How are violations against women shown in Homeless Bird by Gloria Ann Whelan?

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Homeless Bird by Gloria Ann Whelan, violations against the humanity and human rights of women are shown in the carrying out of Indian traditions in the marriage, life and widowhood of the main character Koly. She has reached a marriageable age and her parents arrange a dowry and find a groom for her.

Koly discovers that her parents have chosen a sickly boy to be her husband and that her parents-in-laws intend to use her dowry to pay for his medical treatment. When he dies, Koly is forced by Indian custom of disgrace in marriage to remain with her hateful, bitter mother-in-law as a widow bereft of personhood by the death of her husband, who was the means of her adult personhood.

She then finds herself at the temple of widows in Vrindavan where unwanted widows go to shave their heads, sing in the temple all day and beg for food. Koly rebels against this life, finds two new friends who aid her and--also against Indian custom--finds a new romance and a marriage proposal.

The violations shown are the divestment of the right to make life choices; the divestment of personhood, which is first bestowed to the man who becomes husband and the removed altogether at his death; the divestment of dignity and sustenance as widows are left unwanted and forced to dehumanize themselves further by becoming abject servants of the temple and begging for food to stay alive with to supplement their one bowl of daily porridge.