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An Introduction by Kamala Das

Kamala Das’ poem “An Introduction” was first published almost more than half a century ago in 1965 in one of her notable books of poetry, Summer in Calcutta. Being one of her earliest works, it strongly addressed some of Das’ most prominent ideas in the rawest form possible. This purely confessional poem clearly portrays her cry to achieve a sense of freedom in life. The voice that narrates the poem is clear, direct, sharp, and unhesitant. In spite of being highly personal and revolving around the poet’s own experiences, this poem makes an attempt to cover almost all social, political, cultural, as well as, emotional grounds.

  • Read the full text of “An Introduction” below:
An Introduction
by Kamala Das

I don't know politics but I know the names
Of those in power, and can repeat them like
Days of week, or names of months, beginning with
Nehru. I am Indian, very brown, born in 
Malabar, I speak three languages, write in
Two, dream in one. Don't write in English, they said,
English is not your mother-tongue. Why not leave
Me alone, critics, friends, visiting cousins,
Every one of you? Why not let me speak in
Any language I like? The language I speak,
Becomes mine, its distortions, its queernesses
All mine, mine alone. It is half English, half
Indian, funny perhaps, but it is honest,
It is as human as I am human, don't
You see? It voices my joys, my longings, my
Hopes, and it is useful to me as cawing
Is to crows or roaring to the lions, it
Is human speech, the speech of the mind that is
Here and not there, a mind that sees and hears and
Is aware. Not the deaf, blind speech
Of trees in storm or of monsoon clouds or of rain or the
Incoherent mutterings of the blazing
Funeral pyre. I was child, and later they
Told me I grew, for I became tall, my limbs
Swelled and one or two places sprouted hair. When
I asked for love, not knowing what else to ask
For, he drew a youth of sixteen into the
Bedroom and closed the door, He did not beat me
But my sad woman-body felt so beaten.
The weight of my breasts and womb crushed me. I shrank
Pitifully. Then… I wore a shirt and my
Brother's trousers, cut my hair short and ignored
My womanliness. Dress in sarees, be girl,
Be wife, they said. Be embroiderer, be cook,
Be a quarreller with servants. Fit in. Oh,
Belong, cried the categorizers. Don't sit
On walls or peep in through our lace-draped windows.

Be Amy, or be Kamala. Or, better
Still, be Madhavikutty. It is time to
Choose a name, a role. Don't play pretending games.
Don't play at schizophrenia or be a
Nympho. Don't cry embarrassingly loud when
Jilted in love… I met a man, loved him. Call
Him not by any name, he is every man
Who wants a woman, just as I am every
Woman who seeks love. In him… the hungry haste
Of rivers, in me… the oceans' tireless
Waiting. Who are you, I ask each and everyone,
The answer is, it is I. Anywhere and,
Everywhere, I see the one who calls himself
I; in this world, he is tightly packed like the
Sword in its sheath. It is I who drink lonely
Drinks at twelve, midnight, in hotels of strange towns,
It is I who laugh, it is I who make love
And then, feel shame, it is I who lie dying
With a rattle in my throat. I am sinner,
I am saint. I am the beloved and the
Betrayed. I have no joys which are not yours, no
Aches which are not yours. I too call myself I.

- from Selected Poems
Analysis of An Introduction by Kamala Das


Summary

“An Introduction” is tangled from the very beginning in both history and memory. Das begins the poem with a sarcastic note indicating the broken political scene of the 1960s. She mentions that she does not know politics but can tell the names of popular political leaders like Nehru, just like one can tell the names of the days of the week. This sarcasm is underlined with a more serious socio-political stance that deserves notice as Das throws light on the position of women and how they were kept unaware even under the rule of such a government.

Das then moves around her personality, informing readers of her multi-lingual background and how it makes her who she is. She claims that every language she speaks is her own. Even if there is some distortion in the language, it should not be considered a flaw; it is the uniqueness of the speaker’s voice that counts. This line of thought is further continued with the idea that she is unafraid of what society expects from her. Das is essentially mentioning that she is her own person.

