Saturday, May 2, 2020

Anita Desai's 'Where Shall We Go This Summer?' : Summary and Analysis

Anita Desai's Where Shall We Go This Summer? decribes the cruelty and callousness of urban life. It marks a return to the autonomous world of inner reality. When Sita is with child again she panicks at the thought of bringing a new. , She runs away to a small island to avoid the harsh reality. Her sudden capitulation comes as an anti-climax. Sita, a sensitive, emotional and middle-aged woman feels alienated from her husband and children. She undergoes acute mental agonies. She silently- suffers in isolation because of her sharp existentialist sensibility and explosive emotionality. The novel is a pointer to her angst and ennui of her anguished soul. Her character consists in her inwardness, introversion and the resultant psychic odyssey. Sita tries to visualise the world of her dreams. But ultimately she intensifies her desire to recapture the experience and excitement in her. Therefore, she comes to a dilemma to decide as to where she should go that summer.

Sita in Where Shall We Go this Summer ? is over forty. She hangs between married life and her self-fulfilment. While she is awaiting the birth of her fifth qhild, her experiences of a house wife and mother as well accumulate in her deep anguish. She feels no genuine happiness in her marital context. Her hopelessness rises and makes her insensitive, cruel and alien to her husband and children. Her insanity drives her back to preserve the sense of sanity by escaping from her routine life in a Bombay apartment to rush to Manori, an Island in the West-coast. Her immature longing torments her. Her bondage to Raman and children creates conditions those are responsible for the misfortunes. She is termed mad and she is enitrely out of the common cord of life. In plain words she tells her husband: "What I am doing is trying to escape from the madness here, escape to a place where it might be possible to be sane again...,

Sita loses her grip on life and develops in mind uncertain and unrealistic attitude towards life. Though she rebels against the birth of the fifth child, she has certain longing in her heart which she misses entirely. She wants to protect her unborn child against the cruel atmosphere in which she is living. In a freak of madness she aims at abortion and flies to the Island:

In order to achieve the miracle of not giving birth. Wasn't this Manori, the Island of miracles? Her father had made it an Island of magic once, worked miracles of a kind. She has grown tired of the life of dullness and disappointment of her family. She, therefore, wants to seek her childhood as a place of her happiness again. This Island may provide her a refugee camp safe from her family life, away from the humdrum life of Bombay. By going there she tries to connect the changes, distortions and revelations between the present and the past in her middle age. Her longings or lust for the miracles associate her vision and she finds no answers to her deep anguish rather, she finds herself like a jelly fish stranded on the sand-bar slowly suffocating and unable to survive on the sands of life. For a change in her present existence she desires shelter in the Island: She saw that Island illusion us a refuge, a protection. It would hold her baby safely unborn, my magic. Then there would be the seal, it would wash the frenzy out of her, drown it. Perhaps, the tides would lull the children too, into smother, softer beings.

The betrayals, treacheries, confusions and compromises lead her into intense suffering. Though the Island holds no magic now for her, the illusion tramples upon her. The companionship is now a myth of her motherhood. She attempts for a futile search for some purpose in life. Her anxiety, concern and
pessimism produce emotional outbursts and she undergoes a search for an escape to be alive to her sensitivity. Her arrival at Manori has given her a new life, a new awareness, a new consciousness. She now realizes "what a farce marriage was, all human relationship.

Sita visualizes the world of her dreams and once again she intensifies her desire to recapture an experience, an excitement and an innocence. Her instant decision as to where she would go that summer, and her decision to go back to the Island of Manori after twenty years in her journey in quest for her lost innocence. Not only Sita is longing in her heart to go to the Island but the Islanders are also waiting for twenty years looking for something. She is disappointed with them and they feel equally disappointed with her. There are impossible expectations on both sides.

The misunderstanding between Raman and Sita results into marital discord but Sita as an ideal wife tries to idealize the relationship between a husband and wife. She feels that a life of complete inwardness and subjective approach is not the way to make one's life happier. Though she has begun to drift away mentally, she indulges sometimes in introspection and sometimes in retrospection of her unhappy married life. She is, disgusted with her life and her alienation is inherent in her relationship with her father. Naturally she is unable to maintain conformity with the established norms of society. Though she tries to encounter it effectively, but she misses to communicate her reaction^ against every incident. Thus, she is left like a stranger longing for the life of that primitive world.

We see her trying to adjust in the house of her husband's parents after marriage. There she feels like a square peg in a round hole. The sub-human atmosphere in the house makes her inward looking and places her in a suffocating existence. She fails to adopt herself to society. She moves in a small flat and lives alone with her husband and children. Her life there is hardly better, her privacy is disturbed, she finds her existence at stake, she struggles with the monotony of life. The novelist beautifully describes this monotonous moments of Sita as follows : ... and could not begin to comprehend her boredom. She herself looking on it, saw it stretched out so vast, so flat, so deep, that in fright she scrambled about it, searchingJbr av few of these moments that proclaimed her still alive, not quite drowned and dead

The agonies and the chain of unhappy incidents in Sita's life makes her a strong character to refuse the dictates of society. It adds to the dimension of her existential character. She does not work on social principles but she desires to live like a saint, a magician and as the original inhabitants of Manori with Moses and Meriam. When Raman comes to take Menaka for admission to the Medical College, his arrival gives Sita some sort of satisfaction but at the same time she comes to realise once again the cold actualities of life. Though it is not a positive solution of her problem, yet she looks within herself and a sense of cowardish approach and escapism overpowers her. She feels that she had escaped from duties and responsibilities, from order and routine, from life and the city, to the unlivable island, she had refused to give birth to a child in a world not fit to receive the child. She had the imagination to offer it an alternative a life unlived, a life butchered. Sbe had cried out her great "No"" but now the time had come for her epitaph to be written.

Thus, we find that her withdrawal is indicative of a need for love, the free and unquestioning love. This kind of love transcends the self and makes no claims. It is this kind of relationship which she wants from Raman but she does not achieve the goal in her life. When Raman comes she wants to lay down her head and weep "My father's dead look after me". But she is told that he has come not for her but or children. At this stage also she has to accept the fact that she is a woman unloved.

Emotion, instinct, feeling, reason occupy the central theme of all the novels of Anita Desai. The mystery remains unsolved. Sita comes from her maimed or incomplete family. Her mother has run away from her home leaving the children to the care of their father. She confeses her longing in life. She is an orphan either factually or emotionally.