for identity has made all the difference in her life. Her mother’s death leaves Nina with nobody in the world to answer to and Nina gets the courage to take her decision of separating from Ananda. Manju Kapur concludes the novel with this Nina’s statement:
Perhaps that was the ultimate immigrant experience… For an immigrant there was no going back. … When one was reinventing oneself, anywhere could be home. Pull up your shallow roots and move. Find a new place, new friends, a new family. It had been possible once, it would be possible again. (334)
Nina’s dream of living a happy married life ends in a sour note. In the feministic point of view, her decision of moving away from Ananda seems to be the triumph of feminism. But according to the Indian culture it seems to be unfair. In this novel, we find that Nina and Ananda, both enjoys their extramarital relationships, deceives each other and both were equally responsible for detriment their married relationship. They believe that only the sensual pleasures are more important in married life than any other things. Nina’s reaction somehow shows the universal nature of women and their problems.
The novelist has also wonderfully described immigrant psyche through the characters of Ananda and Nina. She also described that, it is very difficult for an immigrant to balance between two cultures. He or She keeps swinging like a pendulum from one culture to another from home country to immigrant country. It is in marriage and childbearing that she is forced to find ultimate happiness and fulfillment as the society refuses to give her achievement in profession and identity. At last, there is complete change in the personality and mentality of the protagonist, Nina. She develops a new dimension towards life and starts moving ahead.
Manju Kapur wants to show that how the financial empowerment of the women makes her sturdy to attain herself an identity and also raises her confidence to make her decisions and cope up with her personal problems. She expresses it through the character of Nina in the novel. Nina’s loneliness makes her strong instead of making her weak, it makes her strong in terms of managing her life in her own terms.
- Kapur, Manju. The Immigrant. New Delhi: Random House India, 2008. Print.
- Kumar, Ashok. Novels of Manju kapur: A Feministic Study. New Delhi: Sarup Publishers, 2010. Print.
- Manohar, Murali. Indian English Women’s Fiction. New Delhi: Atlantic Publishers, 2007. Print.
- Munroe, Myles. Purpose and Power of Love and Marriage. Destiny Image Publishers, 2005. Print.
- https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/The_Princess_(poem), 427-431.