Going further, Das elaborates upon her growth years, and the difficulties she had to encounter as a young wife. She mentions how often she was made fun of and embarrassed publicly for choosing not to follow the social/patriarchal norm. Her personality and her life, although to be fair, should have been her own, but Das reminds readers about how it was always subject to public scrutiny and unsolicited advice from everyone she knew. Her struggles to “fit in” and perform her “womanly” duties in a male-dominated society find unaltered space and importance in Das’ poetry. She refuses to be put in binaries and compartments of identity. Her desire to attain freedom and discover her “self” is rightfully expressed in the poem.

Finally, Das brings the poem to an end on the exact same notes that the beginning and the center of her poem explicitly stress, i.e., “I.” The struggle between her “self” and the world at large heightens towards the end, eventually blurring the lines between where her original self begins and ends. She is, therefore, the “sinner” and the “saint”; she is the one who is both loved and betrayed. The concluding lines of the poem still ring the song of protest. Das’ voice is still loud and resilient in her cause. Ultimately, “An Introduction” is almost the portrayal of a quest to discover the “self” and Das effectively takes all the right steps in the right directions.

Structure & Form

“An Introduction” is a fifty-nine-line poem that consists of two stanzas. The first 37 lines comprise the first stanza and the remaining 22 lines form the second. The poem does not follow any particular metrical pattern. Das also refrains from using a set rhyming pattern. The length and number of syllables in the lines also vary widely, making it a poem in free verse. Employing such a structure makes it simpler for the poet to experiment with different frameworks and more erratic rhymes. Other than that, the poem contains a number of half-rhymes and internal rhymes.

Literary Devices & Poetic Techniques

Enjambment

In poetry, enjambment or the use of run-on lines refers to the continuation of a sentence, a line of thought, or an idea from one line to the other without any pause or punctuation breaks. Das, in her free-flowing verse, efficiently makes use of this poetic device. Most of her poems, for instance, “An Introduction” go on like paragraphs without any full halts. They often read like a single portion of speech or a continuous chain of thoughts without any demarcations in place.

The poet successfully employs this technique in a significant number of places. It occurs in the following instances. The run-on transition is clearly noticeable in these lines quoted below:

I don’t know politics but I know the names

Of those in power, and can repeat them like

Days of the week, or names of months, beginning with

Nehru.

(…)

I am saint. I am the beloved and the

Betrayed. I have no joys which are not yours, no

Aches which are not yours. I too call myself I.

Anaphora

Anaphora is a figure of speech that features the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of successive sentences or clauses. In “An Introduction,” readers find that Das strategically uses the words “I am” or the phrase “It is I” in multiple places throughout the course of the poem to convey, emphasize, and even reinforce the meaning of the “self”:

It is I who laugh, it is I who make love

And then, feel shame, it is I who lie dying

With a rattle in my throat. I am sinner,

I am saint. I am the beloved and the

In this conversational poem, the use of anaphora also provides a sense of rhythm and flow to the text making it more engaging.

Repetition

In addition to the already discussed techniques, Das also employs repetition at different places for better articulation and understanding of certain other traits of her personality. She repeatedly uses the words “language,” “English,” and “mine” in the beginning in order to highlight the roots of her multilingual identity:

I speak three languages, write in

Two, dream in one. Don’t write in English, they said,

English is not your mother-tongue…

…Why not let me speak in

Any language I like? The language I speak,

Becomes mine, its distortions, its queernesses

All mine, mine alone.

The repetition of “mine” further stresses the importance of self: her desires and her choices that society very conveniently shunned.

Allusion 

Allusion, in poetry, is referred to as the brief, implied, or indirect reference to a place, person, event, thing, or any other literary work readers are presumably aware of. “An Introduction” by Kamala Das is an autobiographical and confessional poem, this provides the poet the space and opportunity to refer to events and things with a greater sense of ease. Hence, it is right to mention that Das fully explored this literary device in the poem, such as in the very beginning:

…I know the names

Of those in power, and can repeat them like

Days of week, or names of months, beginning with

Nehru.

Das alludes to the political figures of the time, such as Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, who was in his position from 1950 to 1964.

Imagery

Imagery is a literary device employed to characterize the aspects of writing that engage readers’ senses. Strong sensory words are utilized in this stylistic technique to create a distinct mental picture for the readers, making them feel what the poet is trying to communicate in the composition. In her poems, Das incorporates a number of images and symbols. Her imagery is concise, sensual, allegorical, and expressive. In her poetry, she effectively uses images that influence the six senses: sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell.

