This paper analyzes the Indian English novel The Lowland (2012) by Jhumpa Lahiri and examines its representation of the Naxalbari movement’s (1965-1975) gendered history to locate women, their roles, their marginalized position, and the growth of their individual independent identities. The Naxalbari movement is the first major peasant protest within 20 years of Indian independence. Though the first actions of the movement were in a village of North Bengal, this paper mainly concentrates on the movement’s activities after it was urbanized and joined by the middle class. It, therefore, tries to locate the position of middle-class women within the movement. In the endeavor to engage with the different narratives regarding the roles of 20th century Bengal middle-class women in the movement, the paper historically views and assesses two contradictory perspectives regarding the involvement of women. While a few narratives stress how the participation of women enabled them to attain a certain degree of emancipation from the confinement of the patriarchal society, my detailed study revealed a counter-narrative that stresses the androcentric underpinning of the movement. Hence, this paper analyzes how Lahiri’s novel The Lowland engages with this problematic and contradictory location of women within the Naxalbari movement. Though there have been few studies on the gendered historical narrative of the Naxalbari movement, as discussed briefly in the following sections, its representation has not yet been significantly explored within the scholarly studies of Indian English Literature. I address this gap by analyzing the text through the lens of the movement’s gendered historical narratives to foreground the representation of women’s experiences in it. Thus, my goal is to analyze women as a subversive force within the movement who represent both the dissenting voice of the Naxalbari movement as well as the critical voice against the gender hierarchy within it.

Author Biography

Pritha Sarkar is a research student of English Literature in the department of Humanities and Social Science (H.S.S.), Indian Institute of Technology (I.I.T.) Kanpur. Her areas of interest include Indian feminist literature, Indian English literature, English literature of Bengal, Gender Studies, gendered history in Indian Literatures and movement literature.