Woman in Patriarchal Culture: Widow Discrimination in Keeping Corner Novel by Kashmira Sheth

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This thesis proposal is submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirement of the Sarjana Sastra (S.S.) in the Faculty of English Letter in Pamulang University. The title of this study is Woman in Patriarchal Culture: Widow Discrimination in Keeping Corner Novel by Kashmira Sheth. This study concerns on widow discrimination in patriarchal culture that is portrayed in Kashmira Sheth Keeping Corner novel. The writer would like to welcome any constructive suggestions or critics in order to improve the quality of this thesis proposal. This study hopefully would be useful for teachers and other students who are interested in analyzing literary works.


Background of the Study

Gender issue becomes one of the problems in the society. Gender basically refers to two sexes such as men and women. Biologically both are having different roles and some major responsibilities that they need to fulfill. Both are supposed to be equal in human right but in some countries women are seen as inferiors and weaker than men. They are discriminated in patriarchal society. Patriarchy is where the society dominated by men, they have more power than women and they take over everything such as job fields, inheritance rights, property, and etc. As Walby (1990: 20) states “Patriarchy is the system of social structures and practices in which men dominate, oppress, and exploit women.” The distinct roles and behavior may bring about to gender discrimination. Gender discrimination is the prejudicial treatment of an individual due to gender. In today’s society, gender discrimination still happens in everyday life such as a high position in a company like a CEO (Chief Executive Officer) is usually filled by man rather than woman, another example is inheritance rights where men get more heritance than women in the family.

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Gender discrimination or inequality in patriarchal society makes women cannot decide their decisions, they cannot do what they want without being forced by the society, and they are not allowed to involve with politics, economic, and some sort of leadership just like men do. In some countries, the cause of gender discrimination is not only from the rule in the society but also the cultural belief and religion itself. As Sharma (2017) states:

“The socio-economic, cultural and religious factors combine to produce a psychological belief system that considers a woman weaker than a man and due to this reason they are given a secondary position in every aspect of the society.”

India is one of the countries that apply patriarchy system. In this country, discrimination happens in some rural areas, the women face such discrimination since their childhood because the people believe that birth of a daughter considered as a burden of a life. Indian parents prefer to have sons because sons can earn money for them and they will take care of their parents when they get older. Other discriminations that occur in India such as women are not allowed to get education, they are being told to stay at home, do the household chores, cooking, and serve the husbands. And the worst discrimination happens with women after the death of their husbands, the society discriminates them because of their status and based on Indian culture, a widow is considered as a disgrace for them, no matter in what caste the woman was born. According to Giri (2005) Widowhood is a state of social death, even among the higher caste.

Widows are being abused both physically and emotionally, they are not allowed to remarriage while widowers are allowed to get married again, and they no longer have a place in the society. Sahoo (2014: 45) states, “Whether young or old, widowed women leave behind their colorful saris, part with their jewelry, and even shave their heads, if they are in the more conservative Hindu traditions.” It means that widows are not allowed to wear some things that are the characteristic of the culture in which what Indian women usually wear.

There are so many amazing women in this world who fight against patriarchy and women’s right, one of them is Malala Yousafzai. She is a Pakistani activist for female education. Malala is the youngest person who won a Noble Prize Laureate at the age of 17 after surviving an attempted murder by the Taliban. She supported education for girls by writing a blog and giving information to an American journalist about the condition where girls in her village were banned to attend their school by the Taliban. Her action made the Taliban triggered, and then the Taliban gunman shot her on the bus after school. The bullet hit her head but after being hospitalized, her condition improved. Later on she became an activist for the right to education and received Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize.

Another great woman who fought for women’s right is Hillary Clinton, ex-wife of America President Bill Clinton. She is an American politician, writer, and public speaker. She became the first American lady of the United States for two tenure periods from 1993 to 2001, after that she became a United States senator, and secretary of state. In 2007, she declared herself to run as a candidate for United States president because no woman in America had been nominated for presidency but her competitor Barack Obama won the election. And for the second time in 2016, Clinton announced her candidacy for the presidency election but she did not gain enough polls and was defeated by Donald Trump. Clinton was an advocate for healthcare reform and gender equality, even though she did not win the presidency election twice, she proves that woman can join with the political, lead a society, and make a movement.

Gender discrimination against women is not only reflected in real life but also it is portrayed in literary works. As the example of gender discrimination in literary work is a novel by Kashmira Sheth entitled Keeping Corner, this novel won Rhode Island Teen Book Award and Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature. It tells about an Indian woman named Leela who becomes a victim of gender discrimination practice of traditional custom in Gujarat, India. She is being forced to marry by her parents when she is not even reaching her puberty. The more tragic thing is when Leela’s husband dies and then she becomes a widow, she is excluded from every traditional ritual and gets unequal treatment by the society even her family because people stigmatize her as a disgrace.

