User:English Honours DDUC/DDUC English Literature Study Techniques

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Contents

THE EXAMINATION ANSWER

Preparation and Performance Tips for
Unversity of Delhi’s
B.A.Hons English
Examination

The presentation is divided into three sections

 

-  Introduction: Our goal - and how to achieve it

 

-  Examination Hall Tips

 

- Writing Impressive Answers: Taking care of Contents. Working with criticism

 

- Writing Impressive Answers: Taking care of  Form, Structure and Style

 

-  Writing Effective Answers: Taking care of Mechanics of Writing and Avoiding

                                                Grammatical and Spelling errors.

 

 

 

I: INTRODUCTION: OUR GOAL AND HOW TO ACHIEVE IT

What is our primary goal?

•At least 60 percent marks for everyone at the end of three years.

 

How can we achieve our goal?

•During the exams, we need to write answers that deserve 60 percent marks.

 

How do we ensure that we are able to write the 60 percent answer?

•Proper preparation before the examination

•High voltage performance during the examination

 

What is proper preparation?

• Look at the broad picture: Understand your syllabi. It is a three year course.

-         English Papers

-         Other Papers

-         Internals

-         The question paper: know the pattern; work out important questions for each exam. Organize information so that you can use it in your answers. Practice writing proper answers.

 

 

•Focus: Focus on studies while taking part in extra-curricular activities.

• Attend classes

• Regular studying at home. Daily.

Review: Train yourself to periodically go over mentally whatever you have studied earlier in the day/hour. Exam is all about recall. Keywords.

• Time Management: Make schedules in writing: Annual, monthly, weakly, daily.

•Health Physical: regular exercises. Good Healthy food. Healthy sleeping hours. Planned, stress free existence.

•Health Mental: Joy in life - Generosity of spirit. Forgiveness of self. Taking care of your friends. Getting out of negative situations.

•Note taking: systematic, intelligent. Collect information on:  author, channel, text, reception, code, and context. Work with good Introductions.

• Free writing: Without fail do it everyday. Try and put into practice ideas about writing.

•Mind Maps: Develop conceptual and structuring skills. Pick up short well written articles and make mind maps of them.

Keywords: learn to work with them

•Make list: Memory lists ; Error lists 

• Vocabulary: work systematically on both pronunciation, meaning and usage of words.

•Go for group work. It can reduce work load and stress. Practice what you have been taught.

 

What is high voltage performance?

- Managing time properly during exam: Exam Hall Tips

- Writing impressive answers: Taking care of the contents.

- Writing impressive answers: Taking care of form, structure and style.

-  Writing effective answers:

Taking care of the mechanics of writing

Writing error free answers


 

 

II:  EXAMINATION HALL TIPS

            Think of the Examination Hall as a stage. You have to go out there and simply perform.  You’ll not get much to think and pause. So all your planning and your preparation has to be done beforehand.


 
 

III:  WRITING IMPRESSIVE ANSWERS: TAKING CARE OF CONTENTS

 

For writing impressive answers you need to understand:

            - In writing your answer, you primarily engage with a question that is you focus on a specific areas of enquiry; you deal with related areas of enquiry; you can incorporate additional areas of enquiry along with background information.

            - in your answers you analyze, interpret and evaluate.

            - In your answers you present an argument: you adopt a point of view and develop it moving from the general to the particular or from the particular to the general i.e. from specific elements of the text to conclusions about theme, codes or context, author, reception, or vice-versa.

            - the chances are, in the writing of your answer the key problem would not be that you know less, but that you know so much more. The key challenge is how to put all that one knows in 600 to 800 word essay. You need to learn how to condense without losing substance.

 

For writing good answers you need to work on your secondary reading (critics)  systematically. You should look at two good introductions and a few critical essays. The systematic approach involves :

-         Making a list of all the important questions or topics. You should learn to work on all the question simultaneously rather than tackling them individually or separately.

-         Making a bibliography of the secondary material you will be working with. This involves both selecting the material and then putting it all together in one place.

-         Reading the critical essays and underlining the main points keeping the important questions or topics in mind.

-         Making a short 100 to 150 word summary of the essay.

-         Making card notes.

-         Understanding not just what the critics are saying but the critical debate that is going on : this involves (a) identifying key questions or issue that the critics deal with; (b) pinpointing areas of agreement and disagreement  and (c) what is it that you feel about the issues that everyone is talking about.

o       To do this focus on the following three areas. Try and work out answers to the questions given under each head – both in terms of what the critics are saying and what is it that you feel.  

§         RECEPTION OF THE TEXT

·        When the text ends, what is the feeling we are left with? What is the over all impact of the work?

§         COMPOSITION OF THE TEXT

·        What are the author’s conscious intentions?

·        What are his or hers working habits? Can we arrive at an understanding of what he is like by looking at his life and works?

·        How has the work been shaped by the times in which was composed?

·        Is there any distinct, direct influence? Indirect influence?

 

§         ANALYSIS OF THE TEXT

·        Looking at the text as whole, what is it all about?

·        Looking at the text as whole, what is its form? Does it constitute a unified whole? Does the form work?

·        Looking at the elements of the play, what is the story – the sequence of events arranged in time.

·        Looking at the elements of the text, what is the structure or design of the work?

·        Looking at the elements of the play, what is the plot? What are the main causes shaping the events in the work?

·        Is it possible to identify key questions or issues associated with each character?

·        What are the key themes according to the critics? According to you?

·        What do aspects of setting demonstrate?

·        What are the key features of the language?

- Finally write out the answers to at least two questions. Write out the introduction and outline of the others.

 

 

 

IV: WRITING IMPRESSIVE ANSWERS: TAKING CARE OF FORM, STRUCTURE AND STYLE

 

What is the form of the literature examination answer?

-         Expository writing

o       Expression of writer’s ideas and beliefs

o       Sharing of information

o       Persuasion / argument

-         Academic writing

o       Formal

o       Conventions to be followed

o       Acknowledgements

The literature examination answer is an exercise in expository writing for academic purposes. 

-           Expository writing is the form of writing in which the writer expresses his or her own ideas and beliefs, sharing information and trying to persuade others to his own point of view

. -         Academic writing is formal writing – all the conventions of formality have to be followed, including acknowledgements.

 

What is the structure of examination answer/essay?

The examination answer can have five parts or sections. Each section has its own distinctive function but they are all interconnected and must link together.

The sections are:

-         Beginning

-         Middle

-         End

-         Notes

-         Works cited / Select bibliography

 

What is to be done in the first section, ‘The Beginning”?

The beginning or the introduction typically consists of one or two paragraphs (one/tenth of the length of the essay) and should perform four tasks:

Engage with the question: three levels: topic, angle, process. (See attachment)

Get the attention of the reader: giving background information, defining key terms, asking questions. (See attachment)

Highlight the key areas of focus, adopt a point of view and come up with a thesis statement. (See attachment)

Declare the plan of action to be followed, or indicate the directions of enquiry, in the rest of the essay. An understanding of “organizational plans for essays’ helps in coming up with an effective plan. (See attachment) 

 

What is the “Middle”?

The middle consists of four to eight paragraphs in a DU examination essay.

 

The middle fulfils the ‘promises’ made in the introduction – it develops the areas of focus, develops the ideas that reinforce the argument inbuilt in the thesis statement and fulfils the plan stated in the introduction.

 

In the middle each paragraph is devoted to one key idea. The idea is stated in the opening sentence called the topic sentence and is developed in the rest of the paragraph. The middle paragraphs use seven methods of developing ideas.  The middle paragraphs should meet four stylistic standards. (See attachment – helpful vocabulary items)

 

What are the seven methods of developing ideas used in the middle paragraphs?

 

The seven methods are: 

-          Classification and Definition:  putting things or ideas into general category; discovering distinguishing features.

