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Features of The Sociological Criticism Standards in Story Analysis

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Social criticism is a mode of approach that expresses the malicious conditions and flaws of social structure. Social criticism interprets the text in the context of various social affairs existing in the current scenario. History, culture and tradition plays predominant role in this criticism. Though history and culture is extremely complex and immensely biased, an individual cannot deny it and is obliged to rely on it. There is a constant conflict between the individual and the society but the individual strives hard against the society still being a part of it which is great irony. ”Art is not created in a vacuum “, says critic Wilbur Scott.” Exploration of the relationship between the artist and the society is best expressed through this social estimation. In this paper a sociological criticism example story is given based on the two celebrated work of Girish Karnad’s Hayavadana and Nagamandala. These works are rich in symbols paving way to consider a work of fiction as a social text. In the period when Karnad started writing his plays the Kannada literature was highly influenced by the renaissance in western literature. Karnad’s play draws historical and mythological sources to tackle contemporary themes existentialist crisis of modern living through characters locked in psychological and philosophical conflicts. The famous works of Girish Karnad are Tughlaq, Hayavadana, Nagamandala, Yayati, The Fire and The Rain, The Dreams of Tipu Sultan, Bali, A Heap of broken images, Flowers: A Dramatic Monologue, and Wedding album. His plays has universal appeal, efficacy, thrill and entertainment with socio-culture interrogations.

It is really worth to trace the history of sociology. Sociology did not develop until the 1800s. it developed in Europe as a result of industrial revolution which caused social havoc such as housing shortages, crime and lack of employment. Auguste Comte was the father and the founder of sociology and believed that sociologists should worry about two problems that is order and change. There are two main ideas, one is the social statics which tells that overall structure of the society remains unchanged. Another is social dynamics which reveals the fact that elements within the society changes to allow social of the notable early sociologist is Herbert Spencer who coined the phrase “survival of the fittest “which advocated against social reform efforts because it would disrupt the natural selection process of evolution. It also implements the idea that the best traits of the society would survives over the time. The name Karl Marx is inescapable when considering sociological issues. He is a staunch believer of the concept that structure of the society is influenced by how its economy is organised. Max Weber focused on the groups within a society rather than society as a whole. He suggested “put yourself in someone’s place to study meanings behind and individual’s action. Social perspectives looks at patterns of unrest, change, integration and stability. Permanent social conflict is caused by competition for interests and value, power, and who gets what and the changes occurring with the power shift. The role of culture is immense in the society. Culture is a shared product of human groups both in material and non-material forms. Material culture is the physical object such as books, clothing, utensils which is exact contrast to non-material culture which is abstract creation such as language, beliefs, stereotypes and ideas. The cultural differences found between and within the society creates cultural diversity. Values determines the character of the society and the kind of culture they have. Various norms also teach rules and conduct for people to instruct them to act in specific situations. Society orders that rules of behaviour is very important and violation of it would endanger the basic stability of the system. All the events and the day to day interactions from birth to death that make up person’s life is constructed within the walls of the society. Sociology can also be seen as social science as it studies human behaviour, institutions or functions of human society in a scientific manner. Other social sciences are anthropology, psychology, economics, political science and history. There are three main foundational sociological lenses namely social conflict, structural functionalism and symbolic interpretation. It explicitly means society is made up of power struggle, interlocking systems and shared meanings. Status is a social position that a person holds within a society. Status also means prestige and part of social identity that helps individual’s relationship with others. Status keeps changing over the course of time and it occupies an individual’s life till death. An individual is not alone determined by status but also classified on the basis of class, religion, family background, gender and ethnicity. The common problems of every society in different country circles around sexism, racism, inequality and tradition. History, biology and media impacts the society tremendously. Social interaction investigates the structure of groups, organization, and societies, and how people interact within these context. Ranking system in any particular environment based on authority is called hierarchy which is a key factor of the society. If an individual’s behaviour is different from the societal norms then it becomes a deviance and it is not accepted in the society. Karnad has rightly stated out this factor and its consequences in his plays Hayavadana and Nagamandala. The social criticism of literature has been widely practised than recognized as a theory. The main purpose of criticism is to encourage positive outcomes and bring balance into our lives, provided with the basis of comparison and bring truth, honesty and intimacy. When criticism is done constructively it promotes learning and becomes a form of advice to help an individual grow better. The benefits that one will receive from the criticism will help individuals to have a good relationship with others, to be a more productive person, to be happier with oneself and to understand the differences of opinion better. An individual should develop the sense of self-esteem and acceptance in order to face the world boldly. Literature however mystical or fantastic in content is animated by a profound social concern.

