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Advice to Women Questions and Answers 15,10,5,2

 

Advice to Women Questions and Answers  by Eunice de Souza.

MARKS 10/15

1. Theme

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[Q. Discuss the major theme in the poem ‘Advice to Women’ written by Eunice de Souza.[Advice to Women Questions and Answers]

Or, Q. What is the central idea of the poem ‘Advice to Women’?]

Common themes in many of Eunice de Souza’s works are the alienation of women and disapproval of patriarchal traditions. The intended audience of much of her work is the female population. In some works, she criticizes women, and in others, she encourages them. She aims to make women more self-aware and empower them.

 

In the 19th and 20th century, many women raised their voices to show the world their actual condition and also wanted to establish a position in society. Kamala Das, Imtiaz Dharkar, Guari Deshpande, Eunice de Souza and Sunita Jain were some of the important modern Indian English poetesses who talked about the women in their works.

Chief concern in de Souza’s poems is women and their life. In some poems, she gives advice, in others she criticises them in order to change their follies. In the poem ‘Advice to Women’, she wants to make the women aware of the pain they receive from others. So she compares a cat’s haughtily indifferent attitude towards life to what a woman’s reaction must be when jilted by a lover.

De Souza, like a postfeminist writer, does not make precarious or sympathetic commentary on the suffering and exploitation of women which, to post feminists like Katie Roiphe and Rene Denfeld, has celebrated the vulnerability of women and valorized the figure of the female victim instead of addressing the issue of social and political inequality.

Instead, de Souza only shows the present woman-condition in her poetry. She does not sympathize with the characters she portrays even when she is identified with the personae. The terse indifference with which she detaches herself with the situations that detriment her cultural and personal assortment is evident in her jagged lines. “Advice to Women” is one such poem which is written in a sharp language: ‘That stare of perpetual surprise / in those great green eyes / will teach you to die alone.’

The poetry has struggled to break the boundaries of tradition while describing

the conflict between the old and the new. It has endeavoured to express the desire of a woman to break the bonds that have restricted her since times immemorial. However, the problem she faces is that the entrenched patriarchal structure is still controlling and restricting her life in one way or the other. It still considers that she is someone’s daughter, wife or mother, minus her own identity.

The speaker advises the women to keep cats as pets in order to make themselves patient and peaceful. As they get restless in the little nuances or indifferences of their partners or lovers. Therefore they start feeling alone and neglect themselves. Women think their lovers are trying to avoid them. So, whenever they think like this, the speaker advised them to keep their attention to the pet cat. In this way, they can easily overlook the lovers’ behaviour and won’t be restless as before.

If the women notice the behaviour of a cat, they always come back to their ‘litter trays’ or the domestic place whenever they feel the need. The lovers will also come back in their life if they keep patience. The speaker also advises the women not to lose their mind and think of annoying or cursing any other person if their lover is busy in some other things. Instead they should talk to them and handle the situation carefully. The green big eyes of the cat can help women how to keep calm and cool of mind while living alone.

In the concluding lines it can be said that Eunice de souza’s poetry offers two levels of meaning. On one hand she shows the suffering and humiliation of women and on the other hand the complexity and rebellious nature of them. A deconstructive reading of her poetry shows all these. Her dissatisfaction with the society, its rules, its attitude towards women and its gender discrimination makes her poetry confessional in tone, dualism in meaning and rebelliousness in nature.

De Souza’s modes of expression often are satiric, ironic and bitter in meaning as she is saturated, tired and irritated to see how a girl is treated to shape her and mould her to fit in this society. They are made stereotypical and they are bound to behave according to society. She is not like the early Indian English Women poets as she protests against the inequality of women both physically and mentally. Due to his inner anger, suppression, suffering, pain, oppression, humiliation and gender indiscrimination, she often becomes confessional in order to share her experience and also to get some relief. She takes a stand for all the women through her poetry in order to give reaction against all these.

2. The Significance of the Title

[Q. Comment on the significance of the title ‘Advice to Women’. Or, Q. What ‘advice’ does the poet want to give to the women and why? Discuss.]

As the title suggests, in her poem “Advice to Women,” de Souza is advising women on how they should react to romantic rejection. By metaphorically comparing women to cats, she encourages women to look to cats as a model for how to behave

when wronged or jilted by romantic partners. Cats are known for being arrogant, haughty, and indifferent. They come and go as they please. They do not hold grudges against their enemies. De Souza believes women should behave similarly. In a sense, her poem is a tutorial on how to be happy and single: “That stare of perpetual surprise in those great green eyes / will teach you / to die alone.”