The essence of such imagery elevates “An Introduction.” There is an abundance of visual imagery that occurs in:

Of trees in storm or of monsoon clouds or of rain or the

Incoherent mutterings of the blazing

Funeral pyre.

There is also evidence of auditory imagery in “cawing is to crows” and “roaring is to lions.” This transports readers to a completely different time and place. Apart from that, one of the most distinguished imagery in Das’ poetry is that of the human body, especially the female body.

Symbolism

The use of an object to represent something other than its literal meaning is known as symbolism. It’s an impactful poetic technique created by the vivid and creative articulation of reality. This poem brims with the mention of such symbols representing the struggles of women, their suppressed desires, and their innumerable efforts to escape from the clutches of the patriarchal society.

Das voices her desires wrapped in the delicate fabric of words. She portrays her longing for love, temptations, and endless yearning by comparing it to the “oceans’ tireless waiting” and that of her lover’s to the “hungry haste of rivers.” The vast and tireless ocean in this regard becomes a symbol representing the patient life that she led seeking and waiting for love. She also makes use of symbols like “Incoherent mutterings of the blazing/ Funeral pyre,” which resonates with the strong and disapproving theme that runs in the poem.

Alliteration

Das uses alliteration from the very beginning of the poem, such as in “them like/ Days” and “very brown, born.” Here the “d” and “b” sounds are repeated in neighboring words. It also occurs in the following instances:

  • critics, friends, visiting cousins”
  • language I like”
  • cawing/ is to crows”
  • beat me/ But my sad woman-body felt so beaten”
  • “be cook,/ Be a quarreller”
  • cried the categorizers”
  • play pretending games”
  • loud when/ Jilted in love”
  • met a man”
  • hungry haste”
  • Sword in its sheath”
  • sinner,/ I am saint”
  • beloved and the/ Betrayed”


Line-by-Line Explanation & Critical Analysis

Lines 1-6

I don’t know politics but I know the names

Of those in power, and can repeat them like

Days of week, or names of months, beginning with

Nehru. I am Indian, very brown, born in

Malabar, I speak three languages, write in

Two, dream in one.

Das starts off her poem “An Introduction” by stating that while she is unfamiliar with politics, she is well-versed in the rulers of her nation, for instance, Jawaharlal Nehru. Considering Indian politics has historically been dominated by men, she has learned the names of all the politicians by heart like the days of the week or the names of months. These lines symbolize how men have ruled the country without granting women the same rights.

In the next lines, the speaker elaborates on her own life. She introduces herself as an Indian. She claims to have a brown complexion and to have been born in Malabar, a southern administrative district in British India. She informs the reader how unaffected she is by regional prejudices, initially defining herself by her nationality, and then by her skin color. Furthermore, she defends her freedom to speak three languages and her decision to write in two of them: Malayalam, her mother tongue, and English. She emphasizes the sense of being an Indian in this way.

Lines 6-12

Don’t write in English, they said,

English is not your mother-tongue. Why not leave

Me alone, critics, friends, visiting cousins,

Every one of you? Why not let me speak in

Any language I like? The language I speak,

Becomes mine, its distortions, its queernesses

All mine, mine alone.

In these lines, Das mentions how her friends and relatives anger her by advising her to speak in her mother tongue, Malayalam, rather than in English. She employs English in her writings because she is fluent in that language. Her friends, relatives, and critics, on the other hand, dislike her habit. They all attack her for writing in English, for it is the language of the colonizers.

This interference in her life brings out her assertiveness. “Leave me alone,” she says. She tells her peers, relatives, and society at large to let her be. She wants them to stop dictating and tracing every step of her life. She inquires as to why they are critical of her. Why is not she allowed to write in whichever language she wants?

Finally, she mentions that language is not an object to be owned by anyone. She will use that language that resonates with her personality the best, as it will be her own: “All mine, mine alone.”