-         Analysis : studying the parts to see how they combine to make the whole

-         Restatement: summarizing, repeating to emphasize or change directions of enquiry.

-         Illustration: giving examples

-         Cause and Effect: tracing the chain of reason and result.

-         Comparison and Contrast: finding similarities and differences

-         Concession: engaging with the opposite or different point of view.

 

 

 

 

What are the four stylistic features criteria for the middle paragraphs?

The four are

-         Relevance: Making sure every paragraph/sentence is related to the thesis statement/plan stated in the introduction.

-         Coherence: Making sure sentences are linked one to the other and the essay ‘flows’. This means effective use of topic sentence and sentence connectors and other transition devices.

-         Emphasis: stressing key ideas and organizing ideas keeping in mind the ‘hierarchy of importance’.

-         Variety: using different sentence patterns – not just subject – verb- predicate. (See attachment)

 

What is ‘End”?

End provides the reader with both sense of closure as well as the key or the dominant idea of your essay resonating in the mind. The conclusion should be clearly and explicitly indicated with the use of phrase such as: “In conclusion” or “to conclude’ or ‘finally” etc.

 

It should repeat the key or the most dominant notion developed in the essay.

 

Without a proper conclusion the reader is left feeling as if he has been left in the middle of nowhere, with no directions spelling out where he needs to be.

 

 

What is the use of writing “notes’ in an exam answer?

 

Notes are in a way outside the structure of the beginning, middle and end.  Precisely because they are outside they provide the writer with a lot of flexibility since with their help it is possible to add thoughts at any point in the essay, even after finishing the essay. Also the examiner is bound to look at them.  Try to put a couple of ‘impressive’ notes in your main essay type questions.

 

What is Works Cited?

Using the standard MLA format you acknowledge the source from which you might have taken and an idea or ideas. You need to follow the conventions very carefully because this is a zero error zone. In your ‘Works Cited’ entry you need to give the full name of the author; the title of the book or the poem or the essay and full publication details. You should know how to cite a poem, a play, a critical essay in a book, or a book of literary criticism, along with the ability to cite sources from the internet. 

 

 

How should I organize my essay?

One excellent kind of answer presents a thesis and marshals arguments to support it, not forgetting to mention also the possible arguments against it (and to refute them, or concede to them where necessary).

In general, the best shape here is a very brief opening statement of your thesis, then several carefully unified paragraphs in support, and finally a restatement, probably in fuller form, of the thesis.

 

What is it that you need to avoid?

 

•           Never avoid saying the obvious: it's usually true.  But don't spend a lot of time on it -- acknowledge its obviousness, perhaps by a word like "Clearly,” Then move on to something less obvious.

•           Don't worry that something that you have just figured out will be obvious or familiar to someone else. Even if this should be the case, it's still a pleasure for the reader to share in another person's discovery of it.

•           A good general principle to maintain your confidence is that if you find something interesting enough to say carefully, it'll be interesting enough for your reader.

 

•           Avoid apologizing for what you say. It goes without saying that the views and interpretations you offer are yours, doesn't it? So there's no need for such boring and weasily phrases as "It seems to me" or "In my opinion."

 

•           Rule of thumb: when you quote supporting passages from the text being discussed, never let the quotation just lie there on the page inertly; make use of it, put it to work:   point to specific features or details or words in it, say what you see, what it is that makes you want to let the reader have it before him.

 

•           Avoid plot summary for its own sake. Summarizing content in order to make a point in your argument, on the other hand, is an entirely different matter and is very much an appropriate part of papers. Provided that you subordinate the summary to a critical point that you are making, you'll be okay.  Summary should always be offered as a way of supporting a point you are making about the story or poem. Ideally, there should be no neutral narrative sentences about the characters or the action, such as "Ferris goes to visit his wife" or "The Duke then conducts his visitor downstairs." Instead, all such bits of summary should be in support of an interpretative point or comment: "When Ferris goes to visit his wife, he discovers that ..." or "The Duke's unperturbed courtesy of manner can be heard as he invites his visitor to 'go / Together down' with him," etc.

To put it another way: do not  write a paper about the characters in a story; instead write about the story itself -- its words, its shaping or organization, its high points, symbolism, etc.

 

*          In writing about fiction, you will find more interesting things to say if you focus on characterization rather than characters. Focusing on characterization means studying how the writer presents the character -- what selection of detail is used, what mixture of direct "showing" to indirect "telling," what implied valuations are being made, and the like.

 

*            Avoid first person. Try and keep an objective tone. Avoid mixing of tenses.

 

Is there a writing process that I can adopt which will help me to write effectively and impressively?

 

            Good writers tend to adopt the following process

-         Pre-writing

o       Free-writing / scratch outlining / clustering / questions

-         Outlining

-         Drafting and Revising

-         Writing the final version

-         Proof Reading.

You should follow this process for assignments so that you have enough practice before you enter the exam hall. In the exam-hall you’ll more or less have to write the final version, with no time even for proofreading. Basically, you’ll have to implement the different steps of the writing process simultaneously in the hall.

 

 

 

 

V: WRITING EFFECTIVE ANSWERS: TAKING CARE OF MECHANICS OF

WRITING AND AVOIDING GRAMMATICAL AND SPELLING ERRORS.

 

MECHANICS

-         Straight margins and regular spacing.

-         Careful numbering of questions in the margins

-         Regular indenting of paragraphs

-         Correct capitalization

-         Correct punctuation

-         Correct spelling of names and titles of authors, characters and texts

-         Use short quotes from the text

-         No SMS short forms.

 

ERRORS

-         Correct spelling of plurals, irregular verbs.

-         Correct use of commonly confused words such as its / it’s ; there/their; principal / principle etc.

-         Subject verb agreement – third person singular with ‘s’ form of the verb.

-         Correct use of pro-forms.

-         Avoid mixing of tenses

-         Use short simple active, crisp sentences. Without becoming informal, write as you would speak.

-         Write your complex sentences correctly; use the subordinators and the non-finite forms correctly. Work on your Conditional, Comparative sentences and  Reported Speech.

-         Use negatives and interrogatives correctly.

-         Understand the use of articles, modals and prepositions.

-         Work on the predicative use of adjectives and adverbs.

-         Work on phrasal verbs and commonly used idioms.

-         Create your individual list of errors. Repeatedly review.

 

 

 

 

VI: A MODEL: WORKING WITH  HALFWAY HOUSE


List of Important questions

 

- Bring out the tensions that exists between Savitri and her three children in Mohan Rakesh’s Halfway House (Q3 2002)

 

- Comment on Juneja’s entry in Halfway House.

 

-  Discuss Halfway House with particular reference to the many identities The Man assumes in the play (Q3.2002)

 

- Ever since I have known him (Mahendranath), I’ve always found him leaning on someone or the other.” How valid is this observation of Savitri in Halfway House?

(Q3, 2003)

 

-Write a critical note on Juneja. (Q3 –2003)

 

“Sometimes I tried to wrench my tortured being away from him.  There was even a time I tried to turn him  into a man.” How do these words  of Savitri  reflect upon the course of the play? (1c, 2000)

 

- Explain how Savitri relates to different men in Halfway House. (Q1 b 2003)

 

Prospective Questions

 

 

-“In the Prologue to this play, Rakesh declares a thesis – a statement of the situation of which the play is a demonstration.” Discuss with reference to Halfway House.

 

-“The area of the play is small, narrow and limited to particular people.” Discuss with reference to Halfway House.

 

-“The woman’s search for a complete man while trying to keep her family from disintegrating from the theme of the play.” Analyze the action of the play in light of this comment.

 

-Who do you think is to blame for the situation in which the family depicted in the play Halfway House finds itself?

 

-Some commentators have termed the Rakesh’s experiment of using one actor for four characters a mere gimmick. What do you think? Give reasons for your answer.

 

 -The play contains both naturalist and absurdist elements. Comment on the play in light of this statement.

