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Assignment No.5
Deconstructive Analysis of “The Cow”
Submitted to:
Dr. Masroor Sibtain
Submitted by:
Nimra Nawaz
Roll No 49
Section (A)
Submission Date: June 06, 2020

Humanities Department
Institute of Southern Punjab, Multan


Deconstruction is a strategy of critical questioning directed towards exposing unquestionable

metaphysical assumptions and internal contradictions in philosophical and literary language.
Further deconstruction is a form of textual practice derived from Derrida, which aims to
demonstrate the inherent insatiability of both language and meaning. It rejects the word
“analysis” or “interpretation” as well as it rejects any assumption of texts.

Elements of Deconstruction Theory

Binary Oppositions

The binary opposition is the structuralist idea that acknowledges the human tendency to think in
terms of opposition. For Saussure the binary opposition was the “means by which the units of
language have value or meaning; each unit is defined against what it is not.” With this
categorization, terms and concepts tend to be associated with a positive or negative. For
example, Reason/Passion, Man/Woman, Inside/Outside, Presence/Absence, Speech/Writing, etc.


Against the metaphysics of presence, deconstruction brings a concept called differance. Derrida
uses the term “difference” to describe the origin of presence and absence. ”Derrida explains that
difference is the condition for the opposition of presence and absence.

Metaphysics of Presence/ Logocentricism

According to Derrida, “logocentrism” is the attitude that logos (the Greek term for speech,
thought, law, or reason) is the central principle of language and philos . The written word is thus
a representation of the spoken word. . Logocentrism is that characteristic of texts, theories,
modes of representation and signifying systems that generates a desire for a direct, unmediated,
given hold on meaning, being and knowledge.


The idea of difference also brings with it the idea of trace. A trace is what a sign differs/defers
from. It is the absent part of the sign‟s presence. In other words, we may now define trace as the
sign left by the absent thing, after it has passed on the scene of its former presence.


The term „arche-writing‟ is uded by Derrida to describe a form of language which cannot be
conceptualized within the „metaphysics of presence. „Arche-writing‟ is also a condition for the
play of difference between written and non-written forms of language.

Deconstructive Study of Short Story "The Cow" by Firdous Haider

Firdous Haider short story The Cow is very interesting and philosophical piece of writing. Its
main theme roams around the concept of female instinct who suffers the inability of her spouse
to her basic need. She accepts the terms of social contract or marriage and goes under the
custom. She longed for husband with all manly characters and strength, thus she bowed down
before him accepting him as her god but all in vain. The man lacked rebelled against all the
restrictions, norms, rules and values.
Whole the story revolves around this conflict and idea. Though there is no name of any character
but symbolically everything is told. It is much psychological and close to philosophical story.
With regard to deconstruction “The three stages of the decnstructive process described here I
have called the verbal, the textual, and the linguistic”.
Verbal Stage
From verbal point of view it means that words are not clear in sense or do not have one or two
fixed meanings but are several ambiguous meanings. At this stage individual words or phrases
are analyzed.
With the application of the first stage of verbal analysis we can see various things in the story
that show the slippage or floating of the language, according to deconstruction ground of
analysis. For example the text of story speaks as,
„She was listening and musing.‟,
the word listening is something in which something is said whereas the word musing means
remaining thoughtful and deep in thinking or consulting with oneself, both are overlapping each
other and resulting ambiguity to give clear sense either. Furthermore, there is a text saying as,

„That night was the mother of all nights…’

Again this utterance is unclear regarding the verbal structure. First the mother denotes something
that begets another thing but calling mother to night is vague. Here once again the norms of
Structural and stable meaning are challenged by text itself as self-evidently.
‘The rhythm of the flute became faster.
In this concept one can see that the concept of rhythm of flute is voice in essence that can be
louder instead of faster. And there is not any mentioning of slowness of the rhythm that now
needed to faster. In all the above some examples of verbal level, one can see the violation of
established structural stable meanings but are not justified sufficiently. The text and content that
left the questions and objections of Deconstruction as it were.
Textual Stage
In textual stage, individual words or phrases are not analyzed rather the whole text is seen with
context to its breaks, discontinuity, contradictions etc. to judge what is said at one place and what
is negated at another place.
Textual analysis of the short story, one sees the tension of ideas, breaks, and contradictions of
time, space or utterance. In this perspective the story title is The Cow but there is no mentioning
of Cow; the domestic animal. Instead of that the whole story moves around the woman. Only one
characteristic of the cow is defined with reference to the woman that is bellowing, longing for
male mate.
Whole the story revolves around the feminine discourse but little to say about the cow.
Furthermore, there are certain expressions which are contradictory to one another. Such as at one
place it said that time became motionless and next paragraph it is said that Moment by moment,
time went by; a moment spread over aeons and then aeons passed by. Both the expressions are
saying a contradictory notion that is calculated as an unreliable nature of the language by
deconstructionist analysis.
At the next paragraph of the story it is further said as as if it too was weary of bearing the grief of
the desolate monotony of immomobile moments. The same idea is again contrasted with this
expression as saying imomobile moments, whereas moments are certain division of periods. In
the same paragraph there is again ambiguous statement as but everything was still; loneliness
and restlessness persisted. If the text of the story may be read nothing was still, cow was
bellowing, the man was anxious to show her manliness, the woman was sparkling and longing

for the fulfillment of her desires and broke the chains. At another place there is said that she
stayed tied to her peg. It is again contradicted as in two next paragraphs saying that; she ripped
the golden veil and broke open the iron chains. In this context, it is further negated in the next
paragraph as, But now the chains were broken and she was moving towards her
destination....chased. This sentence show double negation of the above quoted concepts in which
firstly it is said that everything was still, but this sentence shows that nothing was still. And in the
next concept it is said that she stayed tied to her peg but she kept on doing all the things. From
this point the floating nature of language can well be judged.
Linguistics Stage
And in the final linguistic stage that involves looking for moments in the poem when the
adequacy of language itself as a medium of communication is called into question.
In the third linguistic analysis of the text with deconstruction point of view, there is one well
established scheme that text describes inability to say anything whereas everything is said;
showing incapability to do but everything is done. With reference to linguistic analysis there is
said in the text that She had no say in the matter. It is untrue on the literal as well as figurative
expression. Literally saying that no say means she did not speak of anything whereas the
complete story is example of her saying whereas speaking figuratively that she had nothing to
do, which is also untrue that she accept the terms of marriage, she got married, she stayed tied to
her peg, then broke the chains, kept on walking and running. She did not remain like cow, she
did not only bellow but she remained active and discarded passivity. Thus, the aim of the
language or its inherent weakness of inability of conveying the fixed message is broken and
It can well be concluded that the critical practice of deconstruction aims to dig out the hidden
inability of language to convey the single message of sign, signifier and signified. One
signifier can have many signified concepts. It was well seen by applying on the short story on
three stages. These three stages are verbal, textual and linguistic. With the application of all
three stages on the short story The Cow it was well seen that the flexible nature of language
cannot convey any single or stable message but there are several messages and meanings.
Therefore, the language is not trustworthy thing not systemic, as seen by structuralists, but is
chaotic and movable entity.