Anita Desai is a pioneer
in writing psychological novels. She explores the psychic
depth of her characters and analyses in detail their motives.
Her characters are distinguished by the qualities of introspection,
introversion and a refusal to surrender their individual selves. I am interested in
characters who are not average but have retreated or have
been driven into despair and so turned against or made to
stand against the general current. It is easy to flow with
the current, it makes no demands, and it costs no efforts.
But those who cannot follow it, whose hearts cry the `great
no', who fight the current and struggle against it; they know
what demands are and what it costs to meet them (Atma Ram,
1983, pp. 21-23).
Cry, the Peacock,
the first novel of Anita Desai, is a powerful psychological
analysis of Maya, the main protagonist of the story. She is
seen as a neurotic, introvert and love-famished character,
a victim of the inadequacy of human relationships. Maya's
claustrophobia, loneliness and frustration are effectively
brought out by the writer. Maya is a hypersensitive young
woman "pursued and haunted by the idea of early death
prophesied by an albino astrologer and her ineffectual lonely
struggle against fate, that drives her to homicide, insanity
and finally to suicide" (Meera Bai, 1991, p. 172).
Maya, an introvert
and a pampered daughter of a wealthy aristocratic father,
is given in marriage to Gautama, a man much older than herself.
The novel opens with the death of Maya's pet dog, Toto. In
her state of agony and depression, she is reminded of the
albino astrologer's prediction that in the fourth year of
her marriage, there will be a death, either hers or her husband's.
To make herself free from the burden, Maya recedes to her
past and fantasizes her childhood days. Fantasy becomes a
part of the total structure of the novel and it is constantly
projected along with and in contrast to the world of reality.
Maya always clings to fantasy, as she is unable to relate
herself to reality. Her relationship to reality passes through
three different stagesher childhood, marital life and
the final stage when she totally surrenders herself to the
world of insanity.