Lines 12-17

It is half English, half

Indian, funny perhaps, but it is honest,

It is as human as I am human, don’t

You see? It voices my joys, my longings, my

Hopes, and it is useful to me as cawing

Is to crows or roaring to the lions,

She writes in her own tongue, which is only complete with all of its flaws, irregularities, and peculiarities. Although the language is not totally English, i.e., it might not always be grammatically correct, she believes it to be at least an honest expression of herself. Her language, just like her own self, is nowhere near perfect. It comes with its own flaws, shortcomings, and strangeness, which is a perfectly acceptable thing.

She follows the “to err is human” motto in her lifestyle and completely accepts her weaknesses because just like her language, they are her own. Furthermore, she elaborates on this stance and mentions how what makes her language unique is it understands her and voices her joys and concerns alike. Her language comes to her as second nature, as roaring does to a lion; she cannot help her instincts and impulses.

Lines 17-23

it

Is human speech, the speech of the mind that is

Here and not there, a mind that sees and hears and

Is aware. Not the deaf, blind speech

Of trees in storm or of monsoon clouds or of rain or the

Incoherent mutterings of the blazing

Funeral pyre.

The speaker goes on to argue that her speech—her English—is human speech that the mind has the capacity to comprehend. Though it has its own defects and flaws, her language cannot totally be considered or counted as a handicap, like not being able to see or hear. Das then takes the next few lines to make the readers understand that her language is not as unexpected as trees in a storm or monsoon clouds. It also does not repeat the raging fire’s incomprehensible mutterings. She stresses that it has its own sense of coherence and unity, one that only unfolds in emotions.

Lines 23-31

I was child, and later they

Told me I grew, for I became tall, my limbs

Swelled and one or two places sprouted hair. When

I asked for love, not knowing what else to ask

For, he drew a youth of sixteen into the

Bedroom and closed the door, He did not beat me

But my sad woman-body felt so beaten.

The weight of my breasts and womb crushed me. I shrank

Pitifully.

In these lines of “An Introduction,” Das moves up a stage in her journey and mentions her married life. Before that, she talks about all the changes that took place in her body, which denoted her transformation from a mere child to a woman. Though her body had undergone significant transformations, it was only after her friends and relatives informed her she had reached the age of adulthood that she realized the change. They made her aware of her bodily growth.

Her stature, as well as, the contour of her body had changed. She grew tall and lovely. Her limbs become swollen. Hair sprouted in one or two spots. She only realized she had grown up since her body started to exhibit womanly changes, according to others. Mentally, she was still the same girl as she was before her body underwent the transformations.

It is only after this reference that readers find out that she was married off relatively young. Her married life seemed torturous and terribly unfulfilling. She could be physically ready, but she was not prepared mentally. Indeed, there were no signs of physical abuse. Mentally and physically, the innocent mind felt broken, tired, and utterly damaged.

Lines 31-37

Then… I wore a shirt and my

Brother’s trousers, cut my hair short and ignored

My womanliness. Dress in sarees, be girl

Be wife, they said. Be embroiderer, be cook,

Be a quarreller with servants. Fit in. Oh,

Belong, cried the categorizers. Don’t sit

On walls or peep in through our lace-draped windows.

After going through a miserable married life, the speaker took it upon herself to process and overcome the pain left by an unhealthy marriage by changing her appearance and giving her personality a twist. She chopped her hair short and dressed in boyish clothes, oblivious to her femininity. People chastised her for her queer appearance and told her she needed to adhere to the stereotypical womanly responsibilities.

Everyone wanted to offer her some advice. Her counselors encouraged her to dress like a lady. They instructed her to wear traditional women’s clothing such as sarees and blouses and live the life of a devoted, condescending wife. She was expected to take up the role of a woman in its traditional sense.

The advisers told her to continue quarreling with the servants while embroidering or cooking. They also advised her to stay active with household chores. Apart from this, society also instructed her to stop being childish and pick one name that defined her role in the world.

Lines 38-48

Be Amy, or be Kamala. Or, better

Still, be Madhavikutty. It is time to

Choose a name, a role. Don’t play pretending games.

Don’t play at schizophrenia or be a

Nympho. Don’t cry embarrassingly loud when

Jilted in love… I met a man, loved him. Call

Him not by any name, he is every man

Who wants woman, just as I am every

Woman who seeks love. In him… the hungry haste

Of rivers, in me… the oceans’ tireless

Waiting.

