Of great interest to Pramoedya’s writing, which is largely neglected, is the presence of ordinary women as supporting characters. This paper discusses the depiction of strong-willed women who embody the desired character that the Indonesian nationalists in the 1950s sought to construct in Pramoedya’s three early novels, i.e.  Keluarga Gerilya [The Guerilla Family] (1950),  Korupsi [Corruption] (1954), and  Sekali Peristiwa di Banten Selatan [Once Upon A Time in South Banten] (1958). Written during the period when nationalism in the country began to crack, the three novels present minor but arresting female characters: these women are able to find their right place in society as to excel and sometimes surpass men. Indeed, it is the presence of the characters that gives power to the narrative – that of a nation in decline. Using Fredric Jameson’s interpretation of politics and literature as theoretical departure, this paper examines the novels against the backdrop of Indonesian social history after the first decade of independence. It is revealed that the presence of these female characters is not only allegorical to the Indonesian political reality of the day, but it also harbors aspirations and ideal visions of what future Indonesian society should be like.


Strong-willed characters, repressed unconscious, nation building

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Kritika Kultura
Department of English
School of Humanities
Ateneo de Manila University

The Philippine Commission on Higher Education (CHED) declares Kritika Kultura as a CHED-recognized journal under the Journal Challenge Category of its Journal Incentive Program.

International Board of Editors

Jan Baetens
Faculty of Arts
Katholieke Universiteit te Leuven (Belgium)

Joel David
Professor of Cultural Studies
Inha University (South Korea)

Michael Denning
Professor of American Studies and English
Department of English
Yale University (US)

Faculty of Cultural Sciences
Universitas Gadjah Mada (Indonesia)

Regenia Gagnier
Professor of English
University of Exeter (UK)

Leela Gandhi
John Hawkes Professor of the Humanities and English
Brown University (US)

Inderpal Grewal
Professor of Women's Gender and Sexuality Studies
Professor of South Asian Studies, Ethnicity, Race and Migration Studies
Yale University (US)

Peter Horn
Professor Emeritus and Honorary Lifetime Fellow
University of Cape Town (South Africa)
Honorary Professor and Research Associate in German Studies
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

Anette Horn
Professor of German Studies
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

David Lloyd
Distinguished Professor of English
University of California, Riverside (US)

Bienvenido Lumbera
National Artist for Literature
Professor Emeritus
University of the Philippines

Rajeev S. Patke
Director of the Division of Humanities
Professor of Humanities
Yale NUS College (Singapore)

Vicente L. Rafael
Giovanni and Amne Costigan Endowed Professor of History
University of Washington (US)

Vaidehi Ramanathan
Department of Linguistics
University of California, Davis (US)

Temario Rivera
Professorial Lecturer
Department of Political Science
University of the Philippines

E. San Juan, Jr.
Philippines Studies Center (US)

Neferti X.M. Tadiar
Professor of Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies
Barnard College (US)
Director of the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race
Columbia University (US)

Antony Tatlow
Honorary Professor of Drama
Trinity College Dublin (Ireland)