Dept. of English & MEL
University of Allahabad
In India, the post - Independence era has witnessed a growing of literary talent, more so in the genre of novel, that too, by Indian women novelists. Kamala Markandaya occupies a prominent position amongst the post-Independence Indo-Anglian novelists. One among the innumerable critical approaches to any genre of literature is Psychology and as, David Daiches says: The behaviour of characters in a novel" can be studied," in the light of modern psychological knowledge and, if their behaviour confirms what we know about the subtleties of the human mind, we can use modern theories as a means of elucidating and interpreting the work.”1 In this article, an attempt is made at the interpretation of Markandaya's Possession from a psychological point of view.
Possession kamala Markandaya's fourth novel presents the complexities of human relationships, the East-West encounter along with the theme of politics. In this novel, the novelist depicts how the western culture has the tendency to exploit physically as well as psychologically the innocent and the poor for their selfish gains. Caroline Bells, an English lady, tries to possess a poor Indian village boy, Val, but all in vein. Caroline is a representative of the rich-westernized society, which thrives on the talent of the poor section of society. Val’s return to India and his refusal to go with Caroline Bell symbolizes the psychological struggle of India's independence and consequent freedom from the Britishers.
Caroline Bell is the representative of typical capitalism who believes in exploiting the poor physically as well as mentally. She discovers the talent of painting in Val, buys him from his parents, takes him to England and makes him a source financial gain and satisfying her sexual lust. The insatiable thirst for money compels Val's fathers to forget his relations with him. Val's mother knows her husband's disposition already. She says: He has already decided. Did you not hear him? It was the money- it was too much for him. But it is always so, men are ever free and easy with that for which they have neither suffered nor laboured.3
Anasuya, Caroline’s friend, narrates the story of Possession. Therefore, the story is told mainly from the Indian point of view. Iyenger has given his views on the role of Anasuya: Perhaps Anasuya (or Kamala Markandaya) is trying to make the story of Caroline and Valmiki something of a parable of colonialism, the passing of one empire, and the current insidious movement of new-colonialism.4
Anasuya presents the story from the Indian point of view and delineates it as a reporter. She is a very enigmatic character and it is very difficult to fathom her. She is the bridge between Kamala Markandaya’s Eastern and Western world. Anasuya tells the story of Valimiki’s life and like Mirabai of Some Inner Fury passes some instances of languages that are to be exemplified for its simplicity. The gradual progression in Valmiki for the language learning procedure shows sometimes the translating method of Markandaya's from one language to another, yet is reflects the artificiality and presents the actual psychological development of the character.
Anasuya knows very well about the Indian tradition and culture. When Caroline discovers the artistic excellence of Val, she wants to take him with her to England. Anasuya advises her “You forget” I said, “He may have a family. He may not want to leave them. They may not want to leave him. In this way Anasuya denied candidly to help her: "I mean I was not going to help you. This boy is a human being, even if he is a goatherd and a simpleton. He is not a toy to be picked up and discarded when something else takes your fancy." Anasuya knows very well the psyche of the Indian family which is why she refuses to help, whereas Caroline is taking what she wanted.
Anasuya knows the instinct of Caroline who wants to achieve Val at any cost. She analyses the anxiety and psychological perplexity of Caroline for Val and her attachment with Swamy. It seems as if she can read well the heart and the mind of Caroline. She delineates: I think she saw him as in the end the real adversary the one who could, more formidably than anyone else who had crossed her path, show up for shadows and a legitimates entitlements to the boys, and resists her taking and keeping possession of what she wanted.5
Markandya is very innovative and inventive while employing the ordinary words for human emotions and passions because they are directly connected with the human psyche. In fact, Anasuya is a product of two cultural modes- the East and the West. On one hand we see her eagerness about search for identity and on the other she encounters the conscious and unconscious motives of her friend. Anasuya describes Caroline’s psyche in this way: She was supremely confident born and brought up to do so, as a missionary in the full Armour of his mission, dogged by none of the hesitancies that handicap lesser breeds.6
East- West encounter plays an important role in Markandaya's novels in presenting the psychological conflicts. In the novel the novelist shows through Valimiki the development of tribal psyche into western one. Valmiki's interest in painting and his faith in Swamy are the part of his culture life. When he is sold to Caroline Bell, Valmiki's life begins to change and more importantly he has to change his thinking as well as his psyche in order to adopt western culture.
Ellie is another beautiful character portrayed by Markandaya. She is a twenty year old Jewish girl who has suffered the cruelty of Nazis in the camp. She is raped there almost every night and described as." A victim of European crime in European confines." Caroline reckons her." better than nothing". She is an orphan, helpless and suppressed. The emotional aspects shake the inner fibers of human psyche and reveal the emotional fervor in language. She tells Anasuya about her mental condition and her love for Val: I lie with a man-So I do not talk about love, because I do not know if that is what I feel. It is not easy to feel because I am burnt out, inside. But Valmiki loves me. He does not know it, but he does. At times like tonight he forgets he cannot understand himself how it is possible to love someone so dull as I am, you can see in his face he is asking this question. Then when the others are gone and it is day time again he comes back to me, we are of one kind.
