The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Maternal Ambivalence in Avni Doshi’s Burnt Sugar




motherhood, mothering, maternal ambivalence, matrifocal reading, matrifocal narratives


Scholars and philosophers of motherhood studies have continuously highlighted the contradictions in the dominant cultural ideologies of motherhood and the lived experiences of mothers. While the ideologies define the mother as selfless, unconditional, and unequivocal in her love for her children, the actual experience, psychological and sociocultural studies reveal, is often permeated with negative, violent, and conflicting emotions towards children, known as maternal ambivalence. In India, where the idealisation blatantly spills over to deification, voicing such feelings becomes sacrilegious. This paper attempts to study how the novel Burnt Sugar (2020) by Avni Doshi dares to speak the “unspeakable” and demonstrates maternal ambivalence as resulting from a combination of psychological, social, and cultural factors. The analysis looks at how the text negotiates the interspace between daughter-centricity and matrifocality in women’s writing by giving voice to ambivalences on both sides of the mother’s experience—of mothering and being mothered. Ultimately, this study investigates the manner in which these feelings, which are not acknowledged within cultural conceptions of the mother, result in ambivalence and trauma across generations.


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Author Biographies

Haritha Vijayakumaran, Doctoral Student

Haritha V is a fourth-year doctoral student in the Department of English at Pondicherry University. She is pursuing her research under the supervision of Dr T. Marx. She has a bachelor’s degree in English Language and Literature and a postgraduation degree in English and Comparative Literature from Pondicherry University. Her doctoral research focuses on Matrifocal Literature, and her research interests include gender studies, indigenous literature, and cinema. The author is a recipient of the UGC-Junior Research Fellowship, NET Certification to teach at the college and university level and also the Sahapedia-UNESCO fellowship for 2019 and has published “Porattukali: Performance Art of Kerala’s Dalit Community” for the same. She has several publications in journals of national and international repute and has presented her papers at conferences and seminars in pioneering institutions nationwide.


Marx T, Professor and Head

He is a Professor in the Department of English, at Pondicherry University, with twenty years of teaching experience. His areas of specialization include Drama, Comparative Literature, Subaltern Studies and Translation. He has published 10 books in English and two books in Tamil. He has several publications in both International and National peer-reviewed Journals. He has successfully guided four research scholars leading to PhD degree. He has also organized six conferences and an e-workshop at Pondicherry University over ten years.


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How to Cite

Vijayakumaran, Haritha, and Marx T. 2024. “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Maternal Ambivalence in Avni Doshi’s Burnt Sugar”. Journal of Literary Studies 40 (1):13 pages.
Received 2024-01-13
Accepted 2024-05-09
Published 2024-06-25