Arranged Marriage Background

Arranged Marriage Background

Arranged Marriage is a collection of eleven short stories written by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni who is an Indian-American author and poet. This book was published in 1995 and won the American Book Award. It was on the San Francisco Chronicle bestseller list for five weeks. Arranged Marriage has eleven stories, all of which focus on different issues resulting from the patriarchy. Stories differ in plots but revolve around the same theme. Arranged Marriage has eleven stories, all of which focus on different issues resulting from patriarchy. Some stories also discuss the contrasting cultural differences between east and west and the resistance it creates in women and the subsequent reactions of the society. The protagonist is usually a woman who is, sometimes, married in an arrangement and suffers because of the expectation she is supposed to have and expectations she must meet.

Actually arranged marriages, which were the way of marital rituals in the past centuries in most of the world, are still prevalent in South-East Asia, mostly because of two reasons: to preserve blood ties in certain castes or religions, and to preserve the authority of elders on the younger generation. The concept of arranged marriage has been embedded in the mentality of people in these parts to the point where arranging the marriage is considered as an ultimate task to be followed by the family so that the children can marry and procreate before a certain age. This includes shaming, brain-washing, goading one’s child to enter into a marriage to a person he or she may not have known before. In certain sections, even when two persons wish to marry out of their will and love and not just because of caste or other factors, they have to make the parents meet each other and ‘arrange’ the marriage, as a sign of respect.

In most of the arranged marriages, the groom’s family dominates others and gets to choose around. The author mentions a few instances of ‘bride-viewing’ in her stories. This is a practice in which the family of the groom visits the house of the bride to examine her suitability for the groom. Through the instances in the stories, it can be seen that the choice of the bride depends on whether or not she has a fair skin, is submissive, and is skilled in household chores. A girl may be rejected for having too much education. Girls who are highly educated are not sometimes welcomed into a family because it is believed education corrupts a girl's mind with western ideals. Such practices strengthen patriarchy.

Arranged Marriage has eleven stories, all of which focus on different issues resulting from the patriarchy. Stories differ in plots but revolve around the same theme. Some stories also discuss the contrasting cultural differences between east and west and the resistance it creates in women and the subsequent reactions of the society. The protagonist is usually a woman who is, sometimes, married in an arrangement and suffers because of the expectation she is supposed to have and expectations she must meet.

The author herself lived in India for nineteen years before immigrating to the USA. Her work shows the effect of globalisation on the lives of people. The protagonists in these stories find themselves torn between the traditional values that have been embedded in their minds and the new perspective they have gained with time. These newer perspectives are usually shown to be a result of the diasporic experiences of the protagonist or someone in a close relationship with the protagonist. This contradiction of values leads the women in these texts to form multiple consciousnesses. They not only question the practices around them but also start questioning their own identities that have been framed by these practices. This identity crisis leads to a new formation of the idea of ‘self’. The women often come to terms with the fact that their identity is unified in terms of their experiences of the East and the West.

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