In the next stanza, Das addresses how society advised her to stop playing silly childish games. They necessarily wanted to put her in a box and compartmentalize the person that she is. Her adapting to varying personalities was not something society could easily digest as it is not the norm. Therefore, she was strongly advised, “Be Amy, or be Kamala… be Madhavikutty.” It was time to take up her gender “role.”

The speaker then goes on to recall a moment when she met and fell in love with a man. She turned to a man with the hope of finding love, but instead of loving and caring for her feelings, he displayed the same sexual desires as the others. Under his passionate sentiments, he also stifled her emotions and desires for love. She discovered through her many interactions later that, just as every woman desire love, every male has the “hungry haste” of carnal desires within. She uses the “ocean” to refer to the deep and patient love she desires as compared to the hasty river-like sexual drives that she keeps encountering in men otherwise.

Lines 48-59

Who are you, I ask each and everyone,

The answer is, it is I. Anywhere and

Everywhere, I see the one who calls himself

I; in this world, he is tightly packed like the

Sword in its sheath. It is I who drink lonely

Drinks at twelve, midnight, in hotels of strange towns,

It is I who laugh, it is I who make love

And then, feel shame, it is I who lie dying

With a rattle in my throat. I am sinner,

I am saint. I am the beloved and the

Betrayed. I have no joys which are not yours, no

Aches which are not yours. I too call myself I.

Toward the end of “An Introduction,” the speaker gets really existential. It is here readers figure that the pronoun “I” holds a great deal of significance for Das. For at one point, at the height of her emotions, Das gets courageous enough to ask the men she is seeing who they really are. Their reply is: “it is I.” The “I” therefore is the representation of the agency men have in the world. In this very line, readers can tell that the line between Das’ self and the all-powerful men gets blurry.

Men, unlike the other sex, are capable enough to make their own decisions and have the ability to get the objects of their desire by hook or by crook. The speaker expresses her desire to be just as free and comfortable as men are. She too wants to be able to drink alone until midnight without being judged. She wants to laugh, satisfy her lust, commit sin, and feel shame. Basically, she wants to do everything that a man is capable of doing. She wants the restrictions that come with being a woman to disappear.

Therefore, she, just like them, wants to be able to claim the label of “I” for herself. In conclusion, she too is a “sinner” and a “saint.” She is the “beloved” and the “betrayed,” just like men. Her joys and sorrows are the same as men. As a result, she takes pride in her choice and unhesitantly calls herself “I,” not a “woman.”

Themes

Finding the “Self”

As far as the theme of the self goes, there is no stone that is left unturned by Kamala Das to make her words count in this department. She is all for finding and exploring the meanings that the self holds for an individual. The theme of self-discovery, independence, and freedom are all explored under the umbrella term “self” in “An Introduction.” Having lived a hard life, Das knew the importance of finally being able to call her body and mind “home.” That’s exactly what she portrays in her poem. Although there are plenty of doubts, hardships, and uncertainties, Das points out that the journey to self-empowerment and growth is the most exhilarating and even fruitful.

Women’s Struggle

In “An Introduction,” Das employs a prominent feministic approach toward everyday life and the world at large. She is the voice of millions of women who are also struggling to find their own voice in society. Das is the meticulous voice leading the revolution toward growth, equality, and empowerment of women. Her strength, her fight to live motive, and the clarity in her opinion make her stance valuable and loud. Women have for far too long been put in cages and compartments. Das is here to break the social stigmas and age-old patriarchal traditions. The wrongdoings and oppression against women are not only mentioned but also fought with a strong force in this poem.

Female Body

In her writings, Das often analyzes the female body, with all its pits, corners, and demands. She never refrains from displaying women’s fundamental passions and exploring love and lust by engaging the two entities. Her poetry frequently expresses her enduring fascination with the human body and its complex intricacies and functions. Das, in this poem, resonates with her physical self while abandoning her insecurities and exposing her nakedness, her vulnerabilities, in order to achieve a sense of liberation. In its totality, this poem conveys the love that Das experiences for her body.