Eunice compares a cat’s haughtily indifferent attitude towards life, the universe and everything to what a woman’s reaction must be when ignored or may be jilted or may be due to differences with a lover.She calls upon Women to tolerate the otherness of lover and have patience for their return.

As it can be guessed from the title itself ‘Advice to Women’, this is a womencentric poem wherein the poetess calls for attention of the readers to the pain, frustration and depression of women in general. The poetess shows how a woman always stays in a dilemma being in the position of a daughter, a wife and a mother. She always looks for others’ happiness even if she needs to sacrifice her own happiness in achieving the same. According to the poetess, women are a symbol of beauty but caged under the patriarchal society. That’s why, they are taught to be afraid of men and their rules since their very childhood.

Her chief concern is only the woman and their life. In some poems she gives advice to them and also in some poems she criticizes them in order to change their follies. Whatever she has done that proves fruitful for women. She is the victim of biased society but she not only shows her biases towards society. Her poetry shows her bravery, her life principle, her undying optimism and optimistic pessimism to some extent.

Actually a close association to her poetry shows her fractured emotion, frustrated relation, unfulfilled dream, isolation, aloofness and many other themes. Daruwalla once writes about her, “One is not consciousness of the poet suffering from any persecution complexes or hallucinatory fears as one reads her. And yet only a part of the above statement is true.”

Therefore, her ‘Advice to Women’ is a poem where she states the dryness of the lost tone with a combative, resigned and friendly way. She wants to make the women aware about the pain they receive from others. Here her prime focus is on the otherness of women. Hence, her “Advice to Women”, particularly to lonely women, is: Keep cats if you want to learn to cope with the otherness of lovers. Therefore the title ‘advice to women’ is perfectly justified.

3. The Structure

[Q. Comment on the structure of the poem ‘Advice to Women’.]

‘Advice to Women’ is a twelve line poem written by Eunice de Souza in ‘verse libre’ or free verse. The poem does not follow the usual rhyme-scheme, i.e., the blank verse or a heroic couplet.

The title makes it clear that the poet has asked the women to follow some do’s

and don’ts in order to keep their calm. This poem is typical of de Souza’s work which rarely drifts beyond the particular, the identifiable object. The writing style is sheer drama, using the seemingly transparent language of spoken English, without any conceits and attempted graces – which make her poems a sheer pleasure to read aloud.

The idiom is almost entirely uncluttered by metaphor and imagery which believed in heavy use of symbolism to express often maudlin sentiments – one of the reasons why I abhor poetesses like Toru Dutt and Sarojini Naidu. Her poems are totally devoid of the traditional devices which indicate mood or define emotion. They rely mainly on sound, rhythm of lines, on tone and the (natural) accenting of precisely placed words and phrases. Again, one of the best reasons why her poetry is best read aloud.

The poetess uses simple everyday images in the poem ‘Advice to Women’. The necessity to cope with life in a different way like the attitude of a cat is the suggestion what she gives to the women. So she advised them to keep cats as pets because we are all familiar with the characteristics and behaviour of a cat.

Cats are always known for proud or haughty behaviour. It is really necessary to have the quality of patience in order to tend or look after a cat. Thus, in order to cultivate that level of patience which will help women to cope with the ‘otherness’ of their lovers, or the patriarchal society at large, she should tend cats.

The poetess further proceeds to state that ‘otherness is not always neglect’. It could also indicate the indifferent attitude of a woman’s lover. Thus, she calls upon women to tolerate the otherness of her lover and have patience for their return. Women should possess this feline attitude and this should be her reaction when she is ignored or lovelost. It should also help them to deal easily if their lovers are indifferent to them.

Further, she moves on by stating the ‘litter trays’ of the cats. The cats return to their familiar litter trays whenever they need to. This imagery depicts the act of clinginess that is nurtured by a cat. It insists the human to adhere to it too. The imagery also suggests that women are the beauty of the world and that beauty is encaged under the persecution of life.

The narrator says that the women enjoy playing the role of a daughter, wife and mother in her whole life and just like cats, the so called patriarchal society would definitely return to her when they will be in need of her. They just can’t lead their life without the support of a woman. So, instead of showing anger, just like cats, the women should not be angry at men or use offensive language against such patriarchal behaviour.

