Viewing a novel through the lens of gender analysis often yields two results: being a man allows for more opportunities and being a woman often severely limits one's opportunities. These, of course, are very superficial conclusions. The aim of gender analysis is to yield up the ways in which the intersection of gender, history and cultural circumstance trouble, complicate or otherwise affect traditional assumptions about gender roles and the freedoms and opportunities that are available to individuals and groups in that given context. In Anita Desai's novel, Clear Light of Day, the way gender operates can be analyzed in a multiplicity of different possible intersections including ability, class, age and religion. However, this paper seeks to examine the intersection of gender within the culturally static Old Delhi and the ways in which its residents seem unable to adapt to changing gender expectations. When Tara arrives she mentions to Bim that the Das home, like Old Delhi, goes on and on
and never changes, whenever she visits, it is all exactly the same (4). Bim replies that Old Delhi does not change. It only decays
it is a great cemetery (5). The residents of Old Delhi are implicated in and affected by this temporal stasis. Their ability to grow and accept modernity is complicated by their childhood in Old Delhi and attention is drawn to the division drawn between Old Delhi (static, outdated) and New Delhi (fluid, modern) and the gender norms associated with both.
The Misra sons stand as a more overt example of gender inequality through out the novel. They leave to their sisters the responsibility of earning an income and prefer to spend their time in half-hearted business ventures and their own recreational interests. This is a slight subversion of traditional gender roles; the norm being that men are providers and women are caregivers and is just different enough to lead us to believe this spoiled nature is perhaps a touch of modernity.
[...] “They can't stand our sort of Old Delhi life the way Misras vegetate here in the bosom of the family” (151). The Misra brothers' perpetuation of old traditions, the ones learned from their father as well as cultural ones such as residing in the family home, complicate their ability to take part in a more modern and contemporary existence, symbolized here by their absent wives. The Misra sisters have also been prey to a similar fate. Rather than make an effort in the school and attend college afterwards, the girls are being groomed specifically for marriage. [...]
[...] As it turns out, the Misra father has in fact been a blue print for his sons' laziness and sloth. Their indolence and hedonism is simply something they have inherited, a fixed tradition from father to son. If there is any doubt of the way static traditions have affected the Misra family, we are relieved of them by Bim. As it turns out, the Misra brothers have wives who wanted to be “modern women,” and take part in contemporary activities. think they wanted to move into their own separate homes, in New Delhi,” Bim explains. [...]
[...] It is Bim again who tells Tara that their husbands “were too modern, too smart. They played golf and they danced and gave cocktail parties Poor Jaya and Sarla only ever wanted to knit them sweaters and make them pickles” (151). The Misra sisters found themselves unable to cope with the changes that had occurred in the expectations surrounding marriage and wives. They had been prepared for the more outdated tasks of an Indian wife such as pickle making, rather than being exposed to the new customs that were being introduced into contemporary Indian culture. [...]
[...] This is a slight subversion of traditional gender roles; the norm being that men are providers and women are caregivers and is just different enough to lead us to believe this spoiled nature is perhaps a touch of modernity. The narrative almost has us believe that this indolence is something new, something of the Misra brothers' own making. Their own father joins in with the criticism of them, criticizing the way they treat their sisters and affirming the nobleness of his actions towards his own sister (32-3). [...]
using our reader.