The author of this book featured the main character as a person who is not giving up easily, she combats the discrimination by trying to get education, read books and articles that written by activists because she believes that knowledge plays the important key role to change her fate to be better. And she also makes changes for other women’s life in India by empowering them to have education and make them realize that their custom about child marriage and patriarchy is unfair for them.

The writer chose this topic because there are many cases of patriarchy system where men are dominating the society and women get unequal treatment and their activities are limited by men which bring negative impacts to women. That is why the writer interested and discussing this topic by using novel as the object of this study.

Statement of the Problem

Based on the background of the study, the problems to be analyzed in this study are formulated as follows:

  1. How is widow discrimination in patriarchal culture depicted in Keeping Corner novel?
  2. What are the impacts of widow discrimination in patriarchal culture experienced by the main female character in Keeping Corner novel?

Scope and Limitation of the Study

The scope of this study concerns with literature study, which is novel entitled Keeping Corner written by Kashmira Sheth. Meanwhile, the limitation of this study is to analyze the impacts of widow discrimination in patriarchal culture experienced by the main female character in the novel.

Goals of the Study

The objectives of this study are answering the problems that have been mentioned before, which are:

  1. To describe widow discrimination in patriarchal culture issue in Keeping Corner novel.
  2. To analyze the impacts of widow discrimination in patriarchal culture experienced by the main female character in Keeping Corner novel.

Function of the Study

The writer expects this study has the following functions:

  1. The writer will understand more about widow discrimination in patriarchal culture and its impacts.
  2. To improve the writer’s knowledge and skills in analyzing widow discrimination in other literary works.
  3. For readers, to share information about social issues in literary works and their impacts in life.
  4. As a reference for others or readers who are interested in analyzing widow discrimination in patriarchal culture.

Systematical Presentation

The writer divides these studies into three chapters to enable the readers understand this study easily.

Chapter one is an introduction which consists of background of the study, statement of the problem, scope and limitation of the study, goals of the study, the function of the study, and systematical presentation. Background of the study reveals the explanation about the material in the title of this study and the problems of this study which to be analyzed are in the statement of the problem.

Chapter two is related studies, review of literature, and theoretical framework, consisting quotation and theories from various experts to support the analysis of this study in the review of literature and for the theoretical framework consists the theories that are used in analyzing this study.

Chapter three is research methodology, includes approach of the study, data source, technique of data collecting, and method of data analysis. This chapter explains about the approach of research that is related to the object in writing this thesis proposal and to collect some data sources of research that are used.

Related studies, review of literature, and theoretical framework

Related Studies

There have been some similar studies that have the same topic with this study. This chapter explains about the studies which have similarity. They are:

The first study was conducted by Lestari Rejeki (2016) from State Islamic University of Syarif Hidayatullah entitled Gender and Class Relations in Patriarchal Culture Reflected in Bob Darling and The Sugar-Tit by Caroline Cooke. This study focused on how the main female characters are depicted in patriarchal culture which is in the culture, woman is very vulnerable for gender discrimination. In writing her thesis, she used qualitative method in analyzing the study and the theories from Mansour Fakih about the manifestation of gender discrimination and Kimberle Crenshaw about the intersectionality concept of the connection of multiple dimensions such as gender and class in making discrimination. The result is, it demonstrates that the female characters experience gender discrimination such as stereotype, subordination, marginalization, violence against women and job burden because of their gender and social class.

The second study is a dissertation written by Ann C. Wilder (2016) from University of North Texas entitled Living Arrangements of Elderly Widows in India: Family Convention, Bad Luck and Abandonment. In this study, she tells the reader about how elderly widows become vulnerable members of Indian society due to discrimination and social stigma (i.e., being made to wear white and having their heads shaven, no longer being able to provide a dowry for re-marriage, being thought of as a burden for basic care of food and shelter without equal contribution to the family). The theories that she used are Modernization, Ecological System, Continuity, and Feminist theory. The result of this study is all of these aspects are important to take into consideration and addressing the needs of elderly widows in Indian society is an important part of the puzzle of sustainability and humanitarian aid.

The third study entitled An Analysis of Oppression Experienced by Three Female Characters in Film The Magdalene Sisters conducted by Yusuf Hendra Permana (2010) from State Islamic University of Syarif Hidayatullah. In his thesis, he describes how the main characters overcome the oppression in The Magdalene Sisters movie. In this study, he used qualitative method with a descriptive-analysis and Feminism theory in analyzing his study. The result of this study is proving that the three characters in the movie successfully open young women’s mind and they are able to break the tradition controlled by patriarchal and makes changes toward women that are still controlled by men.