 

- Comment on the significance of the title of the play Aadhe Adhure.

 

- Do you think the play Halfway House  is likely to promote listlessness and cynicism? Give reasons for your answer.

 
Select Bibliography
Halfway House by Mohan Rakesh

 

Agrawal,  Pratibha. “Mohan Rakesh.” Halfway House. Ed. Dilip K. Basu. 2nd ed. 

Delhi:  Worldview Publications, 2000. 

 

Basu, Dilip Kumar. “Halfway House : Some Stray Comments Only.” Halfway House.

Ed. Dilip K. Basu. 2nd  ed. Delhi: Worldview Publications, 2000. 

 

Dass, Veena Noble. ‘Towards a New Hindi Drama: The Plays of Mohan Rakesh.’

Halfway House : Study Material .  Delhi: School of Correspondence Course, 2000-2001.

 

Kumar, Sanjay. “Halfway House : A Critical Commentary.”  Halfway House.

Ed. Dilip  K. Basu. 2nd  ed. Delhi: Worldview Publications, 2000. 

 

Maharishi, Mohan. “Experimentation and Innovation in Indian Theatre.”  Halfway

House  Dilip  K. Basu. 2nd ed. Delhi: Worldview Publications, 2000. 

 

Nath, Rajinder. “Introduction.” Halfway House. Ed. Dilip  K. Basu. 2nd ed.

Delhi: Worldview Publications, 2000. 

 

Nigam, R.L. Halfway House. ‘ A Comment’.  Ed. Dilip  K. Basu. 2nd ed.

Delhi: Worldview Publications, 2000. 

 

Paul, Rajinder. ‘Interview with Mohan Rakesh’.  Halfway House : Study Material.         Delhi: School of Correspondence Course, 2000-2001.

 

Rastogi, Girish  ‘Mohan Rakesh and his Plays’.  Halfway House. Ed. Dilip

K. Basu. 2nd ed. Delhi: Worldview Publications, 2000. 

 

Suri, Seema. ‘Aadhe-Adhure: Issues in Criticism’. Halfway House : Study Material.

Delhi: School of Correspondence Course, 2000-2001

 

 

 

 

SHORT SUMMARIES

 

Nath, Rajinder. “Introduction.” P ix - xiv

Rajender Nath deals with four aspects a) disputed literary status  b) one actor playing different roles c) Is the play anti-woman  d) diction.

            His position a) the play transcends the particular and becomes universal b)not a gimmick but a thematic device. C) the play is anti-women and d) the play’s use of words is its single most important achievement.

 

Sanjay Kumar. “Halfway House: A Critical Commentary”. P 25-32

            The play is obviously a product of its times, influenced by the trends in the West. A relook now however shows it to be ‘retrogressive’, shows a ‘worrying lack of dynamism’.

            At the level of ideas the play is ‘circular’. At the personal, existential level, the characters are trapped, incomplete, neo-modernist endorsement of existing structures. The themes, presented in a universalist idiom, multiply class and gender problems: women are seen as more incomplete than men. While the ills affecting the middle class are depicted and diagnosed, the play reinforces the status quo. The one actor-five role device reinforces the re-endorsement.

            The essay analyzes the play in light of the above comment by breaking it into six main movements and sub-movements.

 

 

Pratibha Agarwal. “Mohan Rakesh” P 93-106

            The article characterizes the author as one who is best understood in the context of his times for Mohan Rakesh believed in recreating his personal experiences in his work.

            Sees Rakesh as part of the New Writing after independence. This kind of writing focuses on city based, middle class environment  and problems. The  focus on individual and social awareness ( as in Prem Chand) is peripheral.

            Rakesh’s career – 66 short stories – 12 published in his life time; 3 novels and three published plays. Central focus: man woman relationship. Aadhe-Adhure moves beyond man-woman to tell the story of a disintegrating family.

 

 

 

Dass, Veena Noble. ‘Towards a New Hindi Drama: The Plays of Mohan Rakesh.’

 

            Mohan Rakesh was one of those literary personalities who never accept traditional set up.  He was a pioneer in more than one field of creative wrting : short stories, novels and plays.

            In Rakesh’s plays the unity between natural, theatrical and realistic and poetic sensibility acquired an altogether new level. He moves beyond superficial psychological concerns to focus on intense contemporary experience in a realistic frame.

 

Maharishi, Mohan. “Experimentation and Innovation in Indian Theatre.”

            Looks at the sixties and at the western influences and their adaptation by Indian playwrights. Does not think of the sixties as ‘glorious’ since the period was ‘imitative’. The gains were: a) the plays free of box sets b) middle class anxieties expressed c) produced some plays of lasting value. 

            The seventies and the eighties saw a return to the traditional and local art forms. Contemporary period presents a mix and the theatre does not reflect a totality.

 

 

Nigam, R.L. Halfway House. ‘ A Comment’. P 83-92.

            The play merges the limited experience of a particular family into a larger sociological experience.  The author argues that  the family exists as an economic untiy and the crisis shows the breakdown of the marriage as an institution and the breakdown in turn is related to the emancipation of women. 

            The transcendence of the particular also affected through form: prologue, device of using one actor for 5 roles, direcness of dialogue, use of subtle irony, as also the title pointing to a feature of contemporary life.

 

Basu, Dilip Kumar. “Halfway House : Some Stray Comments Only.” P 110-132

            The article tells us what was happening in the sixties, when the play was written; about the western playwrights who influenced Indian writers and the sort of plays that were being written by urban playwrights in the sixties.

            Basu feels that  a) play is likely to generate cynicism, listlessness  b) structurally hesitates between the naturalist and absurdist – the contradictions creates a ‘a haze’ around its central meaning’.  There are also teasers for which solutions are not easy to find.

            The Dramatic tension generates powerful claustrophobia.

 

Paul, Rajinder. ‘Interview with Mohan Rakesh’ P 7-15

            Mohan Rakesh talks about his early childhood, happy till 16 as long as his father was alive; the hardships face after death, the jobs that he took and left the two failed marriages and the live-in relationship with Anita.

            The picture that emerges: totally committed to writing and literary career, living the truth of his feeling, with the courage to defy conventions, not responsible in the conventional sense but full of integrity towards his writing and his thought.  

 

 

Rastogi, Girish  ‘Mohan Rakesh and his Plays’. (P 107 – 118)

            The play deals with a man-woman relationship, hollowness of conjugal relationship, disintegration of family and harshness of human condition.  Rastogi looks at the plight of various characters and concludes that their struggle seems to be ‘merely web of words and sterile resitance.’

            For him the prologue is laboured and one actor- five roles device is meaningless.

 

 

Suri, Seema. ‘Aadhe-Adhure: Issues in Criticism’

            The essay focuses on four issues a) the play as tragedy of middle class family b) Savitri  c) Mahendranath   d) Rakesh’s dramatic art.

            On a) quotes Rakesh: asserts that despite an a-typical middle class family – commonality not individuality is stressed – cf prologue, the disintegration of the family for economic, sexual and psychological reasons; hold of middle class values; Savitri’s role and the breakdown of relations even with the children.

            On b) the onus of tragedy placed on Savitri, with Juneja, acting as a prosecuting consul.

On c) Mahendranath seen as a puzzle

On d) Critical consensus – great achievement.

 

 

 

 

 

 

CARD NOTES

 

(THE MIDDLE CLASS FAMILY

 

“In this play, Rakesh has brought to light the way of living of a middle class all but on its way out, with their social and personal problems.  It is a family torn between middle class morals and values on one hand, and the hindrances that stop them from achieving them. All the five members of the family are linked together through unresolved tensions and conflicts.”

