Rabindranath Tagore: Short Stories

Rabindranath Tagore: Short Stories Quotes and Analysis

"To hell with him."

Chandara ("Punishment")

The final line of "Punishment" is a biting one, with Chandara refusing to see the man who betrayed her the moment before she hangs for a crime she did not commit. According to the footnote, this is translated from a phrase which articulates both a stubborn pride and a sensitive reluctance to admit that she’s still in love with her husband.

"I would have killed my śvaśur, but how can I with these on?"

The Kabuliwallah ("Kabuliwallah")

The Kabuliwallah’s shocking line spoken to Mini in "Kabuliwallah" is a play on the joke they had where he would ask the child if she was going to her śvaśur-bāṛi (the house of one's father-in-law, in other words, a woman's martial home), and she would ask the same in return. When this line is spoken, the Kabuliwallah is showing Mini the handcuffs around his wrist during his arrest for stabbing a man. The joke will come up one more time in the story on Mini’s wedding day, when indeed she is going to her śvaśur-bāṛi.

"How could I do that!"

The Postmaster ("The Postmaster")

As the Postmaster’s rejoinder to Ratan’s request that she join him in Calcutta, this speaks to both the defined class differences that would make it seem ridiculous for an educated man to take an orphan girl back to the city and to the Postmaster’s own profound alienation. Ratan is hurt by the fact that she felt so close to the man, yet he was able to so quickly discard her, and repeats this statement to herself over and over as she tries to come to terms with it.

"My first Arabian Night ended in this way—but a thousand more nights were to follow."

The Storyteller ("The Hungry Stones")

In "The Hungry Stones," our main storyteller alludes to One Thousand and One Nights, sometimes referred to as Arabian Nights, a collection of Arab folk tales from the Middle Ages. Much like the stories in this fable collection, "The Hungry Stones" is framed as a story told to our initial narrator, and the acknowledgment of the story collection is Tagore’s playful wink to his readers.

"'Run along,' I said crossly. 'That’s no business of yours.'"

The Doctor ("Thoughtlessness")

In "Thoughtlessness," when the Doctor’s daughter Sashi asks him why Harinath came to their house begging for help with the bad situation surrounding his wife’s death, the Doctor tells his daughter that it’s no business of hers. To the Doctor, this tragedy is a business matter, one that will benefit his daughter but not one she should concern herself with.

"It is better not to tell the story of the indignity, shame and hurt that Ramsundar had to endure in order to raise the 3,000 rupees that he needed for an approach to his daughter’s father-in-law."

Narrator ("Profit and Loss")

This quote is a bit of an ironic one, as the entirety of "Profit and Loss" is a story of the indignity, shame and hurt Ramsundar has to endure to raise money for his daughter’s dowry. This is an important line nonetheless, as it stakes out Tagore’s clear position that he’s telling a story of a pitiful man who constantly subjects himself to even more suffering, ruining his own life out of some misplaced sense of responsibility to resolve a bad situation of his own making.

"'Didi,' she said pathetically, 'why are you frightened of me? See—I am just as I was.'"

Kadambini ("The Living and the Dead")

In "The Living and the Dead," Kadambini asks this of her brother-in-law’s son, a boy who she had formed a deeply affectionate bond with in life. She asks this after he first accepts her upon her return from death, but is soon after scared senseless of her. Here, we sense the deep betrayal felt by a dead woman who was loved in life, but whose family wants her to remain dead.

"Both had had their wishes fulfilled; but with very awkward consequences."

Narrator ("Wishes Granted")

Tagore tells a comic moralistic tale with "Wishes Granted," and it all hinges around this simple idea that his characters will get what they want, but come to regret it. This story is notable for its straightforwardness, which we can see in Tagore's narration as well. The quote here is important for the fact that it's relatively unremarkable, but serves as part of a long set-up for the story's concluding punchline.

"I came into his house to give him nothing but daughters. Perhaps his misfortunes will end now."

Dakshayani ("Taraprasanna's Fame")

The most tragic line in all of "Taraprasanna's Fame" is when Dakshayani admitted her sense of failure on her death bed, while giving birth to her fifth daughter. She had set goals—getting rich off a book, giving birth to a son — which her family never achieved, and these impossible aspirations ultimately ruined the possibilities of enjoying the modest family life that they had.

"How did you find my story?"

The Ghost ("Skeleton")

One of the ghost's key characteristics in "Skeleton" is her infatuation with imagining how others admire her. Tagore cleverly ties this character trait into the stories narrative arc by having the ghost interrupt her story to ask the narrator how he is enjoying it. Just as she loved imagining how the doctor enjoyed her beauty while she was alive, she wants the satisfaction of know the listener is enjoying the story she tells in death.