The Parrot’s Tale by Rabindranath Tagore
In The Parrot’s Tale by Rabindranath Tagore we have the theme of control, freedom, trust, failure and responsibility. Narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator the reader realises after reading the story that Tagore may be exploring the theme of control. The King wishes for the parrot to be educated and goes about it in a manner which includes the parrot losing any freedom that he has. Where once the parrot could fly freely he is locked in a cage where scholars attempt to educate him by feeding him pieces of paper from books. This may be important as it suggests that the King and those who are trying to educate the parrot have taken control of the parrot’s life. Something that is noticeable by the fact that parrot no longer sings nor does he seem to be in good health due to the fact that he is not eating grain or fruit. If anything there is a sense of irony that those who have been given the job of educating the parrot and who are assumed to know what they are doing. In reality do not know what they are doing.
It is also noticeable that the King appears to trust all those who are involved with the parrot’s education. Yet those involved may be driven not by educating the parrot but the fact that the King is paying them handsomely. Similarly the King when he sees the cage and the environment that the parrot lives in appears to be happy. Even though he has not taken into consideration the fact that the parrot is learning nothing. This may be important as Tagore may be suggesting that an individual’s environment for learning may not necessarily be as important as what the person learns. In this case the parrot is surrounded by luxury but is not learning anything. It is also possible that Tagore could be attempting to highlight how foolish it is of man to try and educate an animal when the animal seeks nothing more than food and freedom. Two things which have been taken away from the parrot. If anything there are two different worlds. One that is occupied by humans and the other which is occupied by animals. When man attempts to control an animal the results can be negative if not detrimental to the animal.
There may also be some symbolism in the story which might be important. The cage which is built for the parrot may symbolise freedom and how the parrot’s freedom has been taken away. The pieces of paper that the parrot is forced to eat in an attempt to educate him may also have some symbolical significance. It is possible that Tagore is using the pieces of paper to suggest that while education is important there are other things like food which are more important. It is of no use to the parrot feeding him an education when the reality is that he needs to be feed fruit and grain. Something that appears to be lost on those who have been given the responsibility of educating the parrot. The fact that so many people grow richer through the attempts to educate the parrot might also suggest that the King has too much money. If anything he has more money than sense. Which is ironic as it might be a case that Tagore is suggesting that it is not the parrot who needs to be educated but perhaps it is the King. Who throughout the story believes that money can resolve any difficulties that he comes across with regard to the parrot.
The end of the story is also interesting as the results of the King’s spending are obvious. The parrot has died because he has not been properly feed. His freedom has been taken away from him by way of having his wings clipped and the parrot has learnt nothing. All the parrot wanted was to be free however his freedom has been taken from him. As too has his life. Yet those involved in educating the parrot consider that they knew better when it came to controlling the parrot. Which leaves the reader wondering which is more important. For an individual (the parrot) to conform to societies norms of for an individual to be allowed to live there life as free as they can. Without causing harm to others. It is as though the parrot’s actions irritated the King and as such he considered it his place to ensure that the parrot was educated so that he could adhere to accepted societal norms. If anything the King has failed not only in educating the parrot but he has also failed the parrot. The result being that a lot of money has been wasted by those who are already educated. Yet none could see that their actions towards the parrot where irresponsible. It also doesn’t seem like anybody is prepared to take responsibility for what has happened the parrot.