 

(Dass 26)

 

 

 

 

CRISIS OF MIDDLE CLASS = CRISIS IN INDIAN SOCIETY

 

“Rakesh has chosen the theme of the middle class family because the crisis of the Indian society of today is in a large measure a crisis of the dead illusions of many years of the rising middle class. This he expressed in an interview: ‘ Many of the writers today not only come from the middle class, but more specifically  from the urban middle class; those from the rural middle class have also been urbanized from most part.  The country today at all levels – lower, middle and upper classes, urban and rural is becoming middle class.  The play-wright identifies the consciousness or mentality of the middle class as that uppishness, that status hunting, that struggle for attainment of material possessions, the going to any length to attain all of this.  This is the morality of the average man, almost anywhere, belonging to any class.’”

(Dass 26)

 

 

THE PROLOGUE

“A prologue as a brief introductory note is conventionally accepted in the drama of both the East and the West. In the prologue to this play Rakesh declares a thesis – a statement of the situation of which the play is demonstration (…) Frank Thakurdas’s contention relates to the thesis of the ‘prologue’.  Far from demonstrating it, the play actually repudiates it, and therefore in a sense the prologue is a trifle redundant.  However, he feels that it does not interfere with the enjoyment of this beautifully structured play.”

(Dass 28)

 

 

 

THE THEME

“The woman’s search for a complete man while trying to keep her family from disintegrating forms the theme of the play.”

(Dass 28)

 

 

 

THE ENDING: CLEFT ANCHOR

“The play ends with Mahendranath coming back home and the problem of the family remains unsolved.  Savitri and Mahendranath living in the same hell again reveals a great truth of contemporary life. The experience of contemporary life within the present discourse is the experience of finding oneself caught in cleft anchor, which is an experience of helplessness and agony.  Some like Mahendranath are so much in love with the idea of the anchor that they would rather suffer eternal agony than let the cleft anchor split along the length and be free.  Others like Savitri seek to shift from one cleft to another cleft…”

(Dass 30)

 

 

 

THE STRUCTURE

“The structure of the play can be experienced in parts only.  It has all the basic ingredients of modern drama.  It is part existentialist, in the sense that there is no exit as all the claustrophobic  conflict remain unresolved.  It is also Brechtian, in the sense that people, though a-political, prey upon each others problems and inadequacies precisely to highlight their own – an inevitable link in the process of alienation.”

(Dass 31)

 

 

 

THE LANGUAGE

“The language of the play can be viewed from different aspects.  First, it is simple and yet so telling that it could come only from a master craftsman.  The play is an uninhibited expression of fierce realism (…) There are no faded cliché’s, no determinism, no ugly introspection through interior monologue, no psychic oddities and fallacies etc. which have crowded out drama from modern plays(…) It marks a stage in Rakesh’s frentic search for language of ‘being’ rather than ‘knowing’  - a language which will rationally describe or justify.  His dramatic idiom in this play has shed of lot of its earlier ornamental quality and literary artificiality, and has become more direct, incisive and economical.”

(Dass 31)

 

 

MOHAN RAKESH ON THE TITLE OF THE PLAY

“In a few days I am going to complete a play whose name is Aadhe-Ahure.  Adhure means incomplete and Aadhe means half.  It is related to today’s ordinary class which is half and incomplete.  It is the story of a middle class family in this city which is being pushed towards lower-middle class existence by circumstances.  Their desires, aspirations and struggle, and along with that the situation getting out of hand – I have attempted to show all this in the play.”

(Suri 16)

 

 

THEATRE OF THE SIXTIES : IMITATIVE

The first and foremost difficulty with this theatre was its unbridled imitative character.  The neo-existentialist thought pervaded the Western dramatic models of time, and these models were borrowed and were administered uncritically (…) The ending of such plays inevitably presented insurmountable problems of form the but the playwrights inevitably made use of their training as short-story writers; so the actors (poor fellows) had to bear the burden of delivering long and boring speeches towards the ending of these plays.”

(Maharishi 146)

 

 

 

THEATRE OF THE SIXTIES: THE GREAT GAIN

“The fervor, wholly imitative in the beginning, ultimately did produce three or four works of lasting value.  Adya’s Kedu Janmjaya, despite its terrible flaws, remains a noteworthy achievement.  C.T. Khanolkar’s Ek Shoonya Bajirao,  Lankesh’s Parten or Theregalu  and two plays of Tendulkar Sakharam Binder and Ghasiram Kotwal along with Dharamveer Bharti’s memorable Andha Yug are authentic pieces. A couple of plays by C.J. Thomas and Srikanth Nair are also significant and valid works.”

(Maharishi 148)

 

THE PROLOGUE

We can already see the insidious way in which we are being led.  The soliloquy is obviously aimed at audience interaction, not just interaction, but identification; all differences of class, gender, are being swept under a dominant voice that seeks to speak for all of us all the time… The praise of the undefined, stresses that no change of family or woman would change the central discourses of the play.  Already we have been placed in a universalist discourse which seeks to define/undifine the meaning/lack of meaning of our lives.”

(Kumar 137)

 

 

SUSPENCE

“The play generates suspense of a specific sort, the characters know more than the audience, and we are kept wondering; ‘facts’ unfold themselves gradually or not at all.”

(Kumar 137)

 

ACT ONE : DAUGHTER’S MARRIAGE

What is wrong with her (daughter’s) marriage? (…) What is wrong is the ‘air’. It is in the house.  The influence of the Theatre of the Absurd is obvious in this section… The impossiblitity of experiencing, comprehending, communicating are the staple diet of the plays of Becket and Ionesco)

(Kumar 137)

 

 

 

ACT ONE PP 20-27

 

“The second movement is a swift one in which all the members ‘interact’. Actually the dramatist’s purpose is to show the total breakdown of the institution of family(…) Starting from the younger girl, each individual is at each other’s throat, all expected clichés of a middle-class family are derided (younger girl’s response to older brother, mother to father etc.). The last section prioritizes the special pain of the father as the playwright, in what will become a technique in the play, tries to show the father as being wrong but less so.  The overall effect is to underscore that they are unintegrated individuals or the representative disintegrated family; unfinished caught  in their halfway house.”

(Kumar 138)

 

 

 

STRUCTURE

“I think the play Aadhe-Adhure hesitates, structurally between the naturalist and absurdist.”

(Basu 126)

 

 

ONE ACTOR – FOUR ROLES

“Looking for the difference in the presentation of the four person by one actor works in direct contradictions to a search for the essential likeness of the four men  encouraged at the outset by The Man in a Black Suit(…) the four variations of man presented in the play do not combine to give a powerful impression of ‘Everyman’ systematically revealed, though the Prologue together  with the naming of the characters as The First Man, The Second Man etc.  – all to be played by the same man – do encourage such a search.”

 

 

SAVITRI AS ‘EVERYWOMAN’ EXPERIENCING ‘EVERYMAN’

There is in the play in its stead the anxiety of Savitri as Everyman/Everywoman experiencing in her environment powerful creatures callous to her, and the likes of her, exploiting them as workers and women ( The Second Man). And males who enjoy the ultimate rights to pick up females for life together,  or drop them at the end of an affair…(The Third Man also possibly Manoj). The Fourth Man is there mostly as a proxy for his friend The First Man, defining the weakness of the friend and his great undying love for The Woman and pointing out the basic weakness of her approach to life as of looking hungrily forever for the perfect/complete man, and hopping from one choice to another: soon finding faults with each of the chosen.”

(Basu 127)

 

JUNEJA AND MOHAN RAKESH

“Does Juneja have Rakesh’s backing – i.e. are we compelled to feel that he is correct  in this analysis of the couple? Is he, at least,  correct about The First Man?… There lingers a definite feeling that he maybe right about the weakness of husband and wife.”

(Basu 127)

 

THE PLAY’S ACHIEVEMENT: CLAUSTROPHOBIA

“I have no doubt that Halfway House is an important play, and the reasons lie in the superb dramatic tension it can generate in all separate episodes.  The dialogue is also like voices one hears in life, not a formal ‘literary’ presentation of feeling and emotions… Handled properly, the play’s production creates a fascinating claustrophobia.”