In the concluding lines of the poem, the narrator states that ‘That stare of perpetual surprise in those great green eyes will teach you to die alone’. These lines bring out the imagery of indifferent and callous attitude that cats show towards life.

So the poet insists that it is this indifference that the women should imbibe. The most important trait is the ability to hide their pain and suffering very well and still, carry longstanding surprise in their eyes. It points out to the essential loneliness of women’s existence and the need to accept it as a fact.

We are familiar with the fact that we are born alone and we are going to die alone too. So one has to fight alone between the two poles – birth and death – in order to sustain oneself. So the poet insists that all women should possess these qualities so that she does not carry the fear of existing alone and also die alone. With the use of objective imagery, de Souza takes confessional poetry to the heights of an unprecedented greatness and transcendence. She frequently objectifies her inner restlessness with the image of the cat and its immeasurable characteristics inside. She uses most concrete images in her poems.

4. Confessional Style

[Q. Discuss the confessional elements present in Eunice de Souza’s poem ‘Advice to Women’.]

Eunice de Souza’s place in Indian English poetry is not one that ever suffered a contention. In the tradition of Bombay poets, if one at all has to delineate her oeuvre in these terms where mostly male poets are visible, she remains a minimalist of senses.

Her feminism is a surgeon’s knife, swift and non-messy. The spillage on the page is contained, and the poetic act is sealed. Author of four books of poetry – Fix, Women in Dutch Painting, Necklace of Skulls, Learn from the Almond Leaf – the poet’s kinship in style has been compared to Nissim Ezekiel’s craft.

While one finds Ezekiel’s pithiness and Keki Daruwalla’s austerity in de Souza’s caustic craft (she says in a poem: “My students think it funny/that Daruwallas and de Souzas/should write poetry.”), the latter shimmers in her own right in lines such as “A compound full of silver cars./The sky with not a single silver star.”

I would avoid repeated allusions to her Goan Catholic roots and the resulting influences in her poetry other than the fact that even when De Souza is cantankerously funny in her writing, she’s empathetic and nuanced. What makes her voice special is the lyrical precision combined with unabashed straight-talk. The anthropology of her poems are imprints of the moon and tree in companionship, the fires of Holi, the “daddy” reference, as well as the human body in agony or in ecstasy.

The poem by silencing the protagonist makes her marriage seem artificial and distant. The poet questions both the formal manner in which the marriage alliance is made and the relevance of marriage for the protagonist who may actually want to do something else. Other famous poems by her include ‘Bequest’ and ‘Advice to Women’. Almost all her poems reveal her strong sense of discomfort with patriarchal institutions. She also questions rigid traditions of traditional Christianity in her work.

Eunice De Souza herself chose to remain single, caring for her mother until the

latter’s death. She also looked after an aunt who passed away a few years before herself. The poet Ranjit Hoskote upon her death in 2017 said that, “For young poets, particularly women poets, her approach was very liberating.” About her poetic style he said that, “She had a distinctive voice, wry and sardonic, and there was a kind of cruel wisdom in her poetry. Her work became more minimalist over time, and the poems in her last collection have a crystalline clarity.” Eunice de Souza inspired generations as a teacher and the impact of her work as a poet, novelist and researcher will be felt for a long time.

Her poetry was no different, it was in a vernacular of its own, with the urgency of a telegram in every line. Her Advice to Women, says,

Keep cats

if you want to learn to cope with

the otherness of lovers

Otherness is not always neglect

Cats return to their litter trays

when they need to.

Don’t cuss out of the window

at their enemies.

That stare of perpetual surprise

in those great green eyes

will teach you

to die alone.

Thus, poetry, for de Souza, is the means to move out of this dismal space and to subvert the ‘discourse of silence’. De Souza’s critique of the discrimination based on gender is contextualized in relation to other identity markers. Her poems are conceptually connected and when they are read together, a world view emerges in which everything is connected to everything else.

Like many Indian English poets of her generation, Eunice de Souza also draws heavily from her personal life and she successfully manages to connect her personal life experiences to the broader context of the cultural and political setting around her. Many poets use poetry as a form of communicating to the world, using instances that take place in their personal life. After Kamala Das’ bold confession and Imtiaz Dharker’s open challenge to the purdah-system, Eunice de Souza, the Mumbai-based, Goanorigined poet offers a wide range of themes and subject matter in her poetry.

