Reversing the Gaze: Subversion and Re-interpretation of Mythical Stereotypes in Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s The Palace of Illusions
Keywords:Male Gaze, Female Gaze, Epic, Myth, Gender, Self-Discovery, Subversion, Authority
Epics are indeed an indelible part of our existence carrying us into the timeless history where reality and fantasy blends into a harmonious whole. A diasporic women writer re-creating myth and folklore in a contemporary context and re-telling a popular epic Mahabharata from Draupadi’s perspective is monumental and extraordinary. There have been sudden inclinations on part of the contemporary writers to re-interpret the epics in a new light highlighting the women characters who have been otherwise neglected in the original story as tangible subjects. Usually, epic narratives portray women on an ideological viewpoint; women being embodiments of perseverance and forbearance, mute spectators of misery and injustice perpetrated on them. But Divakaruni re-created the women characters by assigning them a voice of their own so that they become strong enough to express their choices and by living their own bodies vis-à-vis lives. The mystifying feminine psyche of the mythical women characters is unfolded before the readers and many unknown crevices of the inner mind are laid bare. These impressions and explorations of the epic characters were actually a hidden trope for self-discovery and articulation. The Palace of Illusions is a re-creation of the illusionary, magical world of Draupadi and her dream destination and how this world gets shattered in front of her eyes is not only literal but metaphorical in course of the novel. In an attempt to re-work the epic, the contemporary women writers deviate from the usual phallocentric thrust of the epic and make Draupadi the hero of the novel; subverting the stereo-typed gendered version of an epic. Divakaruni’s fiction strives to subvert the gendered binaries looking at the epic and its magnificent characters and events through Panchaali’s gaze. Thus, the Western model of the male gaze is repudiated and the female gaze is celebrated in an altogether new form. Is the story of Mahabharata a familial clash between fraternity or a woman’s personal desire and Panchaali’s revenge which drenched the country and its inhabitants in the blood is the question that is left open-ended for the readers who revisits Mahabharata through the eyes of Draupadi vis-a-vis Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni.
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