The Most Potent Medicine of All by Ruskin Bond
In The Most Potent Medicine of All by Ruskin Bond we have the theme of dedication, sacrifice, trust, compassion, desperation and love. Taken from his Collected Short Stories collection the story is narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator and after reading the story the reader realises that Bond may be exploring the theme of dedication. Wang’s wife throughout the story is dedicated to Wang’s needs. She never leaves his side and it is clear that she loves him dearly. If anything Wang’s wife not only dedicates her life to Wang but she sacrifices it too so that Wang can live. This may be significant as by sacrificing her life Wang’s wife is clearly showing that she loves Wang and that she is prepared to go to any lengths to help or save him. It is also noticeable that Wang is suspicious of his wife from the moment he takes his medicine. It is as though he does not trust her when he has no reason not to trust her.
It may also be a case that Bond is using foreshadowing in the story. Through Bond’s description of Wang’s wife the reader suspects that she may not be well. She is after all described as being pale. Which often in literature is used to suggest to the reader that a character may be unwell. However the reader does not suspect that Wang’s wife will die by the end of the story. This is an element that comes as a surprise to the reader. As too is the fact that Wang does not trust his wife particularly when she has done nothing to arouse his suspicion.
The sense of desperation that Wang’s wife feels is also felt by the reader. They, like Wang’s wife, hope that Wang will survive. It is as though the reader is rooting for Wang and his wife. Which makes Wang’s wife’s death that much sadder. She has placed her entire life in the hands of Lu Fie and through her desperation is prepared to die in order that Wang may survive. Some critics may suggest that death is the ultimate sacrifice one can give to another person and there is no doubting that Wang’s wife’s sacrifice is a completely unselfish act. She is thinking only of Wang’s well-being and hoping that he will live should she follow Lu Fei’s guide.
There is also some symbolism in the story which may be significant. It is possible that Bond is using the setting to highlight how deeply Wang’s wife loves him. Not only does she sacrifice her life for Wang but Bond does not introduce any other characters, apart from Lu Fei. This is important as it does not allow for any confusion. The reader is focused, just as Wang’s wife is, on Wang. How deep Wang’s wife’s love is, is clear by the fact that she loves him just as much as she did when she first married him, twenty years ago. The blood on Wang’s wife’s bosom may also have some symbolic significance. Blood not only symbolizes death but life too. Blood after all is part of a person’s makeup. It is essential in order to live.
The end of the story is interesting as Wang loses any mistrust he has for his wife after he realises she has sacrificed herself for him. It is only on her death that Wang realises his wife loved him deeply. She was prepared to give her life in order that he may live. If the reader is surprised by the fact that Wang’s wife sacrifices herself for him. So too is Wang surprised. Something that is clearer to the reader by way of the fact that Wang is suspicious of his wife just before she dies. He feels so low he not only mistrusts his wife but the idea that she might sacrifice herself for him does not register with Wang. She was prepared to give her life in order that he may live. Where others may have abandoned Wang. His wife does not. She stays with Wang till the only option she has is to sacrifice herself for him.