De Souza offers a range of highly volatile emotions with her poems, changing direction and gaining effect from her inner contrasts, conflicts, ironies and satires. Eunice de Souza belongs to that generation of Post-Independence women poets who have given a convincing assurance that Indian English poetry matches the best everywhere. In her poetry the directness of speech rhythm and colloquial language is an expression of emotional involvement.

The poetess uses simple everyday images in the poem ‘Advice to Women’. The necessity to cope with life in a different way like the attitude of a cat is the suggestion what she gives to the women. So she advised them to keep cats as pets because we are all familiar with the characteristics and behaviour of a cat.

The narrator says that the women enjoy playing the role of a daughter, wife and mother in her whole life and just like cats, the so called patriarchal society would definitely return to her when they will be in need of her. They just can’t lead their life without the support of a woman. So, instead of showing anger, just like cats, the women should not be angry at men or use offensive language against such patriarchal behaviour.

In the concluding lines of the poem, the narrator states that ‘That stare of perpetual surprise in those great green eyes will teach you to die alone. These lines bring out the imagery of indifferent and callous attitude that cats show towards life. So the poet insists that it is this indifference that the women should imbibe. The most important trait is the ability to hide their pain and suffering very well and still, carry longstanding surprise in their eyes. It points out to the essential loneliness of women’s existence and the need to accept it as a fact.

Eunice de Souza, like Plath, uses poetry as an instrument of catharsis or mental purgation, for getting rid of her inhibitions and obsessions, which hinder the progress of life. To her, poetry also becomes a vehicle of religious experience, which finds its outlet in the poems dealing with the mythical love. Like Plath, De Souza finds confessional mode, a perfect medium for ventilating her struggle, her suicidal instinct. But Plath’s wish of death is stronger than De Souza. Her life experiences produce in her an acute sense of depression, making her fed up with life.

Eunice de Souza makes a tremendous effort to develop confessional mode as a sort of poetic medicine to treat mental vacancy and even physical ailments. She wrote most of her poetry, when she was undergoing mental and sexual suffering and, as she confessed several times, an emotional volcano was building inside her. It was only poetry that gave her a legitimate outlet to purge the fiery substance. Voicing her agonies through her poetry she appeases the fury of the domestic, social and even female consciousness. Poetry for her became just another branch of pathology.

5. As A Feminist Poem

[Q. Evaluate de Souza’s ‘Advice to Women’ as a perfect feminist poem.]

The Post 1947 era witnesses India’s search for her own new identity soon after getting independence and it is partially because she is just a newborn nation. This also affects the writings of the contemporary Indian English Writers and Indian English woman poets are no more exceptions. They also show this search for identity in their poems. But there prevails a difference in thought between earlier generation of woman poets and contemporary women poets.

The poetry of the contemporary new poets is the results of their experience as

a woman in a patriarchal society. Their poetry shows their woman sensibilities, their raising voice in male dominated society, their desire to get freedom, tensions and frustration issuing out from their forced lifestyle. In that period some woman poets made rigorous attempts to map out new terrains for them and their poetry shows different aspects of feminism in their poetry. One such Indian English woman poet is Eunice de Souza.

Having been brought up in a conservative Catholic family in Goa, Eunice de Souza has first-hand experience of the multilayered subjugation that women are subject to. The plight of Indian women in various contexts finds a constant voice throughout her writings. Her earlier poems are representations of the hypocrisy of the value system of the catholic community in India and its unjust treatment of women. These poems reveal the pathetic plight and frustrations which a woman faces because of the patriarchal structure and the discrepancy between the way she wants to behave and the way she is made to behave. Eunice de Souza began with full understanding of the Indian situation in which women have to groan under regimented propositions unlike their male counterparts.

The feminine crisis in the male dominated society and quest for self-expression and recognition has been an underlying factor of the literary works of Indian women in Indian English literature. The rich experiences of feminine identity has been well portrayed in the literary works of Indian women poets Kamala Das, Monica Varma, Suniti Namijoshi, Eunice De Souza, Mamta Kalia Imtiaz Darker and many others. Motivated and inspired by the psychological tragic life of Indian women because of religious and social conventions and gender inequality, these women poets design women characters through their poems. Their poems act as a media of articulation and expression of feminine voice.

The poem strongly reflects her own personal beliefs, as she chose to remain single. De Souza urges her female readers to be happy within themselves, just as cats are, and to handle romantic breakups with the same indifference that cats have toward the world instead of being brokenhearted or depressed when wronged by lovers.

