Chandara is the central character of "Punishment." Her husband Chidam lies to a prominent man in the village, saying that Chandara killed his brother’s wife, in order to protect his brother, the real culprit. Chandara decides to stick with the false story and take the blame for the murder, since she would rather be hanged than stay with a man who would betray her in order to protect a murderer. Her fierce will and strong sense of independence make her a unique character who will only live and die on her own terms.
The Kabuliwallah ("Kabuliwallah")
A traveling fruit and nut merchant from Afghanistan, the Kabuliwallah develops an unlikely friendship with a five-year-old girl while in Calcutta. After a period of time in jail, the Kabuliwallah returns to meet the girl, only to find her on her wedding day. Upon seeing her grown up, he realizes that he’ll have to re-establish his relationship with his own daughter back in Afghanistan, making him one of the most sympathetic and pathos-rich characters in all of Tagore’s literature.
The Postmaster ("The Postmaster")
The titular character of "The Postmaster" is an over-educated, deeply lonely man, who acts as an agent of the British colonial project until he gets fed up and decides to go back to Calcutta to stay with his family. His strange and somewhat heartless decision to leave the orphan who he developed a significant bond with in the village speaks to a deep-seated alienation that was commonly experienced during the industrialization and modernization that marked the late 19th century.
The Storyteller ("The Hungry Stones")
The man who tells a story to our initial narrator in "The Hungry Stones" is a former government functionary seduced into a life of lusty hallucinations by a haunted temple. He's supposed to represent the modern Indian man, the contemporary subject of the British colonial empire, who can't resist the pull of Indian antiquity. Here, that antiquity is pictured as being so seductive that it makes him forget about his day job, and almost pulls him into its ghost world.
The Doctor ("Thoughtlessness")
The main character of "Thoughtlessness" is a doctor who comes to regret his profiteering ways after his daughter dies on her wedding day. Tagore writes him as a warning about the ways that morality can degrade in a modernizing India, when material comfort is valued over basic human decency.
Ramsundar ("Profit and Loss")
The abject and ultimately pathetic protagonist of "Profit and Loss" is a father whose daughter marries into a higher-class family, but is plunged into shame and poverty when he can’t meet the dowry that the groom’s family demands. He’s a tragic character not because he owes a debt, but because he so fully assumes the pathetic pose of a man who has been rendered hopeless on account of this debt.
Kadambini ("The Living and the Dead")
The main character in "The Living and the Dead" is a widow who dies suddenly and, just a few hours later, comes back to live. She exists in a liminal space between life and death, obviously present as a person, yet believed by all around her to be a ghost. It’s a tormenting existence, and her second death at the end of the story proves an ironic confirmation that she was indeed alive the whole time.
Subilchandra ("Wishes Granted")
Subilchandra is a boy who is granted the wish to becomes as old as his father, but when this wish is granted, he doesn't find the freedom to eat endless toffee and play games all day that he desired. Instead he gains an arthritic body, a fear of foods that will hurt his mouth, and a desire to sit and read in quiet. He's a comic character, who quickly sheds any pretense of boyhood as soon as he's made old by the Goddess of Desires.
Dakshayani ("Taraprasanna's Fame")
Taraprasanna's wife Dakshayani convinces him to publish his writing so that they can earn enough money for one of their daughters to get married. She's a loving and supportive wife whose certainty about the popularity of her husband's writing is both correct and incorrect. He returns home with critical praise yet just about no money whatsoever. This, along with her failure to bear him any sons, brings her deep shame, making for a swift and tragic ending to her story.
The Ghost ("Skeleton")
The ghost in "Skeleton" is a peculiar character who tells the narrator about a short period of her life between the death of her husband and a murder-suicide she commits with a doctor she is attracted to. She's independent and a proud flirt, but a profoundly vain individual who is mostly in love with her own beauty as imagined through the eyes of others. Hers is the titular skeleton of the story.
Rabindranath Tagore: Short Stories Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Rabindranath Tagore: Short Stories is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.