S. Kumaran’s Review of Pathos in the Short Stories of Rabindranath Tagore

K. V. Dominic’s Pathos in the Short Stories of Rabindranath Tagore. New Delhi: Sarup Book Publishers Pvt. Ltd., 2009. Hardbound, Pp. x+140, Rs. 450.  ISBN-978-81-7625-923-1.

Dr. S. Kumaran

(Appeared in Issue 39 September – October 2011 of Muse India)

      Recollection of Tagore’s writings is a wonderful experience to a serious reader who feels intense happiness in his quest for the hidden treasure of a text. The book Pathos in the Short Stories of Rabindranath Tagore written by Prof. K. V. Dominic offers a new insight into the unexplored zone of Tagore’s characterization. Out of the nearly hundred short stories, the book takes into analysis thirty nine short stories to identify the pathos of men, women, and children. The pathos of these characters arises out of Tagore’s realism and hence the study is a promising and enriching one.

Prof. K. V. Dominic is an eminent academician who has been contributing to the field of literature by his scholarly articles, memorable books, and inspiring poems. He is the editor of Indian Journal of Postcolonial Literatures, an international refereed biannual published in June and December. He has also published several articles in national and international refereed journals. Prof. Dominic has evinced keen interest in the short stories of Tagore and has made a novel attempt in its interpretation.

Tagore’s realistic portrayal of men who belong to different stratum of society has been analysed in fourteen of his short stories. The analysis reveals the futility of capitalistic urge and the weaknesses of the social structure of Tagore’s days. Some of the pathos of men in the text include: the fathers’ realisation of the grown-up status of their children in “Kabuliwallah;” the son being offered by the father to his master to compensate the loss of the master’s son that he has incurred and the son’s inhuman rejection of his own father after becoming the darling of the rich man’s house in “Little Master’s Return;” Ramkanai, the head of the house, becoming an enemy of the house because of his honesty in “Ramkanai’s Folly;” the punishment incurred by Hemanta for his love and marriage with a low caste girl in “Renunciation;” the pangs of love that grips the protagonist when he realises his love for his beloved when she becomes another man’s wife in “A Single Night;” the loss of life-long friendship between Banamali and Himangshu owing to a silly event that originates in a capitalist society in “The Divide” or “The Difference;” the pains of an average husband because of his wife’s greediness and false belief in “Golden Deer;” an honest person being distrusted and left by his beautiful wife in “The Lost Jewels”; a man being tortured by his insincere service to his wife on her death-bed in “In the Night”; Sashibhusan being troubled by his hatred for British and the love for Giribala in “Sun and Shadow”; the beloved being hated by her lover for having made a love-sick boy a scapegoat for him in “Emancipation”; the patriotic pangs of a hero in “The Raj Seal” or “The Royal Mark”; the impact of guilty conscience on the characters in “Purification”; and the Village doctor’s sorrow due to his folly in “Folly.”

The analysis of the pathos of women in the eighteen short stories is commendable. It exposes the sad condition of women in the Bengali society against the odds of feudal system and points out the unjust suppression of feminine wants and rights. At the same time, it never fails to hint at the strength, courage, and determination of these women. Though they are shown as the victims of patriarchal society, their moral courage and spiritual wealth make them inspiring heroines. Some of the pathos of the women in the stories include: the unfruitful and unfulfilled desires of an orphaned girl in “The Postmaster”; the agony of a dumb girl who seeks a lasting relationship with nature in “Subha” or “The Dumb Girl”; the pathetic story of Kusum as narrated by an inanimate object in “The Landing Stairway” or “River Stairs”; Hardships of Bengali women due to unhealthy and unjust feudal morals and customs in “Living or Dead”; the impact of dowry system on Nirupama, who is left uncared on her death-bed,  in “Debits and Credits” or “The Deal”; the extreme faith of a poor wife on her husband’s intellectual calibre and his eventual failure in “Taraprasanna’s Fame”; the consequences of child marriage and ‘Suttee’ in “Mahamaya”; Spiritually rich Bengali peasant women being dehumanised and undervalued by their husbands in “Punishment” or “The Sentence”; the sacrifice of a lovable elder sister to save her younger brother from her greedy husband in “Elder Sister”; the oppression of women in the bourgeois society in “The Judge”; men’s exploitation of the helpless position of women in the middle class Bengali society in “Atonement”; the sufferings of women due to their excessive love and respect for their husbands in “The Middle One”; the threatening act of a woman to fulfill her inner urge in “Skeleton”; the reflection of the “suppressed emotions and passions of the dead women of the palace” in “Hungry Stones”; the misunderstanding between the newly married couple in “The Conclusion”; an orphan girl being “beguiled by the false hope of marriage with a doctor” in “The Wedding Garland”; and the sufferings of wives not only from the hands of their husbands but also from the in-laws of the houses in “The Wife’s Letter.”

Pathos of ‘handsome and angelic’ children and the adolescent in the seven short stories arises out of factors like, the existing system of education and parental training that curtail the natural genius of children and which make learning a painful experience, the authority of elders on children, unsound social norms, and underestimation of children by adults. Some of the pathos of these children include: a rustic child’s inner urge to return home as he is sent to his uncle’s home due to his mother’s disgust at his reported unruly behavior in “Holiday”; the consequences of a homeless boy’s unintended unethical action and his ‘tragic disappearance from the world in “Unwanted” or “Castaway”; the agony of a little girl due to child marriage in “The Exercise Book”; the problems faced by the wards from their cruel teachers in “Housewife”; a boy’s uncontrollable love for nature and his failure to maintain familial relationship in “Guest” or “Runaway”; the torture of a boy for having picked flowers from the garden without his aunt’s knowledge in “Trespass”; and a grandchild being killed by the greed of his grandfather in “Wealth Surrendered” or “Trust Property.”

Thus, Prof. K. V. Dominic’s analysis of the pathos of men, women, and children in the short stories reveals Tagore’s depth of characterisation and shows him as an iconoclast who had represented the ordinary men and women who had so far been neglected in the writings of his days.

Dr. S. Kumaran, Lecturer in English, University College of Engineering, Tindivanam, Saram, Villupuram Dist, Tamil Nadu. Pin: 604307