Bird’s eye-view- The Intrusion
Shashi Deshpande’s “The Intrusion” is an outcry of a newly-wed woman who could not protect herself from her insensitive husband intrusion into her body. It is an invasion of her husband. The Intrusion into her body was an act of violence where her ‘self’ was suppressed. In this act of intrusion, her husband is the intruder. “The Intrusion” is a short story that was published with the short story collection The Intrusion and Other Stories.
The Intrusion by Shashi Deshpande – Summary
The short story “The Intrusion” begins with a description of a journey. They were a newly married couple who barely knew each other. The narrator along with her husband are on their honeymoon trip. They go through a narrow path, it was so narrow that if they stretched their arms they could touch the tiny houses on both sides. They crossed a fishing village. They reached the end of the lane, turned right, and there was the sea in front of them. The narrator was feeling uneasy about her companion.
“Isn’t this nice?” he asked her with a smile. Yes was the reply from her side. The man asked her if she wanted anything. She asked for tea. Silence prevailed in the room between these them and even made two of them uneasy. He suddenly burst into speech, told her how fortunate he was to get this place for their honeymoon.
He was exultant and said that it was luck that one of the top executives, who was supposed to be there, had canceled his trip at the last minute. He was happy that they had “Complete privacy”. He kept telling without noticing her feelings. She turned her face from the beds.
The sheets looked dirty and even the pillow covers were disgustingly greasy. She wanted to ask him to change them but she couldn’t. She imagined of the situation where the man gave her meaningful looks which she did not want, and later, when, he would discuss with the other servants. “And all of them would make bawdy jokes and laugh aloud.”
She lied back in the chair, and she was having only the thought of being at home. The tea arrived. It smelt of kerosene, so did the bread and butter. She felt very hungry and her hunger reminded her of the sweets that her mother had packed for her. She ate the sweets before him like a greedy schoolgirl and satisfied her hunger.
Suddenly he broke her thought by asking why she was so silent. She told him that she was a little tired with an awkward smile. She wondered if she had said, “Now that I’ve had my tea, can I go home?” He came closer, looked concerned, and put his arm around her, but awkwardly, firmly. She tried to move but she could not. “Through his glasses, his eyes had a sardonic gleam that frightened me.” “It’s a bit stuffy here, isn’t it?” She got up, tried to sound casual. She suggested that they should go out to the veranda.
It was the last moment of the day. She suggested suddenly that they should go down to the sea. He was surprised to hear that and suggested that they should go in the morning. He smiled at me and said it was going to be dark soon. He put his arm around her waist. “You don’t really want to go down, do you? It was said in my ear, almost a whisper, and it sickened me, like those furtive touches and glances from faceless, nameless men in crowds. My mind shied like a frightened horse from the words, from the thought.”
He pulled at her arms into the room. Someone had made the beds. Upon seeing the bed she thought of her own narrow bed at home and of how she would lie on it, curled into a comfortable ball, reading into the late hours of the night. She felt a constriction in her throat, a longing for all the things she had left behind her forever. He was not concerned by her state of emotion and noisily opening his suitcase, took out some clothes, and went in to change.
She sat quietly for a minute, then flew to the veranda, and leaning against the wooden railings, tugging savagely at her hair. She wished if she were anywhere but she is stuck there with a strange man in a strange room. “Wishing that I could project myself into the future, gulf this intervening time and become all at once an experienced, mature woman; one who would not turn a hair at anything.”
Resistance to the Intrusion
He asked her to change her clothes. She went unwillingly into the room. She again opened the door to the veranda. He wanted her to stay with him and she went again unwillingly to him. He suddenly held his arms were around her, his embrace was too sudden, too rough that she was hurt and wanted to cry out.
“I turned my face away from him, trying to escape, so that the kiss he intended for my lips landed in the air. He let me go abruptly.” There was a foolish, angry look on his face. His glasses had fallen down in the struggle. She silently picked them up and gave them to him. He wiped them and put them on and finally burst out into protest that she why she was avoiding him.
“Don’t think I haven’t noticed it. Ever since we came here you’ve been…been…avoiding me,’ he ended lamely.” She denied his accusation. “What’s the problem? Why are you acting so strange? I felt contrite at the sight of his bewildered face.” She stood silent and “We…we scarcely know each other, I stammered at last.”
“He seemed extremely shocked. “And how will we start getting to know each other if you put on such a touch-me-nottish air?” But she wanted to say that she wanted to know all about him. She stammered as she tried to explain, she flushed, she almost burst into tears looking at his angry face. “The eager look in his eyes died as I spoke, and finally he turned away from me, violently flung himself on a bed and lay there still. I felt as if I had committed a crime, yet there was a light-hearted sense of escape, too.”
She went quietly to her bed and tried to sleep, “But how can I, with a man I scarcely know? It’s not fair, I thought angrily. It’s indecent. He should have given me some time.”
She felt sleepy after some time. At midnight she was struggling out of a confused dream that she was lying there on the beach, where she had so longed to go and that the waves were hitting her hard. When she woke up and realized that the sound of the sea was real, but she was not on the beach instead she was on a bed.
She realized that it was not the sea that was pounding her body but her husband. She put her hands on his chest to push him away, but it was heavy like moving a rock, she was helpless. “There was no talk, no word between us- just this relentless pounding. At last, mercifully, it was over, she looked at him. “He was lying on his back, legs flung apart, snoring loudly and steadily.”