Sexuality

Das’ poetry is also especially notable for its continual focus on female sexuality. Ente Katha (My Story), her controversial autobiography sparked a hornet’s nest with its brutally honest portrayal of her youth, coming of age, sexuality, emotional confrontations, marital troubles, and extramarital affairs. She often addresses various facets of a woman’s journey to connect with her sexuality. First as a kid, as an adolescent, as a young wife, and then as an elderly woman. Sexuality is seen as a sign of strength in her poetry and not as a taboo topic deliberately undermined.

Sense of Alienation

Alienation is used to describe a state of detachment, seclusion, abandonment, or even withdrawal. It can be simply referred to as the condition where an individual is “alienated” from either themselves, the society they live in, or the idea of life itself. While reading Das, it is impossible to miss this crucial theme that informed most of her adult life. Since her poetry is widely a reflection of her personal life, the portrayal of this sense of alienation particularly arises from her own experiences with men, her marriage, and the male dominant society in general.

Time and again Das had been the subject of rejection and deprived of love and affection. She, in her quest for true love, had been abandoned by not just her husband but any and “every man” she developed a relationship with. Not only that, due to her radical ideas, rebellious nature, and unconventional perspective, Das had been neglected even by society, which is precisely male-centric and orthodox.

Historical Context

Kamala Das (1934–2009) is an Indian short story writer, novelist, poet, essayist, and activist. She is, even today, seen as one of the most prominent feminist voices to emerge in postcolonial India. Das’ identity as a writer is complex, varied, and layered even though her verse is probably one of the easiest to read and understand.

Das began writing when she was just a teenager and ever since her work is looked upon as a medium for breaking taboos, standing up against the patriarchal society, against domestic oppression, and celebrating independence. Her literary career took off with the publication of her first book of poetry, The Sirens (1964), followed by her collection, Summer in Calcutta (1965). Her signature poem “An Introduction” was published in the later collection. It was written when she was in her thirties struggling to find her voice long subdued in marriage.

Questions and Answers

Appreciate “An Introduction” by Kamala Das as a confessional poem.

In “An Introduction,” Kamala Das works on breaking the fourth wall, and she exposes her bare “self” in front of the readers. This she does in such a manner that her experiences do not in any manner feel forced or fabricated. They are a revision of her original self. It not only provides Das’ poem with a touch of the familiar but also helps give it both conversational and confessional appeal. Das aspires to achieve a number of goals by exposing herself or admitting her personal struggle. She saw, lived, and experienced closely the personal and political issues brewing in contemporary Indian society. Therefore, the world of power that she desperately seeks lies within her. In that sense, her confessional mode of writing becomes a carrier of her political, social, cultural, and, most importantly, personal struggles. This poem, therefore, predominately speaks to the oppressed women in the society making their issues her own.

Is “An Introduction” by Kamala Das a feminist poem?

“An Introduction” by Kamala Das undoubtedly reads like a radical and unfiltered expression of a firm feminist voice. The poem features a conscious feminist woman who is aware of herself and her surroundings. She is bold, empowering, honest, and unapologetic for the person she opts to be. She says, “It is as human as I am human, don’t/ You see?”

In her poem, Das is also willing to challenge the norms and rules set by an orthodox and highly patriarchal society. In order to do the same, she makes it a point to address topics revolving around love, lust, desires, female sexuality, and the gender binary – all of which are considered taboo in a society that primarily revolves around the desires of men. Her unafraid and glaring introduction about herself, therefore, is not just a feminist poem but is also a standard for what feminist poetry should aim to be.

Evaluate “An Introduction” as an autobiographical poem.

“An Introduction,” as the very title suggests, is an autobiographical poem portraying in fifty-nine concise lines the entirety of Kamala Das’ life, struggles, and journey to self-acceptance. Das expresses her personal sentiments, experience, and reaction to the circumstance in her poem.

This piece walks readers through almost every stage of Surayya’s life. The poet ironically illustrates her early childhood, adolescence, puberty, and subsequent maturity. The poem acts as a brief window into the life of the poet. Within a few lines, Das describes her nationality, the color of her skin, her birthplace, political inclination, and her multilingual background with great directness and honesty.

What is the significance of the title of the poem “An Introduction” by Kamala Das?

