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Chapter

TAGORE Notes


Department
English
Course Code
ENG213H1
Professor
Uzo Esonwanne

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The Village and the World:
A Political Reading of
Rabindranath Tagore’s Prose Fiction
Christine Marsh, BSc, BA (Hons.)

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The Village and the World:
A Political Reading of
Rabindranath Tagore’s Prose Fiction
Christine Marsh, BSc, BA (Hons.)
chris_e_marsh@hotmail.com
September 2006.

Only pages 1-3 are available for preview. Some parts have been intentionally blurred.

The Village and the World 3
SYNOPSIS
This essay is the end product of research into the prose fiction of the Bengali writer,
Rabindranath Tagore, who is best known for his poetry. The works chosen for
analysis are short stories and novels in English translation, written between 1890
and 1915. The study involved a political reading of these texts in order to explore
how, in the 1920s, Tagore came to establish a centre for rural reconstruction and an
international university, as his practical contribution to bringing into reality his
vision of a world of cooperation and community. Recognising Tagore’s identity as
Poet and Reformer is crucial to interpreting his stories and longer fiction, and leads
to questioning criticism of the work according to established Western models.
The Introduction puts the chosen texts in the context of Tagore’s life and the
historical background, in particular looking at how the British Empire disrupted
village life, and created an urban middle class of landlords and administrators, who
became Westernised due to their having benefited from the Raj.
The first main chapter is focused on the Village, and the short stories Tagore
wrote during the 1890s whilst he was managing the family estates. One particular
short story, ‘Punishment’, is examined closely to reveal the layers of meaning
underlying Tagore’s method of story-writing. The study revealed Tagore’s particular
interest in the role of women in traditional domestic and village life, and introduced
the idea of ‘dharma’ as the duty of a wife towards her husband and her family.
The second main chapter is focused on the World and how the novel form
brought from the West developed in India. Three of Tagore’s novels are examined:
The Wreck (1906), Gora (1909) and The Home and the World (1915). Tagore
employed the technique of allegory to challenge urban values and social divisions,
and to show that the individual has a responsibility to shun group identity and
embrace universal understanding, tolerance and cooperation. The novels take the
Western reader further into the Indian concept of ‘dharma’, as the means by which
the individual in relationship with others can become a practical reality.
The concluding chapter summarises how the study has demonstrated the need
to question Western assumptions, in literature studies, and in the dominant model of
world economics and politics, in order that Tagore’s alternative vision may be
appreciated by the wider world.
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