The last study is a thesis conducted by Gbenga Emmanuel Afolayan (2011) from Erasmus University Rotterdam entitled Widowhood Practices and the Rights of Women: The Case of South-Western Nigeria. This study focused on the causes and impact of the widowhood rituals, in relation to how the traditional practice infringes on the rights of Yoruba widows in Nigeria that result in the harmful traditional practices. The writer of this study used qualitative research by doing an interview with two widows to complete his study. The result of this study is that widowhood rites violate the rights of women and that every effort taken to discontinue these practices has failed.

The differences between this study and those studies above are the women fighting against gender discrimination in patriarchy system in the society which all of the aspects are controlled by men and two these studies above talk about elderly widow that becomes vulnerable to discrimination and how the tradition gives bad impacts to widows while this study talks about discrimination against widow and how it stigmatized in patriarchy society. The similarity of these studies is talking about women discrimination in patriarchal society.

Review of Literature

In this part, the writer includes some definitions, opinions, and theories about patriarchy, novel, elements of novel, and character and characterization that are appropriate with the topic to complete this study.


Patriarchy is a social system in which males dominate both public and private fields such as politics, economics, and social privilege. Patriarchy becomes the prime barrier to woman’s development. The society that used the system of patriarchy gives priority to men, they let men control over the land, and limit the woman’s right. Males are seen as dominant access to institutional power, and it is argued that they mold ideology, philosophy, art and religion to suit their needs. The exercise of male power is viewed as at least somewhat conspiratorial, and women whatever their economic status, are perceived as a burdened category. So, the norms and practices that define women as inferior to men, impose controls on them, are present everywhere in our families, social relations, religious, laws, schools, textbooks, media, factories, offices. As Okpe (2005) states:

“Patriarchy is a broad network or system of hierarchical organization that cuts across political, economic, social, religious, cultural, industrial and financial spheres, under which the overwhelming number of upper positions in society are either occupied or controlled and dominated by men”.

Patriarchy, in its wider definition, means that the manifestation and institutionalization of male dominance over women and children within the family and the extension of male dominance over women in society in general. It implies that men hold power in all the important institutions of society and which women are underprivileged of access to such power. However, it does not imply that women are either powerless or totally deprived of rights, influence, and resources (Lerner 1989: 239).

For instance, some examples are illustrated here to represent some sort of discrimination and a particular aspect of patriarchy. Such as, son preference, discrimination against women in food distribution, burden of household work on women and young girls, lack of academic opportunities for girls, lack of freedom and mobility for girls, wife leathering, male control over women and girls, sexual harassment at workplace, lack of inheritance or property rights for women, male control over women’s bodies and sexuality, no control over fertility or reproductive rights. However, patriarchy is called the kind of male domination we see around women all the time. In this ideology, men are superior than women and women are part of men’s property, so women should be controlled by men and this produces women’s subordination.

Widow Discrimination

Discrimination which often occurs against women shall mean any distinction, exclusion or restriction created on the basis of sex which has the impact or purpose of impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women regardless of their marital status on the basis of equality of men and women, human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field.

In several countries, widows are become the object of discrimination in the society, they get inhuman treatment and deprivation of social and economic rights. In some countries, discrimination against widows caused by patriarchy system in which the society apply and religious laws. Across these wide ranging traditions, widows are subjected to patriarchal customary and religious laws and face problem of inheritance rights (Merry, 2003: 946; Iwobi, 2008: 39, Ewelukwa 2002: 469). In several countries, widowhood is stigmatized and seen as a source of shame. Widows are thought to be cursed in some cultures and are even related to with witchcraft. Such misconceptions will result in widows being ostracized, abused and worse.


Novel is an invented prose narrative of considerable length and a certain complexity that deals imaginatively with human experience, usually through a connected sequence of events involving a group of people in a specific setting. As Richard Taylor (1981: 46) states:

“A novel is normally a prose work of quite some length and complexity which attempts to reflect and express something of the equality or value of human experience or conduct. As literary work, novel can be analyzed from two ways, they are intrinsically and extrinsically”.

A novel has the main elements, there are setting, which includes time and place, setting explains when and where the story takes place. Character is the people, animals, or a thing that take part in the action of the story. Characterization is the process in which the writer reveals the personality of a character. Characterization is revealed through direct characterization and indirect characterization. Plot, it is the sequence event in the story, and the last is theme, the central idea in the story or novel, it can usually be expressed in a statement about human nature, life, or the universe.