(Basu 129)

 

 

THE BIGGER WORLD OUTSIDE

…references are made to the unemployment situation, brisk trade union activities, successful businessmen cheating their partners blind and dismissing them into garbage cans after exhausting their potential, the enterprise to plant saboteurs in worker’s movement and also to take advantage of women-employees; a dangerously stupid condescension shown  by the old and the powerful towards an angry young generation it does not understand.  All this does give an idea of the air-ocean which surrounds the house, its inmates who choose to shut themselves in, windows and doors closed, enveloped sickly and obsessively in themselves.”

(Basu  130)

 

 

TEASERS – POINTS DIFFICUTLT TO UNDERSTAND

 “Mahendranath beating his wife and children is emphatically reported but from all appearance it is a matter of the past… what we see is that it is the wife who beats one child, violently sneers at another and generally browbeats her husband.  It is reported that Mahendranath lives for his friends, is surrounded by them. Yet of the three outsiders who come to the house, two come to see Savitri…About Mahendranath’s motive Juneja says a few things which, if we find reliable, will the play a story of forlorn lover.  Can we really trust Juneja?”

(Basu 131)

 

 

 
 
 
The Critical Debate: Halfway House
From the point of view of a student.

 

 

What I am going to do is to give you a quick, analytical look at the material that you have in hand – the essays, the summaries and the points in card – so that you can  sort it all out your head, using a particular framework.

 

The framework basically gets you  to focus on three aspects:

1) Composition – the focus here is on the author and his intentions

2) Text: the work itself – in its entirety, and in terms of its elements: story, plot, setting, theme, character, language.

3) The reception: overall impact and therefore the value of the text for the audience/reader.

 

What I plan to do is review what the critics have to say identifying key questions that they address, pinpointing areas of agreement and difference, determining what is it that I feel about the issues everyone is debating.

 

In other words, basically (a) identify key issues, (b) points of agreement and differences among critics in terms of the framework that I have been given. (c) And sorting it all out in my own head.

 

Just for the heck of it let me start in the reverse order with the reception.

 

RECEPTION

Question: When the play ends what is the feeling we are left with? What is the overall impact of the play?

 

As far as the overall impact is concerned some critics feel that we are left feeling listless, pessimistic, claustrophobic.  The play does not show any movement forward. Everyone continues to stay in the never-ending hell – and this they feel is ‘retrogressive’.

 

Others beg to differ.  While they agree that the play follows a circular logic and ends where it begins, they do not think that this makes the play ‘retrogressive.’  For them the play remains “progressive’. It poses more questions than it answers and it forces its middle class readers to think more intensely about actual, real, lived life and the problems associated with relationships in families and marriages.

 

 

What do I think? I agree with the second lot.  It is not necessary that a work of art should give all the answers.  It can be considered a success if it succeeds in raising questions in the mind of the audience so that they can have a rethink about their own lives.  It forces us to think about the family not just as a biological, economic, social unit but also as a psychological and ethical unit (taking care of the helpless). The play most certainly succeeds in doing this – and I think that is the reason why it has been such a runaway ‘hit’ on the Hindi stage. 

 

 Come to think of it, it wasn’t such a bad idea starting with ‘reception’.  As a reader, that is what you need to get an insight into first before you start thinking about other issues.

 

Let us now go back to ‘composition.’  Since the focus here the emphasis is on the author, why not call it ‘authorship’. I think that is a better name and with all due respects to Dr. Ratnakar, I’ll stick to this.

 

AUTHORSHIP

Q: What are author’s conscious intentions?

 

As far as author’s intentions are concerned Mohan Rakesh himself spells out what he is attempting in the play.  There are two long quotes where he spells out his intentions: middle class family on a downward slope and his understanding of the term ‘aadhe-adhure’.  Obviously how far he succeeded in achieving what he set out to do is something that we will have to look into later.

 

Q: What are his working habits? Can we arrive at an understanding of what he is like by looking at his life and works?

Most critics agree that Mohan Rakesh often bases his work on his own life experiences and therefore his short stories and plays mirror contemporary realities. They also point out that though he lived what seems like an irresponsible life from outside, he was, in fact, completely honest to his calling as a writer and to his craft. Perhaps the searing intensity of the play is rooted in the fact that he himself went through two broken marriages.

 

Q: Has the play been shaped by the times in which it was composed?

Everyone agrees that the play is product of its times – the sixties.

 

Q: Are there any distinct, direct influences?

This was the time when Hindi writers were exposed to western influences and they consciously went about incorporating in their work many philosophical ideas and practices, which originated in the west.  In this context ‘naturalism’, ‘existentialism’, and ‘theatre of the absurd’ are mentioned most often.

 

I need to figure them out fast – with or without Dr. Ratnakar’s help.

 

When talking about influences, critics invariably mention some authors and creative works.  Now I don’t have the time, but next year I think it will be a great idea to read some of the works which have exercised major influence on the authors that we are studying.  I’ll then get a better insight into the minds of the authors. And it will be fun also.

 

Well so much for the times, influence and intentionality both in general term and in particular terms. There is nothing much for me to quarrel with here.

 

About the author, critics have mentioned two other facts, which are important: First, that Mohan Rakesh never felt that the play was anti-woman or anti-Savitri. (Those who argue that the Savitri is made to shoulder the major share of the blame argue that in spite of the author’s conscious intention, gender bias and anti-women attitudes, shape the play.).

Secondly, that he was obsessed with words and form and that he compulsively revised his writing till he had it exactly the way he wanted it.

 

O.K. Now let us come to the text itself. Let us look at the play, as it is, first as a whole and then in terms of its elements.

 

TEXT

Q. So what is the play essentially all about?

 

Everyone agrees that the play tells the story of a middle class family on a downward slope, that it depicts the unresolved tensions between family members; that it focuses on man-woman relationship and the failure of marriage as an institution. 

 

However, some critics feel that the play has a narrow and a limited focus. It tells the story of one family, and that’s it. Maybe we get involved in the story of this family but then there is nothing beyond. In that sense it remains a minor literary masterpiece and needn’t be taken too seriously.

 

Others feel that the story of the family is just the launching pad. In the play Mohan Rakesh is able to capture the values, conflicts and the problems of the Indian middle class and in doing so he has given us an insight into the human condition itself in contemporary times.  For these critics, the play is literary masterpiece.

 

Those who believe the play is more than the story of a particular family focus on the successful use of the device of using one actor for four roles, the prologue and the thematic structure of the play exploring the values and assumptions and the problems of the middle class, the props, stage setting and references in the text that enlarge the context of the play (There is an interesting card on references but I don’t have much on props and stage directions) and finally the open-ended close that leaves us with questions rather than propagandist, neat solutions.

 

Those who believe that the play is a minor literary masterpiece feel that the devices used by the author to enlarge the context do not really work; the thesis of the prologue is not developed by the action of the play; that the device of one actor for four roles is just a gimmick because we respond to each character as an individual.  In fact, the power of the play comes from the fact that each character is his or her own particular person not an embodiment of a general idea. And that the ending, in its circularity, is pessimistic, leaving even the audience with no way forward.

 

What do I feel? I go with the critics that feel that the play is a masterpiece and that it tells the story of more than just one family. 

 

Q: What about the overall structure of the play? Is it a unified whole? Does it work?

 

As far as the overall structure of the play is concerned – the form – Most agree that it is a very accomplished piece of work and that it sustains the dramatic tension right through.  The dialogues – in simple, colloquial language are entirely effective and the reader/audience cannot but be touched by the tensions and the problems depicted on the stage.

 

Those who have problems with the structure of the play argue that the prologue and the action of the play go in different direction. And that the naturalist, absurdist and existentialist elements are not completely fused in the play. But even these critics agree that despite these weakness the play continues to exercise its hold on the audience.

