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“The Dance of Eunuchs" by Kamala Das: Summary and Analysis

Kamala Das’s Sense of the Futility of Her Sexual Experiences

The poem “The Dance of Eunuchs" was published in 1965 in Kamala Das’s very first volume of poems which appeared under the heading “Summer in Calcutta”. In fact, that volume of poems opened with this poem. The tone of this poem is one of frustration and the temper is a feeling of the futility of love. The eunuch, as we know, is incapable of performing the sexual act and, therefore, of producing a child. In this poem, the eunuch has been regarded as a symbol of unproductiveness. The eunuch is here thus a metaphor for barrenness and, therefore, for futility of love. Consequently this poem is an expression, in symbolic terms, of Kamala Das’s feeling of frustration in love.  She seems here to be giving an outlet to her feeling of frustration in love. She seems here to be giving an outlet to her feeling of the futility of all her sexual experience because all those experiences had failed to satisfy her emotional demands though they did satisfy, and in full measure, her sexual demands.

An Abundance of Imagery in the Poem

There is an abundance of imagery in this poem even though it is short poem, like most of her other poem. It was very hot before the eunuchs came to dance,wearing wide skirts and anklets, and carrying cymbals. When the eunuchs were dancing, their skirts went round and round, their cymbals produced rich clashing sound, and their anklets jingled, jingled, jingled. The eunuchs danced, their dark eyes flashing; “they danced and oh, they danced till they bled”. They had green-coloured tattoos on their cheeks, and jasmines in their hair. Their faces were harsh, and their song melancholy. Some beat theis drums, and other best their “sorry breasts”; and they “writhed in vacant ecstasy”.

The phrase “writhed in vacant ecstasy” is very significant as a devastating image of the barrenness of Kamala Das’s own life. The poem ends also with some imagery which conveys the poetess’s sense of   the futility of her sexual experiences:

            The sky crackled then, thunder came, and lightning
             And rain, a meager rain that smelt of dust in
             Attics and the urine of lizards and  mice  . 

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