Simone de Beauvoir also said in her book The Second Sex that the situation of woman is that she – a free and an autonomous being like all creatures – nevertheless finds herself living in a world of men, and consequently a sense of alienation and loneliness is felt by many women. The same feeling is explained by Eunice de Souza in these lines of the poem “Advice to Women”: That stare of perpetual surprise / in those great green eyes / will teach you / to die alone. (9-12)

Eunice de Souza has shown her resentment against the conventional practices of marriage of her time which are in practice even today in some sectors of India. But the desire for freedom from the existing social system has ultimately led to a conflict in the minds of these poets. De Souza while defying the norms on one side

has been found to be suppressing her inner desires and trying to smile on the other hand.

The anger and annoyance against the Goan-Catholic community emerge as one of the distinct characteristics of De Souza’s poetry. It is the study of psychoanalytical feminism which helps to understand the process of growth and development of a woman in the society, and how the repressed unconscious desires affect her future life. It has shown that gender is constructed; it is not wholly natural but produced.

The title of the poem ‘Advice to Women’ makes it clear that the poet has asked the women to follow some do’s and don’ts in order to keep their calm. This poem is typical of de Souza’s work which rarely drifts beyond the particular, the identifiable object. The writing style is sheer drama, using the seemingly transparent language of spoken English, without any conceits and attempted graces – which make her poems a sheer pleasure to read aloud.

Eunice’s poetry reflects the quest for identity, position and location of women in society, their spatial identity and self-assertion. It is in a way a kind of universality of female identity and masculinist (the thundering ‘preacher’) oppression set in motion of postcolonial encounter.

Eunice’s poetry is against the biological determination of woman by her body and sex. She negates the passivity and inertness that defines the females in a pseudo-religious genderist society. The gender difference has been through a thousand year project of socialization of the biological and of biologising the social which reverses the relation between cause and effect.

De Beauvoir asserts: She (woman) is defined and differentiated with reference to man and not he with reference to her; she is the incidental, the inessential as opposed to the essential. He is the Subject, he is the Absolute-she is the other. Susan Frank Person addresses in favour of “The correction to the gender blindness of man-made ethics” which is “the re-admittance of woman, not as different moral subjects to be set alongside men, but as ones whose sphere of activity comes to define what the moral subject is in itself”.

6. Symbolism in the Poem

[Q. What does the cat signify? Discuss elaborately.

Or, Q. Comment on the symbol of a cat in the poem ‘Advice to Women’.]

Eunice de so souza is a confessional poet as she expresses her anguish, her frustration, her depression. She unlocks her heart to show her pain and also to get some relief from emotional and psychological point of view. She shows that a woman always remains in a kind of dilemma. She wants to give pleasure and happiness as a daughter, a wife and a mother to her respective families. She shows her personal life experience and tries to communicate to the whole woman being socially, culturally and politically.

Woman is epitome of beauty and this beauty is caged. She says that from childhood women are taught to fear the male and this fear causes delusion in terms of persecutions. She comments on almost all the incidents in a woman’s life. Naturally marriage comes through her scrutiny, She shows that marriages are made.

Cat, the symbol of mysterious aloneness, is linked with women. Cats are absolutely remarkable creatures, content to remain on their own within themselves, seeking neither refuge nor craving for love. They are the symbols of domesticity and passivity. They take what is offered, and when the offerings are stopped, they just as carelessly and stubbornly walk away alone. The following lines metaphorically give the picture of such miserable conditions of women: “That stare of perpetual surprise / in those great green eyes / will teach you / to die alone. (“Advice to Women” 9-12)

Otherness is not always neglected. From cats many things can be learnt. Great green eyes teach many more things. An amazing perceptional poem is wisely penned by Eunice de Souza.

Cats are not easy to pet and they are masters of their own will. So the poetess asks the women to keep a pet cat and notice its behaviour and physicalities in order to keep their calm and make them understand their partner’s actions. Cats do what they will, you cannot control or command a cat like any other domestic pet. This, in turn, will make the women understand why they should not try to control their partner/lovers’ behaviour nor think of any cursed or unfortunate situations.

Eunice de Souza emerges as a very well known feministic poet who shows how women are treated in a society under patriarchal domination. She is a poet with rebellious and feminine sensibilities as sometimes she is confessional, sometimes she shows gender biasness and differences, and sometimes women’s sense of alienation.

