Shabanu Essay - Critical Essays

Suzanne Fisher Staples


Male prerogative in matters, sexual, political, and domestic is a pillar of the culture of the Cholistan people. From the first pages of Shabanu when readers, along with the heroine, watch the dominant camel Tipu mate three or four times a day before challenging a younger male, the reader is made aware of the importance of the male in the culture. “May you have many sons,” is a common saying, and Shabanu’s parents are pitied and somewhat disdained for having only daughters. Although her parents assure her that she and her sister are worth “seven sons,” the preference in this culture is definitely for male children. Once they reach puberty, young women are veiled with the chadr (veil), restricted to the home, and expected to be obedient to their husbands as they were to their fathers.

In spite of the culture’s many overt and covert messages regarding the inferior position of women, Shabanu resists efforts to teach her submission, rejecting her aunt’s gift of the chadr for the trip to Sibi and later showing anger at her father for selling her beloved camel Gulaband, a foreshadowing event.

Shabanu’s parents are devoted to each other and their daughters. They reassure them and love them sincerely, although a harsh element can be found in their love as well: Obedience is expected, and defiance is met with slaps and beatings. The singular voice for self-reliance for women is that of an aunt, Sharma, who...

(The entire section is 569 words.)