It Was Dark by Shashi Deshpande
In It Was Dark by Shashi Deshpande we have the theme of fear, rape, uncertainty, hope and connection. Narrated in the first person by an unnamed mother the reader realises from the beginning of the story that Deshpande may be exploring the theme of fear. The narrator is woken from a dream in where she is hopelessly searching for something and is afraid. In many ways the dream on the scaffolding mirrors what happens in the story. The narrator too is trying to build a picture of what has happened to her daughter. Something that becomes clearer to the reader as the story progresses. The narrator’s daughter has possibly been raped by a man who has kidnapped her. Nothing is certain but the narrator’s husband and the narrator fear this may have been what happened to their daughter. It is only when the narrator misses or has her period that they will know for certain and this uncertainty is to last for at least a week.
This uncertainty appears to also affect the narrator’s daughter who is fixated on a spot on the ceiling. This may be significant as it is possible that Deshpande is suggesting that the spot on the ceiling is a point in whereby the daughter had certainty. Up to this point she was safe and unafraid. Now she is paralysed on her bed uncertain of what is to come. The fact that the story is predominately set in the dark may also have some symbolic importance. Every character in the story is literally and figuratively in the dark as to what has happened. Nobody really knows what has happened the narrator’s daughter.
There may be other symbolism in the story which might be important. The daughter’s school uniform is black and white. As though figuratively easy to understand. However what is not black and white is what has happened to the narrator’s daughter, uncertainty remains. The neighbours’ knocking on the narrator’s door may also have meaning that is deeper than one might think. The neighbours represent the outside world to the narrator and at the moment the narrator only wants to see inside her daughter’s world. She desperately wants to know what has happened. To make a connection with her daughter.
The end of the story is interesting as Deshpande appears to be exploring the theme of hope. When the narrator pulls the blinds from the window and lets the light in. Her daughter shifts her attention from the spot on the ceiling to another brighter spot. This may be significant as Deshpande may be suggesting that there is some hope for the narrator’s daughter. That she will overcome the difficulties she faces. That the narrator will learn fully what has happened and whether or not her daughter was raped by the man. This sense of hope is vital for the narrator as she struggles to come to terms with what has happened to her daughter. She knows she can do nothing but reclaim her daughter and help her. Something that may prove difficult if the assault on the daughter has been sexual. An assault of such a nature would leave permanent scars on the narrator’s daughter and on the narrator. At the end of the story all the narrator has is hope that things will be okay.