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Kumaran S : Pathos in the Short Stories of Tagore

Portrait of a woman. Watercolour. Courtesy -

Book Review

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

Any analysis 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 journal 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 in Tagore’s time. 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 grip 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 predicament of women in contemporary 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.


Focus – "Reading Across Time": Tagore Today

  Amrit Sen : Editorial

Lead Article
  Udaya Narayana Singh : Redrawing the Boundaries

Critical Essays

  Nation, History, Cultural Exchange
    Avijit Banerjee : Tagore’s Visit to China
    Bijoy Mukherjee : Rabindranath and Indian History
    Biswanath Banerjee : Tagore and Acharya PC Ray
    Sagarika Chakraborty : Tagore the Diplomat
    Soumitra Roy : Tagore’s Ghare Baire

  Responses to Caste and Gender
    Dhriti Ray Dalai/ Panchanan Dalai : Tagore’s ‘Chandalika’
    Dipankar Roy : Women in Tagore’s ‘Domestic Novels’
    Sanjukta Dasgupta : “Streer Patra” - A Feminist Text?
    Swati Ganguly : Gender, Sexuality and Conjugality in Samapti

  Translation and Reception
    Anindya Sen : Tagore’s Self-Translations
    Jayati Gupta : Whose Gitanjali is it Anyway?
    Sushobhan Adhikary : Cartoons on Tagore
    Usha Kishore : The Auto-translations of Rabindranath

  Rural Reconstruction and Ecopoetic
    Bipasha Raha : Experiments with Village Welfare
    Debotosh Sinha : Tagore and Rural Reconstruction
    Falguni Piyush Desai : Floriography in Tagore’s Poetry
    Marie Josephine Aruna : ‘Letters’ and Ecopoetics

  Aesthetics, Paintings and Dance Dramas
    Aju Mukhopadhyay : The Poet of Sublime Love
    Raghupathi K V : Aesthetics of Tagore and Sri Aurobindo
    Sudeshna Majumdar : Paintings of Tagore
    Sutapa Chaudhuri : Dance Dramas of Tagore

  Tagore and the Short Story
    Dominic K V : Tagore’s Short Stories
    Mausumi Sen Bhattacharjee : ‘The Hunger of Stones’

  Tagore and Visva-Bharati
    Anindita Chongdar : Anecdotes of Santiniketan
    Debmalya Das : The Visva-Bharati Quarterly
    Subodh Gopal Nandi : The Visva-Bharati Library

Creative Responses

    Sanjukta Dasgupta : Remembering Rabindranath

    Frank Joussen : Tagore and Walt Whitman
    Nuggehalli Pankaja : The Voice of Tagore
    Sanjukta Dasgupta : To Rabindranath
    Shambhobi Ghosh : Yet

  Ahmed A H S : Birthday and other poems
  Anup Maharatna : From ‘The Last Writings’
  Ashoka Sen : Africa
  Barnali Saha : The Vacation (Fiction)
  Naina Dey : Chance Meeting
  Parantap Chakraborty : The Son of Man
  Suranjima Saha : Preamble to a Journey
  Swapna Dutta : The Editor

  Amrit Sen:Behind the Veil & Tagore and Modernity
  Kumaran S : Pathos in the Short Stories of Tagore

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