The Doubt by Kamala Das Summary

The Doubt is a beautiful lyric by Kamala Das. This poem has been taken from “The summer in Culcutta” published in 1965. The main theme of this anthology of poems is the unfulfillment of Love, Lust, and womanhood. Encumbered love is no love. Her poems depict the complexity of life and selfhood.

The Doubt Poem

When a man is dead, or a woman,
We call the corpse not he
or she but it. Does it
Not mean that we believe
That only the soul have sex and that
Sex in invisible?
Then the question is, who
Is the man, who the girl,
All sex-accessories being no
Indication, Is she
A male who with frail hands
Claspe me to her breast, while
The silence in her sickroom, turning
Eloquent, accuses
Me of ingratitude?
And, is he female who 
After love, smoothes out the bed sheets with
Finicky hands and plucks
From pillows Strands of hair?
...How well I can see him 
After a murder, conscientiously
Tidy up the scene, wash
The bloodstains under the 
Faucent, bury the knife...
And, what am I in sex who shuttles
Obsessively from his
Stabs to recovery
In her small silent room?

The Doubt Summary

Kamala Das was the poetess of the human body. The theme of a common relationship took place in most of her poems. Her poems are full of images and symbols of love and lust. Her poems are known for their openness. She writes her poetry frankly. She is also known as a ‘confessional poet’.

She shows her feelings of lovemaking through this poem with doubt. Her doubt is whether a man is really a man or a woman; or whether a woman is really a woman or a man. She is trying to explore the answer to her doubt herself in the poem. She says that when a man is dead we call it a ‘corpse’ and not ‘she’ or ‘he’. She tells us that only the souls have ‘sex’ and not the ‘bodies’ and since the souls are invisible, sex should also be invisible. After the discussion, her doubt is still unclear. She is still in dilemma which man is a man or which woman is a woman by seeing their bodies. She argues that ‘the sex accessories’ give no sign to identify a human body that is ‘he’ or ‘she’. The poetess clarifies in a very clear manner that there is no defference between man and woman.

Kamala Das again raises the question that whether a man is a female who after ‘the game’ smooths the bed sheet and removes the broken hair from the pillows. It is a satire on the feminine qualities of a male and the masculine qualities of a female. Now, She has a new doubt about what they do in a closed room during the act of lovemaking. According to her, the woman might be playing the role of a man and the man might be playing the role of a female.

The poet shows that she is not aware of her openness and very openly admits what goes on between couples behind closed doors. He says that after ‘the act of intercourse, one of the partners cleans up the whole scene in the room like a murderer washes away the traces of blood under the tap and buries the tool, the ‘knife’. She doesn’t know what to do and moves back and forth to recover herself from the stabs. She moves here and there because she does not know how to respond to this act of love. She also does not know what she gains from this game of sex. Kamala Das is a confessional poetess and she does express that thing frankly which is generally not talked about or expressed by others openly.

The poem is written in free verse form with no regular rhyming or rhythmic pattern. The language of the poem is simple and prosaic. There is a strong autobiographical touch to this poem. In this poem, we find a woman’s desire – a desire for emotional fulfillment through the “game of sex”. Shows poetic mastery of phrasing and control of rhythm. The words: “sex accessories”, “knife” and “stab” are figurative and suggestive.

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