Critical Analysis of Even Past Fifty:
It is well known that Shanta Shelke has often written about the lives of Indian women. If the protagonist of “Even Past Fifty” is seen to be a representative of all middle-aged Indian women (as we have previously said), then this poem is both a praise and a critique of such women’s lives. While Shelke is appreciative of the undying spirit of such women, she also says that they never get the chance to produce anything substantial in their lives. We must read between the lines to see that Shelke is actually talking about the fact that women are not given equal opportunities as men for education or employment. They are confined to the domestic sphere. Their so-called childish behavior comes from their having been treated like children. They are married off at such a young age that they have not learned anything about the world at all by then. Even after marriage, they cannot obtain any knowledge of life outside their homes because they are always under pressure to complete their housework. They spend all their time cooking, cleaning, and looking after any other needs their husbands might have. They must live only for others and never for themselves. However, all this does not leave them bitter; only disappointed and that too, rarely. Instead, women adjust to their way of life and try to find a solution to any problem that they have to face. In spite of all odds, they manage to smile. Shelke praises this side of women – their resilience and optimism. Despite being denied their basic rights, women do not complain or fight. Instead, they are pleasant and helpful. They do not even expect any reward for their devotion to their husbands or their in-laws.
Poetic Devices in Even Past Fifty:
The poet has not followed any consistent or identifiable rhyme scheme in “Even Past Fifty”. However, this does not make the poem any less enjoyable. It also should not diminish the value of her poetic skill in our eyes.
This rhetorical device is used when a covert comparison is made between two different things or ideas. In this poem, the poet uses the device of metaphor in lines 4 – 6 when she compares the home of the protagonist of this poem with a doll’s house, and the running of her household with a childish game. She also uses this device in line 16 when she compares a blade of grass with a sword, and again in line 36 when she compares the protagonist’s life with a stream of water.
This rhetorical device is used when an overt comparison is made between two different things. In this poem, the poet uses the device of simile in lines 9 – 10 when she compares any troubles or difficulties in the protagonist’s life with wicked supernatural beings and also uses the word “like” explicitly while making this comparison. She also uses this device in the exact same way in lines 22-23 when she explicitly compares the smile on the protagonist’s with moonlight, both having a smoothing effect on everything around them.
The device of anaphora consists in the repetition of one word or a set of words at the beginning of every line in a sequence of lines. In this poem, the poet uses the device of anaphora in lines 33 and 34 when she begins both of these lines with the word “noted”.
Annotation of Even Past Fifty:
Please note: N= noun, V=verb, Adj=Adjective, Adv=Adverb, P=Preposition
Past (Adj): Gone by in time and no longer existing
Running (V): Present participle form of the word “run”, that is, to be in charge of or to manage
Household (N): A house and its occupants regarded as a unit
Fatigued (V): Past participle form of the word “fatigue”, that is, to reduce the efficiency of (a muscle or organ) by prolonged activity
Catastrophes (N): Plural form of the word “catastrophe”, that is, an event causing great and usually sudden damage or suffering or a disaster
Evil (Adj): Profoundly immoral and wicked
Spirits (N): Plural form of the word “spirit”, that is, a supernatural being
Blades (N): Plural form of the word “blade”, that is, a long, narrow leaf of grass or another similar plant
Wipes (V): Third person present tense of the word “wipe”, that is, to clean or dry (something) by rubbing with a cloth, a piece of paper, or one’s hand
Brow (N): A person’s forehead
Simplified (V): Past participle form of the word “simplify”, that is, to make (something) simpler or easier to do or understand
Tangle (N): A confused mass of something twisted together
Frame (N): A basic structure that underlies or supports a system, concept, or text
Distaste (N): Mild dislike or aversion
Smooth (Adj): Having an even and regular surface; free from perceptible projections, lumps, or indentations
Despair (N): The complete loss or absence of hope
Crumpled (V): Past tense of the word “crumple”, that is, to become creased, bent, or crooked
Fist (N): A person’s hand when the fingers are bent in towards the palm and held there tightly, typically in order to strike a blow or grasp something
Irrepressible (Adj): Not able to be controlled or restrained
Intensity (N): The quality of being intense, that is, having extreme force, degree, or strength
Pang (N): A sudden sharp pain or painful emotion
Hollowness (N): The state of being hollow or having an empty space within
Froth (N): A mass of small bubbles in liquid caused by agitation, fermentation, or salivating
Stream (N): A small, narrow river
Central Idea of Even Past Fifty:
Women have been deprived of opportunities for centuries. However, this does not stop them from trying to do the best with what they have been given. They are not bitter, but try to stay cheerful instead, and to pass their days with a smile on their faces.
Themes of Even Past Fifty:
Enforced childhood: Shelke says that women behave like children because they have always been treated like children. In India, most women in suburban or rural regions are not given proper education but are confined to their homes. They are married off at the age which is meant for playing with dolls. Shelke makes a silent protest against these things through this poem.
Lack of resources: When Shelke describes how the woman has to fight off problems with blades of grass, she is actually saying that no other resources are available to the woman. She has no knowledge of the world outside her house or her garden, and so she cannot use anything else to solve her problems.
Disappointment with ‘frothy’ life: Like the froth that arises from a stream of water, the protagonist of this poem has also only produced insubstantial things in her life. She herself also realizes this at times. She knows that half her life has gone by, and she has done nothing to be proud of, whereas the boys she grew up with have all studied and got jobs. Though she cannot always put a name to this kind of a disappointment, she does feel it.
Resilient spirit: The protagonist knows that she has not been given opportunities for advancement, but she also knows that this state of things will not change anytime soon for women. That is why she gets up and smiles and even sings at times to cheer herself up. She does not lose heart but makes do with what little she has.
The Tone of Even Past Fifty:
The tone of this poem is very ambiguous, and you must read the poem more than a few times to grasp the poet’s meaning. At the beginning of the poem, the poet seems to be praising the child-like enthusiasm o her protagonist. But towards the end, the poet regrets the fact that her life has flown by, and she has not been given any worthwhile opportunities.
“Even Past Fifty” seems to be a fanciful enactment of women’s lives. But beneath the surface, it is also an account of the hard realities of that life. Shelke is masterful in her portrayal of the never-say-die spirit of women.