Hayavadana is Karnad’s third play written in the year 1971 when traditional folk forms in urban drama came into existence. The significance of Hayavadana is based on Thomas Mann’s short story The Transposed heads, which Karnad wanted to produce as a film but with advice of his friend B.V.Karnath wrote it as a play. It is also based on the version of the story in Vetal Panchavimsati . Karnad follows the style of borrowing original stories and develops it further with the artistic imagination and tries to offer solutions to various problems unsolved in the original story. The subplot in Hayavadana is purely Karnad’s creation which throughout supports the main plot. Hayavadana talks about the vital truth of human existence through various socio-cultural and metaphysical aspects. The device of making inanimate object animate is one of the striking features of Hayavadana. Hayavadana in other words is a quest for the man’s integrity and totality in the existence of complex society. Hayavadana has made efforts to recreate the spirit without diluting the contemporary appeal. The characters of Transposed Heads Sridaman, his wife Sita and his beloved friend Nanda and the characters of prince Dhavala, his wife Mandasundari and his friend Svetapata owes much to the creation of Devadatta, Padmini and Kapila in Hayavadana. This play expresses the fact that real problem starts when it actually appears to end. Hayavadana proves to be a journey on the way back to the myths and legends of the Hindu religion. It also reflects the system of culture and its constant changes that impacts the society. The theory of love and friendship flows through continuous bafflement in the play. This play surfaces to find answers in unanswered things. Despite the various limitations posed by the society there is vigorous assertion of individual choices to live life in their own way. There is a perpetual battle between the biological desires and social expectations. The practice of sati is put under observation as to real worth to prove a woman’s chastity or a purely an escapism of a woman to overcome the harsh realities of tradition in the olden days. Thus, Hayavadana cannot be penned down into singular thematic basis rather put into larger universal concerns. It also exposes the truth that though an individual is born into a particular religion, doesn’t follow all its rituals and superstitions because of the knowledge grabbed from other external sources. It blends the components of love, identity and sexuality with folk culture and imagination. Hayavadana in 1972 received Kamala Devi award of the Bharatiya Natya Sangha as the best play.

Girish Karnad wrote Nagamanadala in the year 1988. Nagamandala is not only known for its self-justification but it is also a form of therapeutic device. The theme of alienation and duality of characters is inevitable in this play too. Karnad has created this drama in priestleyan sense. Nagamandala is a story of a woman who use pseudo magical powers to win her husband. King cobra is a animal imagery which is the significant element and the base of the story. King cobra in other term known as nagamandala stands as a symbol of a woman’s carnal pleasure and sensual desires. This play clearly pictures the dual nature of woman making herself dutiful, quiescent wife in the morning and taking up the role of a sex doll to satisfy her husband in the night. It is obvious that only woman in the society is always put to question when it comes to aspects of virginity and sexuality whereas a man is not. The challenge women take up in the society is constant and daring. The conflict between the real and ideal self is well portrayed through the ideas of Karnad in the play. Though the incidents in the play is complex at large, the end is simple and abrupt. Karnad’s language in the play is very rich that there is no scope for interpreting the play differently without distorting the original plot and meaning. The unceasing search for completeness gets culminated in presenting a ‘complete woman’ in Nagamandala. It provides a striking contrast between the man and the snake where a man is devoid of humanness whereas a mere snake achieves a superiority over a man. Karnad employs inanimate objects especially flames having ability to talk with each other in female voices is quiet surprising. Inanimate objects mirrors the animate reality. These flames are not just flames but the representatives of the society. It also deals with the loose morals that are practised in the society and human’s doubts and questions on the religious values that have been preached and practised for years. Nagamandala comes alive with enormous symbols, obscure meanings and implicit and explicit lessons captivating the audience scene by scene. The man and woman is put to question about their intimate relationships and sacramental wedlock for which only the woman is obliged to answer. The village judicial system and process of deification in Indian society gets revealed through the play. Magical folktales are used as backdrops to express the complexities of social and individual relations and human life in general. Girish Karnad’s significant mark of achievement lies on the usage of symbols and depiction of fruitful experiments of the new resurgence in the history of Indian drama. Nagamandala is considered to be the most creative work which brought him Karnataka state Sahitya Akadamy Award.

