The Home-Coming by Rabindranath Tagore
In The Home-Coming by Rabindranath Tagore we have the theme of conflict, control, responsibility, love and isolation. Taken from his Collected 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 Tagore may be exploring the theme of conflict. Makhan will not listen to Phatik when he tells him to get off the log. If anything Makhan is being defiant though he does pay a price for his defiance. Phatik and his friends roll the log over and Makhan falls off. This causes Makhan to hit Phatik and it is interesting that Phatik doesn’t retaliate. However this is not how Phatik’s mother sees things when Makhan returns home and tells his version of events. Phatik is the one who is blamed for hitting his brother and bringing conflict into the home. What is also interesting about Phatik’s mother is the fact that she has no control over him. He is not necessarily doing things that are dangerous or overly wrong. He is acting as many fourteen year old boys would do. Something which is too much for Phatik’s mother. If anything Phatik is not allowed to be a young adolescence boy by his mother. Which might be the reason why she is only too pleased to have Bishambar take him to Calcutta. The reader aware that Phatik’s mother is unable to manage him. Something that is her fault and not Phatik’s.
If anything Phatik’s mother lacks the responsibility that is required to raise Phatik. She considers him to be wild though as mentioned he is just an average fourteen year old boy who likes mischief as many fourteen year old boys do. Bishambar’s wife isn’t much better when it comes to rearing Phatik and it is noticeable that she never really embraces Phatik as being a member of the family. She may be his aunt by marriage but that is the closet that Bishambar’s wife wants to get to Phatik. Even though Phatik is on his best behaviour he is still not loved by Bishambar’s wife. For her he is no more than a man child. Yet to be a man and no longer a child. He is at an awkward stage in life. A stage that Bishambar’s wife wants no involvement with. Bishambar on the other hand is supportive of Phatik. Something that is noticeable by the fact that he not only promises him that he can go home for the holidays but there is a sense that Bishambar will make a decent man out of Phatik in Calcutta. He is giving him every opportunity.
Phatik’s school days are also a miserable occasion for him. If he is not being beaten by the teachers he is being beaten by some of the other students. If anything Phatik may feel isolated. When he lived in the village Phatik was the leader of his gang. Now that he is in Calcutta things are very much different. Rather than being a leader he has become a victim. A difficult role for any fourteen year old to play particularly when they are not getting the support that they need from the adults around them, Bishambar’s wife being an example. Even Phatik’s cousins do not help Phatik when he is in school although they may be afraid of being isolated themselves by the bullies in the school. The unity that Phatik had in the village. He does not have in Calcutta. As mentioned Phatik is isolated from others. How deeply affected Phatik feels and how much he misses the village is noticeable by the fact that he attempts to walk home to the village but instead manages to make himself sick.
The end of the story is also interesting as it becomes clear to the reader that Phatik due to his illness is delusional. When he sees his mother he believes that the holidays (October) have come. Yet those in the room know that Phatik is gravely ill and is about to die. What was once a healthy boy in every sense of the world has become a frail wreck in such a short period of time. Tagore possibly suggesting that Phatik should never have been taken out of the village environment he was used to. Some children will succeed in the city or with schooling. Phatik was not that sort of character. He was a lover of nature but he ended his life surrounded by the walls of Calcutta. Though no blame can be placed on Bishambar for what has happened. He was simply trying to help Phatik. The same cannot be said for the two characters in the story who are mothers. Phatik’s mother due to her impatience and readiness to get rid of Phatik and Bishambar’s wife for judging Phatik as being no more than an awkward young boy. Who she really didn’t want to deal with. It is there where the blame for Phatik’s premature death lays. Neither woman has shown Phatik the love he deserved and needed.