 

For me the play certainly works.

 

ELEMENTS OF THE PLAY

 

Q: What is the story – sequence of events arranged in time?

 Let us now start talking about the various elements of the play.  Most critics summarize the story.

 

The play begins with the prologue, which offers a perspective on the play that is to be enacted.  It then goes on to depict the story of the middle class family of Mahendranath and Savitri. The two do not get along and the tension between them affects the three children – Binni, Ashok, and Kinni.  There are unresolved conflicts between all five of them. As the tension builds up, first Mahendranath decides to leave and later Savitri too decides to leave.  But after Savitri’s venture fails, she returns and she and Juneja, a friend of Mahendranath, argue about who is mainly to blame for the mess. The play ends with Mahendranath’s return, suggesting that the family has ended where it began and that it will continue to live in the hell that it has created for itself.  

 

Q: Are there some events/episodes which critics have tended to emphasize in their discussions?

In their discussion they have tended to focus on the following episodes: the prologue, the Juneja-Savitri dialogue; Binni’s analysis of what is wrong with her marriage, Ashok’s criticism of his mother, the reported violence of Mahendranath and the beating of Kinni; Savitri’s relationships, Savitri’s criticism of Mahendranath and vice-versa, and the ending.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Q: Are there some lines which are more often quoted than others?

 

There are and it would be great to copy them out and analyze and comment on their significance.  I’ll develop a good understanding of the text.

 

 

PLOT

Plot has to do with causality i.e. exploring the causes for the events.

Q:  Who or what is responsible for the crisis in which the family finds itself?

 

Critics have major differences here. They agree that to some extent Mahendranath, Savitri and the social milieu are all to blame. But most tend to ascribe more blame to one or the other. Those who hold Mahendranath as mainly responsible think of Savitri as a noble failure heroically trying to hold the family together with whatever slender means she has. They emphasise not just Mahendranath but even Mohan Rakesh’s hidden gender bias in deliberately and unnecessarily trying to condemn Savitri.

 

Others blame Savitri, arguing that like Juneja, Mohan Rakesh too holds the new woman as responsible for the undermining of marriage as an institution and the breakup of the family.

 

Yet others feel that the determining causes for the problems faced by the family originate in the larger social set up in which the family exists  

 

What do I think? I go with the last group. According to me we have to think of two sets of causes. First, all those causes which have created the problems that the family and the family members are facing. These causes are easy to identify in terms of the economic situation of the family, the value system and the behaviour pattern of the individuals.

 

The other issue in Rakesh’s depiction of the family is not just that they are facing problems but that they are entirely unable to solve them or even come close to solving them in any meaningful manner. Why is that so? I think the answer to this question will lead us to the central themes of the play and to the play’s singular achievement.

 

CHARACTERS

 

Q: Is it possible to identify key questions or issues associated with each character?

 

Savitri: Central character.  Is she a noble being unsuccessfully trying to protect the interest of her family? Or is she the new woman interested only in material comforts, status and extra-marital relations?

 

Is she responsible for the psychic destruction of Mahendranath as Juneja alleges? Or is she the victim of Mahendranath and Mohan Rakesh’s gender biases?

 

Is she a product of the world in which she lives? Are her strengths and her weaknesses, her tragedies and triumphs a result of larger social forces over which she has no control?

 

Some critics think of her as a noble being fighting to preserve the family against tremendous odds. Others think of her as woman out of bounds, ostensibly independent but running after everyman for security and material prosperity and not really concerned with the family.

 

Mahendranath: Is he a victim? Is he a transgressor? Is he both? 

 

Juneja: The key issue  - is he the author’s spokesperson? What is the relationship of Juneja, and the speaker in the prologue? . Will the men always side with each other? 

 

Ashok: He is obviously like his father in some ways. Key questions: how valid are his observations against Savitri? Is he a spokes person of patriarchal attitudes or is he a victim of the new woman – the woman out of bounds. What does his treatment of Kinni and Binni tell us about him?

 

Binni: She is sympathetic to Savitri, but she too has suffered in the Halfway House.  How does her failed marriage parallel that of her parents? In what way Savitri and Mahendranath are to blame for her plight.

 

Kinni: Obviously the innocent victim. Does Savitri treatment of her damn the mother irredeemably? Could it be the fact that no one shows any concern for her is Mohan Rakesh’s final comment on Mahendranath – Savitri family?  Critics somehow have neglected discussing Kinni in detail.

 

Singhania: Obviously a vulgar caricature, but the fact that he is immensely successful  - is that a comment on the social set up in which the characters are living out their lives? Does his character show the kind of world in which women have to work?

 

Jagmohan: The friend who is willing to go this far and no farther.  Was his treatment of Savitri justified? Is that what she deserved?

 

THEMES

Q: What according to the critics are the key themes?

- Woman’s search for a complete man, while trying to safeguard the family?

- House vs. home?

- Men vs. women?

- Middle class values and conflicts

 

Q: What according to you are the key themes?

 

Two key themes: The desperate economic insecurity of the middle class, poised as it is between visions of prosperity and fears of sliding downwards into deprivation, forcing them to give complete importance to material success, status, security – at the cost of caring and sharing.

- The persistence of traditional forms, norms, and values – especially in terms of gender roles - even in changed circumstances leading to unresolved conflicts and ensuring that the present becomes a prisoner of the past. 

- The unhealthy repression of sexuality leading to unhealthy behaviour patterns.

 

 

Q: What do aspects of setting – props, stage directions – demonstrate?

I need to work on this aspect.

 

Q: What are the key features of the language?

Critics have listed these and I have a couple of interesting cards.  What I need to do is to have examples ready.

 

 

 

 

 

A Model Answer:  Review; Prewriting, Rough Draft, Fair Draft.

 

We are addressing the following question.

Bring out the tensions that exists between Savitri and her three children in Mohan Rakesh’s

Halfway House .

I’ll be trying to give you an insight into the writing out of the model answer by taking you through the following four steps that lead up to the writing of the actual answer

           

Step 1  - I’ll first quickly review what we know about Halfway House – basically that is the raw material, which we will be using to “cook up” our answer.

Step 2 - do some prewriting to show you how the mind begins to think about the question that one has to write about and how the “ingredients” are selected.

Step 3 – Rough Draft – the actual “cooking” process.

Step 4 – Final Draft – the garnished ‘dish’ served in style.

 

THE REVIEW

The Critical Debate

 

Let us see if I can I  divide the critics I have studied in two groups - those who are “for” the text, that is,  think of the text in favourable terms and those who are ‘against’ – that is those who are critical of the text.

 

For :

Nath (moves from particular to universal; prologue, device – thematic; Savitri to blame,  superb language)

Dass ( Author – pioneer-  sixties, personal writing. prologue gives thesis; theme – new woman, breakdown of family; Middle class problems =Indian Society’s problems;

 Suri, (universality, disintegration of family – class values; Savitri to blame. Savitri – product of her times; play - Great achievement)

Agarwal,( author – times; moves beyond particular)

Paul (heroic author, true to his art – writing about personal experiences, giving insights into contemporary times)

Nigam (merges limited into sociological experiences; transcendence of the particular, dialogue, irony, title, contemporary life.

 

Against:

Rastogi: hollowness of relationships, disintegration of one family; sterile reactions, prologue etc. meaningless gimmick.

Kumar: retrogressive; circularity reinforces status quo; anti-woman; diagnoses ills but no movement forward.

Basu: promotes cynicism; influenced by west – structural confusion; teasers

Mahrishi : imitative of western models – sixties.

 

Authorship, Text, Reception

Let us see if I can I briefly classify the information that we have under the three heads - authorship, text and reception.

 

Authorship

Rakesh’s intentions:  picture of middle class – problematic values; picture of the break up of a family – downward slope; Not anti-Savitri.

