The Funeral by Ruskin Bond
In The Funeral by Ruskin Bond we have the theme of loss, mortality, uncertainty, change, loneliness, connection, determination and hope. Taken from his Collected Short Stories collection the story is narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator and from the beginning of the story the reader realises that Bond may be exploring the theme of loss. The young boy has lost his father and is left to face a life of uncertainty. There does not seem to be anybody at the boy’s home who is taking responsibility for the boy. With the exception that all the mourners tend to agree that the boy is too young at nine years of age to attend his father’s funeral. This may be important as Bond may be suggesting that those who are responsible for the funeral are not necessarily putting the boy first. It may be a case that tradition is being followed without consideration being given to the boy. It is also interesting that not only has the boy’s life changed but the gardener and cook both know that they will have to look for another job. This may be significant as Bond may be highlighting the fact that with death comes not only grief but changes to an individual’s way of living.
It is also interesting that the boy has a lot of questions that he is unable to answer about God and what happens an individual when they die. Though he has been educated to believe that people will rise again. This does not seem to be something that is practical to the boy. He can’t imagine his father rising again not after he has been buried under so much earth. If anything the boy has not only lost his father but he is also at a loss to understand the teachings of others when it comes to matters concerning a person’s death. For the boy what he has learnt just doesn’t seem to be rational. It is also interesting that the boy puts out his hand when he is walking back home. Hoping that his father will be there to hold his hand. This may suggest to the reader the fact that the death of his father has had a deep impact on the boy. Though his father has been buried the boy still longs for his father to hold his hand. Just as he held his hand when they went walking.
The walks the father undertook with the boy may also be important as there is a sense that both connected with one another as they were walking. Also the father was sure to educate the boy when it came to what flowers they might have seen when they were out walking. Sadly for the boy this connection has been severed abruptly and he does not really have an understanding of what is happening. He also has nobody to answer his questions now that his father has passed away. If anything the boy’s life will change dramatically. Not only will he be sent to an orphanage but there is a good chance that he will not have the same connection that he had with his father with another person. It is as though loneliness will be a constant companion for the boy. Which may be the point that Bond is attempting to make. He may be suggesting that many children on the loss of a parent or both parents are discarded by society. Opportunities that they might have had when their parents were alive no longer exist. Yet things do not have to be that way.
The end of the story is also interesting as the fact that the boy clenches his fists together may suggest (at least symbolically) that not only is the boy angry about what has happened to him and his father but he may also be determined that his father will return to him. Though some critics might suggest that the boy is being innocent it may be a case that Bond is highlighting the fact that the boy still has hope in his life and without hope life is very much a struggle. The boy may not know it but he is taking the right steps when it comes to moving forward. He may have no control over the future but he can at least try and reshape his life in an image that is both satisfactory to him and his father. Also the boy refuses to let go of his father which might suggest again that the boy is innocent but in all likelihood Bond may be highlighting the boy’s drive. As to whether the boy has a firm grip on what will actually happen to him is difficult to say. Though it might be worth noting that the boy by crying as he is walking away from the graveyard is beginning to grieve the loss of his father. A step in the right direction for the boy.