The title of the poem, “An Introduction,” holds great significance as it clearly informs the readers of the content that lies ahead. It is an accurate description of the poem, as Das utilizes this platform to “introduce” her unfiltered self and her encounters with the patriarchal society to readers. She, using several metaphors, comes clean about her perspective on life and her relentless battle for survival. The frequent use of the phrase “I am” in the poem also justifies the title of the poem as it unfolds the personality, affiliations, and inclinations of the poet.

Evaluate “An Introduction” as a poem of resistance or a poem of protest.

“An Introduction” by Kamala Das is a poem of resistance and protest. There is a constant theme of protest and acquiring one’s own hold in a society that runs throughout the poem. It is evident that the narrator is in an ongoing battle between her desires and what is considered right to others. Therefore, her resistance to the patriarchal setup and her unwillingness to accept the roles stereotypically associated with women is a subject that is worth talking about while discussing Das’ poetry.

When was “An Introduction” by Kamala Das written?

“An Introduction” is one of the earlier poems by Kamala Das, written in her thirties. It was first published in her best-known collection, Summer in Calcutta in 1965.

How does Kamala Das introduce herself and her poetry in “An Introduction”?

Kamala Das introduces herself in the poem “An Introduction” as a strong, independent, and defiant woman. She is unashamed of the life she has carved out for herself. She is proud of her roots and her place of origin. Thus, she assertively mentions at the very beginning of the poem, “I am an Indian, very brown, born in/ Malabar, I speak three languages, write in/ Two, and dream in one.”

What is the attitude of the speaker in “An Introduction”?

Kamala Das, the speaker of this poem, is an icon for women in India and elsewhere. Her words, voice, and the courageous manner in which she conducts herself speak volumes to her audience. Her stance in “An Introduction” carries a sense of bravery, passion, pride, anguish, love, as well as, hatred. The speaker’s attitude is unapologetic and it resonates with her feminist ideology. Kamala Das, in her writing, as in her being, was full of raw and enthralling emotions. This reflects in the speaker’s attitude as well.

What is the central idea of the poem “An Introduction” by Kamala Das?

The central idea of this poem concerns a woman’s rejection of patriarchal norms and denial to fit in. This autobiographical poem provides a snapshot of Kamala Das’ life and features her individuality.

What is the theme of the poem “An Introduction” by Kamala Das?

This poem includes a number of themes, such as women’s struggle, femininity, the female body, patriarchy, and individuality. It revolves around the poet’s firm rejection to fit in and how she evolved as a person and rose from the ashes of subjugation.

How does Kamala Das claim ownership of the English language in the poem “An Introduction”?

At the beginning of the poem, Das straightforwardly claims the ownership of the English language by saying that the language she prefers speaking in becomes her and her alone. Being a native Indian speaker, she might distort the language in the way she wants, making it a queer mode of communication. Still, the language is hers.

How does the persona ignore her womanliness in Kamala Das’s “An Introduction”?

After attaining puberty, the sixteen-year-old persona got married. She was not ready both mentally and physically though her body showed womanly changes. Due to this, she felt crushed from inside. Later on, her pregnancy laid the final blow. The experiences made her reject her womanliness. She started to wear her brother’s trousers and shirt as a gesture of rejection and resistance.

What are the literary devices used in the poem “An Introduction”?

In “An Introduction,” Das employs enjambment, symbolism, metaphor, anaphora, repetition, alliteration, allusion, and imagery.

What is the message of Kamala Das’ poem “An Introduction”?

The message that Das wants to convey through this poem is that it is better to be oneself rather than be a mute adherent of patriarchy. She tells women not to allow society to dictate their lives. They must live in the way they want to live.


Similar Poems about Identity & Femininity

  • The Woman” by Kristina Rungano — This feminist piece describes how a woman feels suffocated and stifled by her domestic tasks.
  • I Shall Paint My Nails Red” by Carole Satyamurti — This poem is about a woman who wants to paint her nails in bold red color, asserting her feminine identity.
  • I’m “wife” — I’ve finished that —” by Emily Dickinson — In this poem, a woman describes how she finds herself liberated after she rejected being a wife or daughter.
  • Bequest” by Eunice de Souza — In this piece, de Souza talks about how patriarchal norms shape the destiny of women.
  • The Survivor” by Marilyn Chin — This poem is about an Asian girl’s struggle that starts right from birth.


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