Revenge sketches the transformation of Jhumur, an educated, ambitious Bengali lady who after marriage transforms into a meek, obedient wife. Taslima Nasrin has portrayes Jhumur as a strong yet submissive woman who married Haroon for love and is bewildered to see the change in her husband’s attitude after the wedding. The book keeps us pondering on the ideas of right and righteous acts.
When Jhumur married Haroon, little did she know that the life she dreamed would remain in her fantasies. Haroon was just another orthodox husband with little respect for her dreams or ambitions; he expected her to do the cooking for the entire family, despite having maids to do the same. He insisted her to cover her head and was not allowed to stand in the balcony or travel alone or to her parents’ place. He defined Jhumar’s life by setting a code of acceptable behavior befitting a daughter-in-law rather than seeing her as a woman yearning for his love and companionship.
When Jhumur conceives after six weeks of marriage, Haroon forces her to abort, as he does not believe that the child is his. This was the ultimate betrayal to Jhumur. Her husband had destroyed the truth, trust, and purity of their relationship. Jhumur realizes that she hates him and webs plans to get revenge by falling in love with Afzal, the painter living downstairs. Their mutual attraction leads to physical intimacy, and Jhumur plans to have a child fathered by Afzal. She connived by avoiding her husband during her ovulation period and keeping a physical relationship with Afzal.
By the time Jhumur becomes pregnant for a second time, Haroon is a totally changed man. He excludes her from all household chores and involves her opinion in all the decisions. He believes the child to be his beyond any suspicion and acts like a doting father, taking care of all the baby-related chores.
Jhumur’s life changes also. She no longer has to cover her head, is allowed to travel alone to meet up with her old friends, and decides to work as a eacher. Haroon no longer controls her and accepts her as an intelligent woman strong enough to make her own decisions.
Taslima Nasrin has narrated the emotional turbulence that Jhumur suffers after marriage very vividly. Jhumur faces a myriad of emotions, from the bliss of being married to the man she loved to the shock knowing his abusive nature to her insecurities and helplessness to realizing she didn’t love Haroon anymore. Jhumur opts out of divorce, as she had seen how divorced women are treated by her society. (Even their parents treat them worse than the maid.) She accepts that her life and fate is tied with Haroon, but she can’t let him off the hook for the distrust he had shown her.
Nasrin tried to portray Jhumur as a determined modern woman, though occasionally one can feel the contradiction in the character. Jhumur hates her husband well enough to have a child from another man, yet she says she doesn’t hate him enough to leave him. She decides to free herself from the traditions, yet she is traditional enough to consider marriage was for life and couldn’t live with the “disgrace of divorce.” Other than slight discrepancies in setting boundaries to Jhumur's thoughts, the novel is an uncomfortably wonderful read.