That Long Silence By Shashi Deshpande

That Long Silence


“If I were a man and 
Cared to know the
World I lived in,
I almost think it would
make me a shade uneasy –
 the weight of that
 long silence of one half
 of the world.”

            This statement by “Elizabeth Robin” forms the epigraph to Shashi Deshpande’s Novel, “That Long Silence”. Through this novel, this talented writer intends to break the long silence that has surrounded women their experiences, and their world. The writer wants to convey that it is not only the Patriarchal system wholly is solely responsible for the worsening condition of women, but even women share the responsibility. Women suffer everything in silence, without protesting which has caused their subjugation.

            In the present novel, silence is used as a metaphor. Silence is a patriarchal symbol. A girl is socialized to be silent, as being eloquent and loud are not the traits that society deems fit for them. Consequently, they keep on being silent and bear everything with this weapon but gradually this very silence eats away the very vital of their existence.

About Shashi Deshpande

            “I don’t like to call myself a feminist writer.
             I say: I’m a feminist, but I don’t write to propagate an ism.”

            The words of Shashi Deshpande stress her inclination to the ideas of ‘Judith Butler’ (An American philosopher) who boldly stated that feminism reasserts the difference between male and female gender.

            Shashi Deshpande is an award-winning Indian Novelist. Shashi Deshpande’s chief thematic concern is with a women’s struggle in the context of contemporary Indian society, their effort to find and preserve her identity as a wife, mother, and most of all as a human being. She was born in 1938  in Dharwad, Karnataka. Her father was Sriranga, a well-known Sanskrit scholar.

Her first novel “The Dark Holds No Terror” was published in 1980. Her novel “That Long Silence” brought her a lot of praise and appreciation and she received the ‘Sahitya Akademi Award’ for it. Her other novel includes – ‘Come Up and Be Dead’, ‘If I Die Today’, ‘Roots and Shadows’, ‘The Binding Vine’, ‘A Matter of Time’ and ‘Small Remedies’.

Analysis of That Long Silence

            In ‘That Long Silence’ Shashi Deshpande has portrayed the irony of a woman writer, who is also a young wife. The novel opens with ‘Jaya and her husband ‘Mohan’ shifting from their well-settled, comfortable house to their old house in Dadar, Bombay, where they had stayed immediately after getting married when their financial condition was not good. They shift into their old apartment to escape the scene as Mohan has been caught in some business malpractice and an inquiry is in progress. Here is a small old flat Jaya gets out of touch with her schedule and becomes an introvert.

            Not satisfied with her married life, Jaya recalls her past days, her upbringing, the environment in which she was brought up, and the morals that were thrust upon her when she was growing up. She has been taught that “A husband is like a Sheltering tree”.

            Though Jaya has been educated and influenced by the modern thought of the West and other advanced countries and is herself a writer, she still wants to compare herself with the image of Sita, Draupadi, and other ideal mythological characters. She tries to keep a balance between husband and wife. She always wishes to go on with her husband’s wish.

She does not have any identity of her own. Her name keeps on changing according to the wishes of others. Jaya, which means ‘victory’ is the name given by her father when she was born and ‘Subasini’ was the name after her marriage. The former name symbolizes revolt and the latter submission. The dreams of her childhood, to change the situation of women, are shattered by the environment, the surroundings, and above all by the society which imposes all sorts of restrictions on women. She is absolutely helpless and is unable to improve her situation. She revolts in silence.

            Due to different attitudes, between Jaya and her husband, their marital life becomes more of a compromise than love, based on social fear rather than a mutual need for each other. In her streams of thought, Jaya looks at her marital relations where there is no conversation left. This unhappiness is reflected not only in her conjugal life but also in her social life.

            The novelist intends to break the long Silence, that has kept women as it were, in a state of hibernation. The novel is an exceptionally accomplished portrait of a passive woman Jaya. It is this reality that Deshpande tries to project through the female protagonist, who in the end, chooses to break her long silence.


            Thus, in the novel ‘That Long Silence’, Deshpande very exquisitely highlighted the inner struggle and suffering of middle-class women through the character of ‘Jaya’. In a male-dominated society, a woman has dependent on her husband and father or son for everything. But in the end, Jaya wishes to exercise her choice, her self-esteem motivates her to break the silence while her capabilities make her speak through writing. Jaya subverts the patriarchal system while remaining a part of it.\

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