The poem, The Freaks, dramatizes an abnormal situation in love-making which exposes the futility of loveless relationships. It also brings to light the agony of the female persona who remains a non-participant in the act of love-making because it denies her the emotional and intellectual thrills of life.
The Freaks Analysis
He talks, turning a sun-stained
Desire. …. .
The female-persona in the poem, which can be read in full here, presents the male-partner in love in a very dark light. His way of talking is highly selfish has no fascinating for her. She knows that he cannot go beyond the satisfaction of his lustful desires. She finds him not only ugly looking but also extremely repulsive. His cheeks are sun-burnt and brownish in appearance, his mouth looks very horrible like a dark cavern and his shining teeth are uneven and calciferous. The man places his right hand on the knee of the female in a gesture of love-making. They are intending to make love, their minds-particularly of woman-keep wandering to avoid any sign of emotional involvement in it.
The lovers are filled with ‘puddles of desire’ i.e. lust without love. It is a purely sensual relationship full of dirt and filth i.e. lust only. The female persona finds this relationship lifeless and devoid of any meaningful spiritual or emotional involvement. The poet here dramatizes the pangs of sorrows of a woman involved in a lifeless and loveless relationship. She is all disenchanted with the purely sensual relationship which deprives her of the intellectual and emotional thrills of life. She feels almost suffocated but has to bear this torture because of social compulsions. She is not against physical love but it must pave the way for spiritual love.
Can this man with
With coiling snakes of silence. …..
In this section, the poet says that the woman finds herself totally isolated and ignored in the sexual act. She is all fed up with the lustful desires of her partner in love. She feels emotionally and spiritually starved in this type of sensual relationship. She also feels almost suffocated and disillusioned in this unwilling marital relationship.
The female persona is totally disgusted with the non-stop sexual demands of the male persona. She is critical of his purely lifeless and uninspiring love. She is treated like a playful objective only. The fingers of the man move very swiftly over her body for the gratification of his lustful desires. He cannot think beyond ‘skin’s lazy hungers’, i.e., physical passion in which there is no place for the realization of spiritual or emotional satisfaction. She has realized the futility of this relationship which is based on sex and not love in any way.
They have lived together for so long without the realization of pure love which can ensure them emotional security, “Who can help such an unfortunate couple? Nobody, really”! She asks. Their hearts are like empty, dry cisterns devoid of the life-giving water of true love which can lead to spiritual and emotional fulfillment. Their hearts are like empty cisterns filled with snakes of silence waiting to be filled with love, not sex. A lustful relationship pollutes but an emotional-cum-spiritual bond purifies the hearts of the persons involved in the sexual act.
The poet’s dissatisfaction with an exclusive sexual relationship is continued in this section of the poem. It is a soul-killing relationship devoid of any spiritual and emotional fulfillment and security. It has to be borne because of its social compulsions to honour marital commitments.
I am a freak. It’s only
To save my face, I flaunt, at
Times, a grand, flamboyant lust.
In this concluding part of the poem, the poet says that the female persona finds herself involved in a loveless relationship with her partner in love. Being a purely sensual relationship, she feels spiritually and emotionally starved in it. It is all sex without love.
The female persona finally realizes that she too is a freak like the male-persona. But she does not want to give the impression that she is sterile and incapable of responding to the calls of love. Though fed up with a lustful relationship, she feigns the masculine role and flaunts “a grand, flamboyant lust” at times to save her feminine integrity and strength.
She wants to show that she is not frigid in any way, but is sufficiently fit for participating in the sexual act. But this pretended show of lust cannot be called genuine and real. It is undoubtedly an abnormal behaviour to counteract the passivity and laziness of the male partner. This shows that she is also a freak who poses to be an equal and willing partner in the sexual act.
This stanza shows the futility of sensual relationship which are devoid of spiritual and emotional fulfillment. They are uninspiring and lifeless. Such relationships manage to survive because of parental pressures and social compulsions only.
Thus, Kamal Das presents the male lover in a very poor light in the poem, The Freak. He is a confirmed freak who is a classic case of abnormality. He is sex-starved who does not think beyond the carnal relationship. Being highly self-centered, he wilfully overlooks the demands of his partner in a sexual relationship. He considers the female as the object of the gratification of his lustful desires only. He is least bothered about the satisfaction of the female’s emotional and spiritual needs. He has no faith in the curative and purifying power of love. He is more than satisfied with arousing in his beloved the “skin’s lazy hungers” i.e. lustful desires.
Kamala Das uses very suggestive images to convey her feelings. The expression ‘puddles of desire’ exposes the male persona’s lustful nature. Sun is the symbol of intense heat which can harm the human body. The scorching heat of the sun disfigures the skin and makes it very repulsive. In the poem, The Freaks, the female persona is filled with awe as her lover ‘talks, turning a sun-stained/Cheek to me”. The details of the male anatomy are presented here with utter distaste. This is so because she concentrates on its negative aspects alone.
The expression ‘dark cavern’ is reflective of the terrifying and repulsive facial expression of the male persona. The expression ‘skin’s lazy hungers’ refers to the satisfaction of the appetites of the body. The image of ‘snake’ symbolizes male sexual organ exploits the female chastity. The denial of spiritual love to the woman fills her psyche with snakes, the symbolic phallus. The word ‘freak’ is used as a metaphor for the abnormal behaviour of the male and the female in this stanza.