The Castaway by Rabindranath Tagore
In The Castaway by Rabindranath Tagore we have the theme of mercy, kindness, jealousy, control, abandonment, honesty, shame and loyalty. Taken from his Collected Stories collection the story is narrated in the first person by an unnamed narrator and after reading the story the reader realises that Tagore may be exploring the theme of mercy. Kiran throughout the story shows mercy and kindness to Nilkanta. He is allowed to live with both Kiran and Sharat after he has been washed ashore outside their home. What is interesting about how Nilkanta is treated is the fact that Sharat beats him and treats him unkindly for no particular reason. It is as though Nilkanta is only in the house because of Kiran’s wishes. She likes to be entertained by Nilkanta. Which may leave some readers suggesting that Nilkanta is no more than a play-thing to Kiran. Something or somebody to keep her happy and as such is being tolerated by Sharat who has a different opinion of Nilkanta. The bond that Nilkanta and Kiran form may also have some significant as they become very close and it is only when Satish arrives that the reader fully understands how important this bond is to Nilkanta. If anything Nilkanta becomes jealous as he is no longer in favour with Kiran.
Though as readers we do not know Nilkanta’s exact age (somewhere between fourteen and seventeen). He does act on the jealously he feels when Satish arrives. Which should be considered as normal. Nilkanta has come from nothing and Kiran has shown and given him everything. It is difficult for Nilkanta to let go of the things he has just obtained all because another man is vying for Kiran’s attentions. It might also be important that Nilkanta though having arrived as a stranger is no longer viewed upon by those in the village as being a stranger. He has adapted well to his circumstances. Yet he does have issues with anger particularly when it comes to Satish. He imagines being a knife that is used to kill Satish. The reader aware that the trigger for this thought by Nilkanta is the simple fact that he is jealous of the time Satish spends with Kiran. It is as though jealousy over consumes Nilkanta and he longs for Kiran to see that he is upset so that she can spend more time with him. It is possible that Kiran is the first person who has ever shown an interest in Nilkanta’s life and this is something that he is not prepared to let go of. If anything Nilkanta may feel abandoned. A feeling that he does not like as it may remind him of being abandoned in his past.
The act of revenge of robbing Satish’s inkstand might also be important as it shows that Nilkanta wants to hurt Satish just as much as he feels Satish is hurting him. He blames Satish for taking Kiran’s affections away from him and for the hurt he feels inside. If anyone is to be blamed it is Kiran. She is the one who is limiting her time with Nilkanta. Though she is entitled to live her life as she sees fit. The only person who feels as though Kiran should spend more time with him is Nilkanta. The reason being obviously because she treats Nilkanta well and as mentioned this may not be something that Nilkanta would have been used to. There is also no reason for Sharat to hit Nilkanta and if anything he appears to be doing so in order to exert control over Nilkanta. Sharat looks upon Nilkanta as being no more than a leech. Taking everything he is been given and doing nothing in return apart from reciting some of his repertoires.
The end of the story is also interesting as Tagore appears to be exploring a little further the depths of Nilkanta and Kiran’s relationship. When Kiran finds the inkstand in the box she knows that Nilkanta has robbed it. However she says and does nothing and even goes as far as putting the new clothes and money in Nilkanta’s box. This may be important as at no stage does Kiran judge Nilkanta even though he is guilty of robbing the inkstand. It is also interesting that Nilkanta underestimates his relationship with Karin and during the night flees the home never to be seen again. It is as though shame has driven Nilkanta away. In an unusual act the next day Kiran throws the inkstand into the river in order that Nilkanta cannot be blamed. Right till the end of the story Kiran has been supportive of Nilkanta even though he may not have always thought this was the case. So over powering were Nilkanta’s jealousies he ended up underestimating just how fond Kiran was of him and how loyal she was to him. Just because she could not be there for him all the time did not mean that she liked him any less. Something that the reader knows that Nilkanta didn’t understand. Probably because he never had anyone treat him nicely and it was this feeling that Nilkanta wanted to maintain. Unfortunately jealousy intervened.