The significance and facets of social criticism is extremely large and wide. Marxist criticism is influenced from sociological criticism which aims at criticising economic and political elements of art. This criticism is all inclusive term because psychological approach, gender theories, myths and rituals are inevitable part of it. It is also crucial to know the life of author in analysing a particular text. A race, nation and social group to which an author belongs to influences his work of art. External factors and outside sources act as a guidance in writing literature. The idea for different genres would come from family, history, personal experiences and from one’s own creativity. Most of the writers such as George Orwell and Charles Dickens have dramatized the actual experience of their life through their work. In sociological aspect many writers have articulated the disillusionment with society and human nature. Society acts as a centre to which each and every individual is connected as components. This centre enhances the movement for individuals to act, but at the same time it also curtails the movement. An individual can never change unless the system undergoes transformation. Society provides extensive opportunity for the progress of the people but at the same time it strangles the individual’s freedom. When society fails in the purpose it can be no longer the centre. The writer whose works contain social discussions hopes to achieve more than merely entertaining readers. Many writers take responsibility to make their audience aware of certain facts. Age, political scenario and cultural issues may sometime dominate the entire plot and become the central theme around which all actions revolve. Many social fictions presents the truth about situations without injecting author’s personal beliefs and emotions. Typically writers of social fiction cast their characters as plain and ordinary individual caught up in the web of larger world issues. It observes how the larger issues of the society affects the goals, motives, attitudes, behaviour and destiny of an individual.

Social critic should not be radically detached becoming a total stranger to society rather, should be objective and hold universal principles in analysing a text. A true social critic must stand as a mediator between social concerns on one side and individuals feelings and thoughts on other. Philosophers, political theorist and social critics are not born but are made by the society because of their views and interest on moral life that stood as sustenance and inspiration. It is reflection of not only the society but environment. Common social commentary includes struggle of the marginalised and the poor, oppression of working classes, civil right struggles, gap between the poor and rich and various economic tensions. It depicts society in extreme contrast that is utopiadystopia. A social critic performs in several ways. First, he tries to discover the author’s attitude towards the central problem and checks whether the solution is offered. The critic should also detect whether the text has promoted any social value and recognise whether the author has agreed or disagreed with the value expressed. Social criticism is convincing because it right away questions the existing structures and norms which has been made to believe as a standards for perfect living. Through such criticism the credulity of such established norms are challenged. It serves as a platform between rational truth and faked reality. It evokes the question in an ordinary man’s mind and helps him to gain an alter perspective towards such social structure. It shows an individual’s dissatisfaction towards the society. It can also be termed as an individual’s outrageous vexation of the inequalities prevailing in the society. A social criticism is an indirect attack on unequal norms by depicting the hard-core realities as such. It is an attempt to create rightful impressions on the people against such class old practices, thereby to facilitate the change. Anthropological criticism forms a part of social assessment by focusing on aspects of everyday life in various culture using ideas of folklore, ritual, celebration, tradition etc. social commentary has become an unavoidable part of human existence, as not only critics, but each and every person is involved in the task of commenting upon the everyday social issues. This approach is favourable in innumerable ways but at the same time, it has its own limitations. This type of interpretation make people judgemental even to the unwitnessed issues and unseen experiences of others. People at last become victims of passing commentaries and judgements. Criticism cannot be evaded from this world unless and until people take interest in their life rather than gossips about others. It makes an individual accept his flaws but at times fails to shape him better. Concerning to women’s issues like rape, sexual abuse, verbal harassment, marital tortures and child molestations has no concluding solutions have been given by the society. Criticisms sometimes stops with just broadcasting, highlighting, and making arguments without taking any instant action. Criticisms should not just end with expression of thought rather it should be taken further for the grain of action. Social analysis becomes immobilised when it is declutched from action. People are dependent on each other for various purposes but every individual leads an independent life with different desires and ambitions to which other people are completely unaware of. Therefore, social criticism being the base to society and literature and inevitable part of human life, it can attain greater heights by putting thoughts to action.

To end up, in the recent times writing the deals in a free yet serious manner with the general ideas is becoming popular. The creative writer reacts upon some phase of man and nature and the critical writer reacts upon the representation or reaction of the creative writer. Literary criticism is a long process of simplifying, condensing and editing. Social interpretation of a text has two divisions. First it exposes the point of view of the author, purpose, methods and technique, personal forces and environmental conditions that made the work possible. Second, it aims at judgement of truth or value by some authoritative standard. Criticism, if not impressionistic, it is either aesthetic or judicial. Karnad’s work has the element of both. Aesthetic is inclusive of the literary impression, the nature of the comic, the tragic, the beautiful, the pathetic and the grotesque. Judicial plainly deals with the point of view of its proper function there is always a vital relation between specialized learning and popular thought. Art and literature in some form are social necessities. Social criticism with its union of thoughts, opinion or prejudice, charm or beauty of the form, its intellectual content is essentially persuasive in its nature. The main function is to distinguish which is true from that which is merely interesting. The standard of analysing the text lies on taste, reason and social utility. Although taste is a very valuable artistic faculty, its field is limited to artistic form or technique and its exercise it’s mainly irrelevant to as regards matter, which is the chief province of social criticism. George Bernard Shaw adopted drama as its medium of expression considering it as an effective instrument to end the social propaganda but whether it was full filled is still a question.

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Features of the Sociological Criticism Standards in Story Analysis. (2023, February 11). GradesFixer. Retrieved March 24, 2023, from
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