One of the intrinsic elements of the novel is character and characterization. As mentioned before, character is the people, animals, or a thing that take part in the action of the story. Character is person in play, novel, etc (Manser, 1995: 63). The role and the play of a character is the key to make a story interesting. There are some types of character, such as: minor, it is the crucial character to the advancement and resolution of the conflict. Major, helps the plot events move forward. Protagonist, it is the main character that faces the conflict. Antagonist is the opposite of the protagonist. Static character, this is the type of character that does not change overtime. Dynamic character is the type of character that changes during the events in the story. Foil character, a supporting character whose personal qualities contrast with the other. Stock character, type of character who becomes stereotypical through repeated particular type of the story, and the last is round character, it is a character that has a complex personality and it makes the reader confused about the person’s actual nature.


Characterization is about the personality of a character. Characterization is the depicting of clear imagines of persons (Jones, 1968: 84). It is a perspective of the authors to describe characters in a story that can serve to deliver mandate, plot, and themes in the story.

Theoretical Framework

In analyzing the data, the writer used the theory from Sylvia Walby (1990). She distinguished two main forms of patriarchy, private and public. Private patriarchy is based upon household production as the main site of women’s oppression while public patriarchy is based principally in public sites such as employment and the state such as segregation and subordinating.

Research Methodology

Approach of the Study

The approach that is used in this study is qualitative because the writer described the data and the result of this study in the form of short essay. This method is chosen because in analyzing this study, the writer does not have any numeric data in it. According to Creswell (2014: 32), qualitative is an approach to understand human problem in the society in which the processes are including data collection, analysis of text or picture and interpret the meaning of the data.

There are some techniques in qualitative methods such as interview data, observation data, document data, audiovisual data, text and picture analysis, and themes interpretation. For data collection in this study, there are some theories and sources such as thesis, dissertation, articles, journals, and book which related to patriarchy and discrimination against widow that have been taken from some websites and universities libraries that have the same correlation with this study.

Data Source

In this study, there are two data sources that the writer used. There are primary and secondary data sources. The primary data source that was taken is a novel by Kashmira Sheth entitled Keeping Corner and the secondary data sources were taken from some websites, online university libraries such as State Islamic University of Syarif Hidayatullah, University of North Texas, and Erasmus University Rotterdam in the forms of articles, journals, book, thesis, and dissertation.

The technique of Collecting Data

The techniques of collecting data in this study that the writer used are:

  1. The writer read the novel carefully in order to understand the content of the story well.
  2. The writer read the dialogue many times to get more understanding of the story in detail.
  3. Identified the dialogue that contains data of patriarchy and widow discrimination.
  4. Collecting data from articles, journals, and book that relate to the problem of this study.

Method of Data Analysis

The methods of data analysis that the writer used in this study are: first, the data that have been collected are being analyzed by understanding theories and definitions related to the problem in this study. And then the writer presents it in the form of short essay.


  1. Afolayan, G., E. (2011). Widowhood Practices and the Rights of Women: The Case of South-Western Nigeria. Research Paper. Netherland: International Institute of Social Studies
  2. Creswell, J., W. (2014). Research Design Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches. California: Sage Publication
  3. Lerner, G. (1986). The Creation of Patriarchy. New York: Oxford University Press
  4. Permana, Y., H. (2010). An Analysis of Oppression Experienced by Three Female Characters in Film The Magdalene Sisters. Undergraduate Thesis. Jakarta: State Islamic University of Syarif Hidayatullah
  5. Rejeki, L. (2016). Gender and Class Relations in Patriarchal Culture Reflected in Bob Darling and The Sugar-Tit by Caroline Cook. Undergraduate Thesis. Jakarta: State Islamic University of Syarif Hidayatullah
  6. Sahoo, D., M. (2014). An Analysis of Widowhood in India: A Global Perspective. International Journal of Multidisciplinary and Current Research. Vol. 2
  7. Sharma, S. (2017). Relationship Between Culture And Gender Inequality In India. Journal Of Humanities And Social Science. Vol. 22, Issue. 10, pp. 30-35
  8. Sheth, K. (2007). Keeping Corner. New York: Hyperion Books for Children
  9. Sumariyo. (2017). Structural Analysis Novel The Rainbow Troops by Andrea Hirata in Intrinsic Elements. Journal of English Language Teaching & Education. Accessed on January 4th, 2019 from https://situtu.wordpress.com/2017/04/30/structural-analysis-novel-the-rainbow-troops-by-andrea-hirata-in-intrinsic-elements/
  10. Walby, S. (1990). Theorizing Patriarchy. Cambridge: Basil Blackwell
  11. Wilder, C., A. (2016). Living Arrangements of Elderly Widows In India: Family Convention, Bad Luck and Abandonment. Dissertation. Texas: University of North Texas


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