Anasuya is deeply impressed with Ellie. She says, I found it was not she but Ellie who dominated me. Pale, ineffectual Ellie, asleep or more probably awake in her room across the landing, surrounded by Valmiki’s work, and carrying his seed in her womb. Caroline expels Ellie because she cannot bear Valmiki's relationship with another girl. She even informs Annabel about Valmiki's illicit relationship with Ellie. This shows the neurotic anxiety of possessiveness in Caroline who wants to achieve Val by fair or foul means.
Markandya not only discovers and portrays the Feminine psyche of the ordinary world but also of the substandard bordering on abnormal women. He has expertly given a complex portrayal of Ellie’s mounting agony, which makes the novel a remarkable psychological study of female neurotic fears. A vigorous emotional and general sexual life would have given her a sense of protection and stopped her psyche from decaying but non-stop rapes, happening in the concentration camp have made her life hell. In spite of her frustration she carries the seed of Valmiki in her womb. She feels for a child, “If I had no feeling for a child would I have conceived? It is no relationship in the world than that of a woman and her child but unfortunately she has not got the love of a husband or a lover. Her life remains unsatisfied. She is raped almost every night and now it seems that she is suffering from neurotic anxiety. Freud says: . . . Experience shows . . . That woman who, as being the actual vehicle of sexual interest of mankind, are only endowed in a small measure, with the gift of sublimating their instincts, and who . . . when they are subjected to disillusionments of sexual life, fall ill of severe neurosis which permanently darken their lives.
After Swami’s arrival in England Valmiki remains in Caroline house but under Swami's spiritual influence. In her opinion Swami should not have been allowed in England, She thinks that spiritualism is a threat to her plan of physical and materialistic possession of human-beings. She wants to control Val not only physically but mentally as well which is why she wants to send Swami back to India. From the very beginning she is aware of the fact that Valmiki is deeply influenced by Swami. She is very eager to possess they boy and in order to do so she seduces him into an almost incestuous carnal alignment despite the wide difference between their ages. Whenever she fails to possess him, she describes it as;" That England and India never did understand one another".
As far as Caroline is concerned Valimiki is a way to achieve success for her in the society. She has got the recognition of higher society with the help of Val and now she wants to make him her lover. It seems that she is suffering from superiority complex and in order to salsify her psyche she has done all the kinds of things to drive his attention away from Ellie. He is shocked when he comes to know about the forged letter and also her selfish motives. He has realized that it is Caroline who is responsible for turning out of the house as she cannot undergo his relationship with Ellie.
Caroline is completely against the amiable relationship developing between Val Annabel. She fails in separating them by creating such circumstances that Annabel breaks up her relations with him. Annabel represents the typical English girl of the fifties. She is against her family's will and turns down their plans for getting her married. The novelist portrays her character: Annabel, a girl of eighteen, is small, slim, ordinary looking bright-brown eyes; brownish gold hair cut is ragged urchin style, the short spiky ends appearing all over head.
Though she is a “liberated soul", she looks at her romantic world through the eyes of Caroline who shows her what she wants show.
When Val comes to know the real picture of Caroline, he leaves England and comes back to India. Caroline follows him to regain but he denies as he does not want to be possessed by her again.
A psychological study of Markandaya's Possession reveals that the women reflect a sense of isolation, fear, bewilderment, emotional vulnerability and possessiveness as a symbol not only of growth, life and fertility but also of withdrawal, regression, suppression, neurotic anxiety, decay and death. Kamala Markandya is aware of the fact that all the sweet ties of home and family depend upon sex. But in this novel she has presented the dark side of it. It is obvious that it is she who has initiated the lead of woman’s transformation from possession to person through her novel. I would like to conclude the paper with the words of Stephen Ignatius Hemenway: She is definitely one of the most production, popular and skilled Indo-Anglican hone list and a super representative of the growing of the growing number of Indian women writing serious literature in English.11
1. Daiches, David. Critical Approaches to Literature, Kolkata: Orient Longman, 1984, p.337.
2. Krishnaswamy, S. Kamala Markandaya Autonomy, Nurturance and the Sisterhood of Man: The Women in the Indian Fiction in English.(New Delhi: Ashish Publishing House), p.167.
3. Markandaya, Kamala. Possession, (London: Putnam&co., 1963), p.20.Iyenger, K.R. Srinivasa. Indian Writing in English. (New Delhi: Sterling Publishers Pvt. Ltd), p.211.
4. Markandaya, Kamala. Possession, (London: Putnam&co., 1963), p.104.Freud, Sigmund. Civilized Sexual Morality and Moral Illness, Trans. James Strachey Penguin 1986), p.47
5. Markandaya, Kamala. Possession, (London: Putnam & co., 1963), p.189
6. Hemenway, Stephen Ignatius. The Novels of India (Vol.2 The Indo Anglian Novel Calcutta (Kolkata); Writers Workshop, 1975), p.52.