In conclusion, the poetess wants the women to keep their patience and try to tolerate their lovers’ indifferent behaviour calmly and understandably. The cat as a pet will create a level of calmness and patience in them. Whenever they will feel that their lovers are neglecting them or avoiding them, they can easily understand the situation and act accordingly then. Therefore, if they keep patience, everything will be easier for a woman.

7. The Cat and the Advice

[Q. Discuss how Eunice de Souza advises women to take up the attitude of a petty cat.]

Ferdinand expresses her attitude towards the poetry of De Souza ?There are poems which speak of failure, isolation, disintegration and loss. She has attempted to come out of her traumas through her poetry. Her self-expression gets completely exposed, stripped of all gloss and her sense of betrayal. Keep Cats if you want to cape with the otherness of lovers. (-Advice to Women 1-3).

The-otherness of women seems to be the chief concern in Advice to Women: Keep cats if you want to learn to cope with the otherness of lovers Otherness is not

always neglect- Cats return to their litter trays when they need to. (?Advice to Women 1-6)

The poetess uses simple everyday images in the poem ‘Advice to Women’. The necessity to cope with life in a different way like the attitude of a cat is the suggestion what she gives to the women. So she advised them to keep cats as pets because we are all familiar with the characteristics and behaviour of a cat.

Cats are always known for proud or haughty behaviour. It is really necessary to have the quality of patience in order to tend or look after a cat. Thus, in order to cultivate that level of patience which will help women to cope with the ‘otherness of their lovers, or the patriarchal society at large, she should tend cats.

upon The poetess further proceeds to state that ‘otherness is not always neglect’. It could also indicate the indifferent attitude of a woman’s lover. Thus, she calls women to tolerate the otherness of her lover and have patience for their return. Women should possess this feline attitude and this should be her reaction when she is ignored or lovelost. It should also help them to deal easily if their lovers are indifferent to them.

Further, she moves on by stating the ‘litter trays’ of the cats. The cats return to their familiar litter trays whenever they need to. This imagery depicts the act of clinginess that is nurtured by a cat. It insists the human to adhere to it too. The imagery also suggests that women are the beauty of the world and that beauty is encaged under the persecution of life.

The narrator says that the women enjoy playing the role of a daughter, wife and mother in her whole life and just like cats, the so called patriarchal society would definitely return to her when they will be in need of her. They just can’t lead their life without the support of a woman. So, instead of showing anger, just like cats, the women should not be angry at men or use offensive language against such patriarchal behaviour.

In the concluding lines of the poem, the narrator states that ‘That stare of perpetual surprise in those great green eyes will teach you to die alone’. These lines bring out the imagery of indifferent and callous attitude that cats show towards life. So the poet insists that it is this indifference that the women should imbibe. The most important trait is the ability to hide their pain and suffering very well and still, carry longstanding surprise in their eyes. It points out to the essential loneliness of women’s existence and the need to accept it as a fact.

Poet’s confessional mode here reveals the insecurity of her mind. She seems to be yearning for peace and comfort at the price of her inner and suppressed desires, however there is a constant undercurrent of frustration and tension. An increasing awareness made them raise their voice against inequality and oppression. This new generation of women poets have emerged as – unafraid, motivated of feminist ideologies. The conflict in their minds between feminist learning and tradition

bound roles has left them bewildered and perplexed.

The poetry appears as an expression of the psychic striptease of a woman who is denied what she hungers after. The poets are revealing their dilemma without hesitations. Eunice de Souza’s poems are major attempts to invoke introspections and subjective reflections in the readers. She adopts an observant tone with a detached voice and underlying rage in her poems. She expresses her resentment against the Goan-Catholic society in this way that it makes her tone strident.

8. Critical Estimate

[Q. Analyse critically and illustratively Eunice de Souza’s confessional poem ‘Advice to Women’.]

The poet in “Advice to Women” focuses on the otherness of women and comments ironically. The Poet’s confessional mode here divulges her mind’s insecurity. She seems to be longing for comfort and peace at the cost of her suppressed and inner desires, but there is a constant tinge of tension and frustration.

A growing awareness made her raise her voice against oppression and inequality. The new generation of women poets have emerged as motivated, unafraid of feminist ideologies. The conflict in their minds between tradition-bound roles and between feminist learning have left them perplexed and bewildered –

The poetry appears as a countenance of the emotional striptease of a woman who is deprived of what she craves after. The poet is making known her dilemma without reluctance. D’Souza’s poems are crucial attempts to invoke subjective reflections and introspection in the readers.