Influences:  the sixties, western ideas – existentialism, absurdist, and naturalist: Western playwrights – Shaw, Ibsen, Brecht

Working habits: integrity; urban, contemporary issues; writings close to personal life.

 

 

 

 

Text

Key issues discussed: is Savitri to blame? One actor four role device;   particular family vs. universalism and class; circularity, superb dramatic language; ; Structure – mainly naturalistic, influence of Brecht, Shaw.

 

Themes: collapse of marriage and family;  middle class hassles;  sexuality;  the problem of the new woman; transcendence of the particular

 

Reception : Retrogressive vs.  Raises fundamental questions; Family as psychological unit – not economic.

 

PRE-WRITING

 

Let us see if I can capture in words what  happens in the mind as I look at the question?

 

To write out my answer I have to:

- do analysis, interpretation and evaluation.

- create beginning, middle, end

- Adopt organizational pattern; support main points using methods of dev. ideas;   

 -  create premises through the use of  induction, deduction, that is, - move from particular   to general and general to particular; ensure transition

- use critics – give citations

 

To start : Analysis  – let me quickly identify portions of the text that I will be dealing with in the answer. Obviously,  I’ll have to talk about all the hassles between Savitri and her kids – so O.K what are the hassles : Binni – elopement, blames parents for bad marriage, the Manoj issue; Ashok – no work, men visitors, magazines, problems with Kinni; Kinni – neglected, no understanding, yelled at, beaten.

 

For Interpretation – If I look at the causes, why these hassles are there – I’ll be able to talk about the themes – the meaning of the play as it were.

 

For Evaluation – I raise the question – why are the hassles  not sorted out?  I can get to the ‘circularity issue’ and the play’s main achievement.

 

 


ROUGH DRAFT

 

Q. Bring out the tensions that exists between Savitri and her three children in Mohan Rakesh’s Halfway House

 

The tension actually doesn’t need to be brought out. It leaps across from the pages and the lines and hits the audience/readers in the face. It is there in the beginning, in the middle and at the end – there is no escaping it.  By highlighting the tension that exists between Savitri and her three children – Binny, Ashok, and Kinny – the author shows us the unfortunate plight of an Indian middle class family ‘which is being pushed towards lower middle class life by circumstances (Paul ).  Some critics have even wondered whether the preoccupation with the problems and tensions is not excessive, undermining the play’s overall impact(Rastogi,  Kumar, Basu) . We can decide for ourselves if we take a close look at the causes that have triggered the anger and  ill feeling and problems  between the mother and her children.

 

Binny, the eldest daughter, is,  by and large,  sympathetic towards Savitri rather than Mahendranath.  But in her heart of heart she blames her parents, including Savitri for the problems that she is having in her marriage with Manoj and she tells Savitri that she comes to the house to look for the cause. Later we learn from Juneja that Savitri herself was interested in Manoj, before he married Binni. Manoj’s previous relationship with Savitri would obviously have a negative effect on the marriage of the daughter. 

 

Ashok, a college drop out, is consistently hostile towards Savitri and is sympathetic towards her father.   Like Mahendranath, he criticizes her for inviting men, including her boss,  to the house. He says that makes him feel ‘smaller’. He does not thank his mother for trying to find him a job. He misbehaves with his younger sister and argues with Savitri when she tries to correct him. At one point he even tells Savitri that it would probably be better if she were to leave home.

 

Kinny, a difficult thirteen year old,  is too young to take sides between Savitri and Mahendranath. Her problems are more immediate – no one in the house to give her milk; no money to buy her shoes for school and no one sympathetic to guide her and help her as she tries to come to terms with difficult issues like sexuality.

 

The two most obvious causes – interlinked to some extent -  triggering the tension between the mother and her three children are : (a) The fact that parents, Mahendranath and Savitri,  do not get along well. The tension between them spills over and affects the children  (b) that the family is facing an economic crisis of sorts.  The author takes particular pains to show that these problems are in fact the problems of the entire Indian middle class. As he says in an interview, “In a few days I am going to complete a play whose name is Aadhe-Ahure.  Adhure means incomplete and Aadhe means half.  It is related to today’s ordinary class which is half and incomplete.  It is the story of a middle class family in this city, which is being pushed towards lower-middle class existence by circumstances.  Their desires, aspirations and struggle, and along with that the situation getting out of hand – I have attempted to show all this in the play.”(Suri 16)

 

Despite the fact that we often sympathize with Savitri, there is no getting away from the fact that the author puts major share of the blame on her for the tension that exists between her and the children.  Instead of trying to solve her problems with Mahendranath, she goes looking from support from other men. She addresses both Mahendranth and Ashok rudely and sarcastically. She slaps Kinni.

 

Some critics have felt the constant focus on the tension within the family makes this the story of only a particular family, to some extent trivial because it does not carry a larger message for the audience(Rastogi). Others have felt that because the conflict and  the tension  remains unresolved till the end makes the play ‘retrogressive’ displaying ‘ a worrying lack of dynamism’(Kumar) .The fact that a major share of the blame is put on Savitri makes the play anti-women for many critics.(Nath).

 

In my opinion the focus on unresolved conflict is the play’s chief strength.  When the play ends with Mahendranath’s return,  the audience is left with the idea that all the problems will continue to bedevil the family. This  generates what Dilip Basu calls a feeling  of ‘Claustrophobia.’  This feeling in turn forces us to look at our own lives and at our own interpersonal relationships within our families closely.  The play leaves us with the feeling unless we attend to whatever problems we might be facing with our families, we might end up in a hellhole similar to Savitri and her children. The circularity within the play,  lack of dynamism, triggers a sense of urgency in the audience in terms of their own lived lives – and that is the chief achievement of the play.

 

In conclusion, one can say that by closely analyzing the unresolved conflict that exists  between Savitri and her children, by looking at the causes, not only do we understand the thematic structure of the play but we can also arrive at what  is the chief achievement of the play itself.   


FAIR DRAFT


In the malfunctioning family of Savitri and Mahendranath there are problems between the mother and her three children. Why are these problems there? The answer to this simple question will enable us to come to grips with the important themes of the play.  Eventually, it will enable us to evaluate the play’s overall achievement.

First, let us look at the tension itself that exists between the mother and the children. Binni blames her parents for the problems that she is having in her marriage. The author reinforces this by letting us know at the end that Savitri herself was interested in Manoj before he chose to marry Binni. Ashok criticizes Savitri for inviting men over. He says her visitors makes them all feel “smaller.”  He argues with her about Kinny, tells her/Savitri  not to look for a job for him,  and suggests it might be better for the family if she were to leave Mahendranath. Kinny gets very little understanding or support from anyone. Ashok bullies her and Savitri keeps trying to correct her. She even gets slapped by Savitri and locked into a room. 

 

 

Why are these problems there? At one level the tension between the husband and wife, Mahendranath and Savitri is obviously the cause of tension between the mother and the children.  But the play, through the device of using one actor for four roles, through constant reference to the larger world outside, through the use of props like the broken kettle and the walking stick, enlarges the context and suggests the roots of tension lie in the peculiar situation of the middle class. 

 

Economically, the middle class is caught between dreams of prosperity and fears of a downward slide. This breeds insecurity. It leads to a narrow focus on material comforts, security, and status. It leads to the sacrifice of higher ideals of caring and sharing. We see this insecurity in Mahendranath’s dependence on Juneja and Savitri’s desperate wooing of men like Singhania and Jagmohan. 

 

The middle class by definition is also one that is trapped between modernity and tradition.  In the changed circumstances of new world,  gender roles have changed. Women often have to earn to support the family.  Even as they discover new independence, traditional forms and norms persist often dividing men and women within themselves and leading to the kind of schizophrenic violence displayed both by Mahendrnath and Savitri. The persistence of the dead past is emphasized by the ironic use of the name ‘Savitri’ itself ( Nigam)

 

Finding a husband for the daughter, a job for the son and the inability to deal with understanding sensitive issues like sexuality among growing children – problems such as these cause tension in every middle class family.  A closer look at the reasons for the tension that exists between the mother and the children  thus enables us to see the point that the play is trying to drive home  - that this is a ‘particular’ as well as a ‘representative’ family.

