The poem The Freaks by Kamala Das is about the poet’s marriage in which there is no love between the couple. Her husband, who is an old man (as depicted in the poem) is attracted towards her outward appearance but is unable to enjoy her inner beauty or soul.
In the poem, Kamala describes how in a male-dominated (patriarchal) society, a woman must submit to her husband thought the latter may be ugly, older, lustful etc. She is supposed to satisfy him in all the ways without thinking about herself, her sexual needs and desires.
The poet calls herself and her husband “freaks”. The word freak means abnormal or stranger. Her husband is freak because of his old and ugly appearance while she herself is freak because she is in a loveless relation with such a person since long, satisfying him in all the ways.
I have divided the poem into three parts. Part 1 (Lines 1-9) describes the outward appearance of the poet’s husband. Part 2 (lines 9-17) describes his loveless and lustful nature and their failed love without any feelings and emotions. Part 3 (Lines 18-20) is about the poet’s calling herself and her husband freaks because of their queer relation.
Table of Contents
The poem begins with the words “He talks” which clearly depict that only the husband talks (a symbol of patriarchal nature of man). A woman cannot speak. Next, the poet says that her husband who is about to do love-making with her in the bed turns his sun-stained cheek to her. This is the first ugly attribute of her husband. She describes his face as sun-burnt (i.e. ugly)
Next, she describes his mouth as a dark cavern, in which stalactites of uneven teeth gleam. Cavern means a large cave. Stalactites are the long thin pieces of rocks which hang down in the entrance of the cave.
The poet is thus comparing his husband’s mouth with the cave and his teeth with stalactites. Again these are the attributes of his ugliness. His mouth is as big as a cave while his teeth are uneven and hanging in his cave-like mouth like stalactites.
Next she says that he puts his right hand on her knee so as to advance for love-making. Both of them are mentally preparing to do the sex-ual intercourse. But according to her their minds are only wandering and tripping idly over puddles of desire.
The word puddle means a pool of liquid. The line means that though they are preparing for love-making they cannot succeed because their minds are lazy and fail to fulfil their desire.
The poet wonders if her husband, whom she addresses as this man (because of lack of love for him), would be able to love her because he rapidly moves his finger-tips over poet’s skin. This shows his lack of love and lustful nature. He is trying to enjoy himself without thinking about his wife.
The poet says that his love is only for her skin and hence he cannot love her truly because for that he has to make slow movements and make her feel better and loved.
After raising the rhetorical question, the poet wonders how both of them with each other though they failed in love. The poet is criticising the institution of marriage and particularly the tradition of marrying off a girl to a random person without her consent. They are with each other only because of their marriage.
The poet says that her heart is like an empty cistern (tank for storing water) which is longing for true love. However, instead of love, it fills itself with coiling snakes of silence.
The word coiling here symbolises Labyrinth from which she cannot escape. And the snakes symbolise the poison as well as dead. Hence her heart is now dead for the love. It will never be able to love or be loved because of the snakes.
The poet says that she is a freak because she tries to show off noticeable lust to her husband so that she may be able to satisfy him. The poet has no lust or love in real. She is only pretending so that her husband may be able to satisfy his sex-ual desires. Check out this document for further details.