The Intrusion by Shashi Deshpande – Analysis
The parents of the narrator are the products of conservative society for whom marriage is a burden on their heads. For them the sooner the better. In the arrangement of marriage, a girl is like a commodity between two groups. In “The Intrusion” the narrator’s mother-in-law wants someone who is “simple but sophisticated.”
According to her, his wife must be able to entertain and mingle with foreigners. She selected her since she fulfills their requirements. Her parents happily accepted the proposal. For them, someone who works in a foreign company is a perfect husband for their daughter. Her preference has no importance in front of her economical security.
The consent of the bride in marriage had no place; it had been taken for granted. Nobody wanted to know what she thought about the proposal. She could not protest properly about her disagreement with her father before marriage.
When she had approached her father a few days before the wedding to let him know her disagreement about the proposal, he wanted to know the reason and what she wanted to do instead. She had a thousand answers, but had no answer to the question “What’s wrong with him?” He said quietly, “I have two more daughters to be married.” For him, marriages of his three daughters were his only concern.
She finally had to take it for granted. She is reduced to a nameless thing that had no existence. Therefore in the patriarchal society, she is marginalized not only after marriage but also before her marriage.
In “The Intrusion” Shashi Deshpande highlights the husband-wife relation where she is supposed to follow the conventions submissively. The husband looked happy and excited from the beginning of their journey because he knew he could exert his rights on his wife. Her willingness, preference had no value in front of his hunger.
From the very beginning of the story “The Intrusion” the protagonist was aware of her sexual role which she was feeling constant uneasiness. During their journey, once she stopped and stared at him, then he stopped too, and looked at her with a very slight impatience “which aroused the faintest wisp of annoyance in me.” She was conscious of an unreasonable pang of irritation against him.
Therefore from the very beginning, there was a series of resistance on her part. For instance, during their walk on sand, he held her arm to help her to walk in sand; she wanted him to release her arm from his tightening grip. Therefore in order to loosen his hold, she bent down to pick up sea-shell.
Moreover, though he was in the room she had looked away from him, she was painfully aware of “a secret smile, a smirk on his face that showed an awareness of what we had come here for”.
In order to counter her thought, she suddenly wished the servant, who had come to ask for tea, had not gone from the room. She was feeling discomfort to have ‘sex’ with a man, who barely knew each other. Her husband’s emphasizing ‘complete privacy’ with a smile and sickened her completely. She was experiencing fears, tremors. As a result, she turned her face from the beds.
To escape from the turmoil, she longed to go to the sea. She thought about a distant future where he would swim and call out to her in a lazy and friendly way and to which she would respond with a wave and a smile. But at present, they were not friends, but only a husband and wife. They had not even heard of each other a month back. But his calling out her name with a tone of familiarly and authority surprised her.
His whisper sickened her like “those furtive touches and glances from faceless, nameless men in crowds.” She was feeling discomfort as there was something insinuating in his tone, something eager and excited about him that put her off. He was disappointed with her for not changing her clothes.
The protagonist was mentally unprepared for her sexual role. There was painful silence between the newly married couple because they hardly knew each other. She at first wanted to form an intimate friendship through which both could know each other. She wanted to know all about him: what he thought, what he felt and why he agreed to marry her, his likes, and his similarities with her. But she could not say a single word. She thought even if she told, he would not hear her.
She could not tell him how shy and frightened she was to expose the mysteries of her body to him and how homesick she was for her mother’s face, her father’s laughter, and her sisters’ chatter. She wanted to build a friendly relationship with him. “While I wished to talk now, sitting up the whole night, so that in the morning we could smile at each other like old friends.”
But her insensitive husband was unaware of her feelings. According to him, being married is enough for him. When he realized that his wife was avoiding him, he demanded the reason for doing so, her stammering “We …. we scarcely know each other” was her attempt to build a friendly relationship. Contrary to her expectation, she received the opposite reaction from her husband. She almost burst into tears looking at his angry face. She felt as if she committed a crime.
She wished that she could be back home, wished she were anywhere except that place. Although the erotic images from the book that she read before marriage were disturbing her mind, yet she was reluctant to engage in physical intimacy. She wondered if she was a frigid woman that she had read about. She would return to her parents’ home. She would become black sheep of the family and her sisters’ marriages would never happen for her and her parents would be disgraced.
An act of intrusion- Justification of the title
The physical hunger in the husband in “The Intrusion” made him go against his wife’s will and fulfilled his lust. The protagonist was forced to cooperate with her husband in their respective sexual roles. When she denied, his sexual act turns into an act of brutality, an act of intrusion. His act of intrusion was no less than a rape; a legalized rape.
She was raped when she was sleeping. She wanted to cry out not for the physical pain, but for the intrusion into her privacy, the violation of her right to herself. His movements had the same rhythm, the same violence as the movements of the sea; yet sea could hurt but not humiliate like that act of intrusion. His selfish act of hunger becomes an act of intrusion.
Thus the story “The Intrusion” expresses the nasty experience of a helpless married woman and Shashi Deshpande voices out to the domestic issue of marital rape which often is suppressed under the feet of patriarchy.
Deshpande, Shashi. “The Intrusion”, The Intrusion and Other Stories. Penguin.
Upadhyay, Purvi N., 2008, “Portrayal of Woman in the Short Stories of Shashi Deshpande and Varsha Adalja: A Comparative Study”, thesis PhD, SaurashtraUniversity.