 

As Mohan Rakesh says in an interview,  “In a few days I am going to complete a play whose name is Aadhe-Ahure.  Adhure means incomplete and Aadhe means half.  It is related to today’s ordinary class which is half and incomplete.  It is the story of a middle class family in this city, which is being pushed towards lower-middle class existence by circumstances.  Their desires, aspirations and struggle, and along with that the situation getting out of hand – I have attempted to show all this in the play”(Suri 16).

 

It is not as if the tension and problems go away ever. At the end, with the return of Mahendranath, we are left with the impression that the family will continue to live in the hell forever, because they are unable to get out of the trap in which they find themselves.

 

Some critics feel that the constant preoccupation with the tensions in a particular family narrows the focus of the play (Rastogi).  Because the tensions are never resolved and the status quo is affirmed at the end, others feel that the play is ‘retrogressive’ (Kumar, Basu).  Yet others feel that by putting the major share of blame for these tensions on Savitri the playwright displays his own gender bias.(Nath)

 

Though the tension between Savitri and her children are not resolved till the end, this does not make the play ‘retrogressive”. In fact, precisely because the tensions are not resolved, the middle class audience is forced to look for answers in terms of their own interpersonal experiences within their own respective families.  The play raises more questions than it answers, but that itself is a great achievement.

 

In conclusion,  one can say that we can look at the tension that exists between Savitri and her children in two ways.  At the more obvious level, we can see that it is the result of the circumstances in which this particular family finds itself. At the deeper level,  we can see that the tension points to the situation of a whole class of people. It leads the audience to  introspective visions and revisions.

 

(847 words)

 

Select Bibliography.

Agrawal,  Pratibha. “Mohan Rakesh.” Halfway House. Ed. Dilip K. Basu. 2nd ed.  Delhi:  Worldview Publications, 2000. 

Basu, Dilip Kumar. “Halfway House : Some Stray Comments Only.” Halfway House. Ed. Dilip K. Basu. 2nd  ed. Delhi: Worldview Publications, 2000. 

Dass, Veena Noble. ‘Towards a New Hindi Drama: The Plays of Mohan Rakesh.’ Halfway House : Study Material . Delhi: School of Correspondence Course, 2000-2001.

Kumar, Sanjay. “Halfway House : A Critical Commentary.” Halfway House.

Ed. Dilip K. Basu. 2nd ed. Delhi: Worldview Publications, 2000.

Maharishi, Mohan. “Experimentation and Innovation in Indian Theatre.” Halfway

House Dilip K. Basu. 2nd ed. Delhi: Worldview Publications, 2000.

Nath, Rajinder. “Introduction.” Halfway House. Ed. Dilip K. Basu. 2nd ed.

Delhi: Worldview Publications, 2000.

Nigam, R.L. Halfway House. ‘ A Comment’. Ed. Dilip K. Basu. 2nd ed.

Delhi: Worldview Publications, 2000.

Paul, Rajinder. ‘Interview with Mohan Rakesh’. Halfway House : Study Material. Delhi:

School of Correspondence Course, 2000-2001.

Rastogi, Girish  ‘Mohan Rakesh and his Plays’. Halfway House. Ed. Dilip

K. Basu. 2nd ed. Delhi: Worldview Publications, 2000.

Suri, Seema. ‘Aadhe-Adhure: Issues in Criticism’. Halfway House : Study Material.

Delhi: School of Correspondence Course, 2000-2001


Halfway House : Introductions

Q Comment on Juneja’s entry in Halfway House.

Juneja’s late entry leads the play to its climax. However we first meet Juneja as the Man in the prologue, and we hear of him in the opening dialogue between Mahendranath and Savitri. He is a friend of Mahendranath and in the last major dialogue with Savitri he presents Mahendranath’s point of view with force and eloquence. One of the key issues to be looked into when we evaluate Juneja’s role in the play is whether he is, in fact, a spokesperson not just of Mahendranath but the author himself. After briefly outlining Juneja’s role in the play, we’ll comment on its significance both in terms of author’s intentionality and in terms of the thematic structure of the play.


Q Discuss Halfway House with particular reference to the many identities The Man assumes in the play (Q3.2002)

In the play, Mohan Rakesh has introduced a unique, dramatic innovation – four of the key characters in the play are played by the same actor who also appears at the start of the play in the prologue. This brilliant innovation allows Mohan Rakesh to highlight the key thesis of the play. It also enables him to enlarge the context of the play – the story of a particular family becomes a mirror to a whole class of people and their way of life. Starting from the prologue and the Man, we’ll look closely at the role of Mahendranath, Singhania, Jagmohan and Juneja. We’ll try ad show how the device enables Mohan Rakesh to highlight his key themes and generate his most significant effects.

Q Ever since I have known him (Mahendranath), I’ve always found him leaning on someone or the other.” How valid is this observation of Savitri in Halfway House?

(Q3, 2003)

Savitri is the play’s leading character and the action revolves around her. The words quoted above express her dissatisfaction with her husband She blames him wholly and entirely for making her family life hell.But is Mahendranath entirely to blame for the problems being faced by the family? Or does part of the blame lie with Savitri? Critical opinion is clearly divided on the issue. Those who hold Mahendranath responsible for the domestic troubles think of Savitri as a noble failure heroically trying to hold the family together. Others argue that like Juneja, Mohan Rakesh too holds the new woman as responsible for the undermining of marriage as an institution and the breakup of the family. On our part we can judge the validity of Savitri’s observation by analyzing the Mahendranath-Savitri relationship in the play. Necessarily our understanding of the dynamics of this relationship will determine our understanding of the play’s key themes and its overall achievement.


Q “Sometimes I tried to wrench my tortured being away from him. There was even a time I tried to turn him into a man.” How do these words of Savitri reflect upon the course of the play? (1c, 2000)

Q Explain how Savitri relates to different men in Halfway House. (Q1 b 2003)

In the play we see Savitri interacting with her husband Mahendranath, her boss Singhania, her friend Jagmohan and her husband’s friend Juneja and her son Ashok. Apart from these, her relationship with Manoj, Binni’s husband is also mentioned. A close analysis of these relationships will help us interpret the plays key themes and also evaluate its overall achievement.

Prospective Questions

Q “In the Prologue to this play, Rakesh declares a thesis – a statement of the situation of which the play is a demonstration.” Discuss with reference to Halfway House.

Prologues are meant to give the audience a perspective on the action that is about to unfold. It enables the author to highlight certain aspects of the play. The link between the prologue and the action of the play therefore can best be explored keeping in mind the authors intentions. In this essay, after identifying Mohan Rakesh’s intentions we’ll try and show how the prologue and the device of the Man adopting different roles in the action of the play helps him to achieve his thematic and artistic goals.

Q “The area of the play is small, narrow and limited to particular people.” Discuss with reference to Halfway House.

Undoubtedly the play tells the story of a middle class family on a downward slope. It concentrates on depicting the unresolved tensions between the family members. But this does not mean that play’s concerns are narrow and limited. In fact, the success of the play lies in its ability to move from the particular to the universal. The story of the family becomes the launching pad. In the play Mohan Rakesh is able to capture the values, conflicts and the problems of the Indian middle class and in doing so he has given us an insight into the human condition in contemporary times. In this essay we’ll focus on the creative process by which the story of particular family is made to tell the story of an entire class by highlighting author’s intentions, the use of devices like the prologue, one man playing four roles, the use of stage setting and  props

Acknowledgements

In preparing this handout, I am indebted to Purdue UNiversity's site: OWL; Prof Lynch's Guide on the web and John Langan's book, English Skills.

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