She adopts an observant tone with a detached voice and underlying fury in her poems. She articulates her dislike against the Goan-Catholic society in this way which makes her tone vociferous. Several of her poems are the revelation of her harsh attitude.

The narrator says that the women enjoy playing the role of a daughter, wife and mother in her whole life and just like cats, the so called patriarchal society would definitely return to her when they will be in need of her. They just can’t lead their life without the support of a woman. So, instead of showing anger, just like cats, the women should not be angry at men or use offensive language against such patriarchal behaviour.

In the concluding lines of the poem, the narrator states that ‘That stare of perpetual surprise in those great green eyes will teach you to die alone. These lines bring out the imagery of indifferent and callous attitude that cats show towards life. So the poet insists that it is this indifference that the women should imbibe. The most important trait is the ability to hide their pain and suffering very well and still, carry longstanding surprise in their eyes. It points out to the essential loneliness of women’s existence and the need to accept it as a fact.

Poet’s confessional mode here reveals the insecurity of her mind. She seems to be yearning for peace and comfort at the price of her inner and suppressed desires, however there is a constant undercurrent of frustration and tension. An increasing awareness made them raise their voice against inequality and oppression. This new generation of women poets have emerged as unafraid, motivated of feminist ideologies. The conflict in their minds between feminist learning and traditionbound roles has left them bewildered and perplexed.

Renate defines Eunice De Souza?s poems in a unique way. High poetic techniques, preference for images, snap shot resemblance, vivid description of specified people and places, quoted conversations and presence of natural Indian English idioms are the characteristics of De Souza poems. The fragmentation produced in her poems possesses higher skills of histrionics than imperative statements. The narrative style of her poems is complimented by lyrical sense.

 

                                                                  MARKS-5

1. Discuss the significance of the cat in the poem.

Cat is an ‘objective correlative’ in the poem ‘Advice to Women’. The term was first introduced by T. S. Eliot in his essay “Hamlet and His Problems” in 1919. The term refers to a set of objects, a situation, or a chain of events which shall be the formula of a particular emotion. In this poem, the cat expresses the passive attitude of lovers or men in particular, and loneliness of women.

Cat, the symbol of mysterious aloneness, is linked with women. Cats are absolutely remarkable creatures, content to remain on their own within themselves, seeking neither refuge nor craving for love. They are the symbols of domesticity and passivity. They take what is offered, and when the offerings are stopped, they just as carelessly and stubbornly walk away alone. The following lines metaphorically give the picture of such miserable conditions of women: “That stare of perpetual surprise / in those great green eyes / will teach you / to die alone. (“Advice to Women” 9-12) Otherness is not always neglected. From cats many things can be learnt. Great green eyes teach many more things. An amazing perceptional poem is wisely penned by Eunice de Souza.

Cats are not easy to pet and they are masters of their own will. So the poetess asks the women to keep a pet cat and notice its behaviour and physicalities in order to keep their calm and make them understand their partner’s actions. Cats do what they will, you cannot control or command a cat like any other domestic pet. This, in turn, will make the women understand why they should not try to control their partner/lovers’ behaviour nor think of any cursed or unfortunate situations.

2. What are the major themes of the poem?

The major themes that are distinctly discussed in the poem ‘Advice to Women’ are the isolation and alienation felt by women in the absence of their lovers. When they are neglected or ignored by their loved ones, the women tend to become restless, unhappy and anxious. To overcome the loss of freedom and individuality in the patriarchal society is another important theme in this poem. The poet suggests the readers, especially the women readers, not ‘becoming a woman’ is the ultimate option for a peaceful existence. 

3. What ‘advice’ does the poet give to women?

The speaker advises the women to keep cats as pets in order to make themselves patient and peaceful. As they get restless in the little nuances or indifferences of their partners or lovers. Therefore they start feeling alone and neglect themselves. Women think their lovers are trying to avoid them. So, whenever they think like this, the speaker advised them to keep their attention to the pet cat. In this way, they can easily overlook the lovers’ behaviour ar and won’t be restless as before. If the women notice the behaviour of a cat, they always come back to their ‘litter trays’ or the domestic place whenever they feel the need. The lovers will also come back in their life if they keep patience. The speaker also advises the women not to lose their mind and think of annoying or cursing any other person if their lover is busy in some other things. Instead they should talk to them and handle the situation carefully. The green big eyes of the cat can help women how to keep calm and cool of mind while living alone.

4. How can women benefit from accepting the attitude of a cat towards life?

The narrator says that the women enjoy playing the role of a daughter, wife and mother in her whole life and just like cats, the so called patriarchal society would definitely return to her when they will be in need of her. They just can’t lead their life without the support of a woman. So, instead of showing anger, just like cats, the women should not be angry at men or use offensive language against such patriarchal behaviour.

In the concluding lines of the poem, the narrator states that ‘That stare of perpetual surprise in those great green eyes will teach you to die alone’. These lines bring out the imagery of indifferent and callous attitude that cats show towards life. So the poet insists that it is this indifference that the women should imbibe. The most important trait is the ability to hide their pain and suffering very well and still, carry longstanding surprise in their eyes. It points out to the essential loneliness of women’s existence and the need to accept it as a fact.

5. Comment on the ending of the poem.

In the concluding lines of the poem, the narrator states that ‘That stare of perpetual surprise in those great green eyes will teach you to die alone’. These lines

bring out the imagery of indifferent and callous attitude that cats show towards life. So the poet insists that it is this indifference that the women should imbibe. The most important trait is the ability to hide their pain and suffering very well and still, carry longstanding surprise in their eyes. It points out to the essential loneliness of women’s existence and the need to accept it as a fact.

Eunice de Souza, like Plath, uses poetry as an instrument of catharsis or mental purgation, for getting rid of her inhibitions and obsessions, which hinder the progress of life. To her, poetry also becomes a vehicle of religious experience, which finds its outlet in the poems dealing with the mythical love. Like Plath, De Souza finds confessional mode, a perfect medium for ventilating her struggle, her suicidal instinct. But Plath’s wish of death is stronger than De Souza. Her life experiences produce in her an acute sense of depression, making her fed up with life.

SHORT TYPE QUESTIONS Marks-2

1. Who is the poet? What do you know about her?

Eunice de Souza wrote ‘Advice to Women’.

Eunice de Souza has been widely acknowledged as one of the best Indian poets writing in English. She was a poet, novelist, leading literary critic born in 1940 and raised in Pune, in a Goan Catholic family.

 

2. When and where was the poem originally published?

Eunice de Souza’s short and terse poem ‘Advice to Women’ was published in her collection of poems Ways of Belonging on 15th March, 1990.

3. Who is the poem for?

The poem as understood by the name is women-centric.

4. What does the poem compare?

The poem Advice to Women by Eunice D’Souza compares a cat’s arrogantly indifferent attitude towards life, the universe and all things to what a woman’s reaction should be when rejected by her lover.

5. What does the speaker suggest to keep?

Cats.

6. Who should keep the cats?

Women.

7. Why should women keep cats?

The speaker advises the women to keep cats as pets in order to make themselves patient and peaceful.

8. What do lovers make of women?

The women get restless in the little nuances or indifferences of their partners

or lovers. Therefore they start feeling alone and neglect themselves.

9. What do the women think when they get ignored by their lovers?

Women think their lovers are trying to avoid them.

10. Why will the cat be helpful in such a situation?

So, whenever they think like this, the speaker advised them to keep their attention to the pet cat. In this way, they can easily overlook the lovers’ behaviour and won’t be restless as before.

11. Where do the cats come back in the hour of need?

Their litter trays.

12. Who shall come back like the cat?

The lovers will also come back in their life if they keep patience.

13. What is ‘cuss’?

‘Cuss’ means to use abusive words or curse someone.

14. Who do the women cuss?

Their enemies.

15. Why should the women not curse?

The speaker also advises the women not to lose their mind and think of annoying or cursing any other person if their lover is busy in some other things.

16. What should they do instead?

Instead they should talk to the lovers and handle the situation carefully.

17. What does the poet suggest to notice particularly about the physicality of the cat?

Their great green eyes.

18. What is there to look in the eyes of a cat?

There’s calm, a sense of constant and stillness in the cat’s eyes.

19. Why should women notice a cat’s eyes?

The green big eyes of the cat can help women how to keep calm and cool of mind while living alone.

20. What does the poet mean by ‘to die alone’? Why does she say so?

To exist alone. We are familiar with the fact that we are born alone and we are going to die alone’ too. So one has to fight alone between the two poles – birth and death – in order to sustain oneself. So the poet insists that all women should possess these qualities so that she does not carry the fear of existing alone and also die alone.

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