Lit React ~ Analysis & reactions on works of fiction.

09 May 2011

(Short Story) Saved by: Rabindranath Tagore

(Reaction) Trapped Between a Rock and a Hard Place by: Antonio Conejos

It may appear at first glance that it is the guru Paramananda who saves Gouri from her unhappy marriage. His offer of salvation is ambiguous; it may be he merely offers to spirit her away to a life of solitude. Yet his letter may also be read as an invitation to help Gouri move on from this current life, which ultimately is the conclusion of the story. Paramananda's letter makes much of leaving the world but the reader is left to infer if leaving this world means dying, My child... it is true that many holy women have left the world to devote themselves to God. Should it happen that the trials of this world are driving your thoughts away from God, I will, with God's help rescue his handmaid...

Yet it is Gouri who ultimately saves the guru. Upon Paramananda's arrival, Gouri need no longer escape as her husband had already died, a case of aplopexy. Thus, Gouri is already free from the spousal cage which bound her; she no longer needs to be saved. Yet she notices that this entire affair had degraded Paramananda, When the widowed Gouri caught sight from the window of her Guru stealing like a thief to the side of the pool, she lowered her eyes as at a lightning flash. And in that flash she saw clearly what a fall his had been.

Paramananda was a man beyond reproach, No one had any doubts about the purity of Paramananda's character. All worshipped him. Yet because of Gouri's troubles, the guru had been reduced to a skulking figure, reduced to sneaking into homes and sending furtive letters. Gouri, who is an honorable figure in her own right, chooses to save her guru by sacrificing herself. Thus, the story ends with the marital bond affirmed and Gouri's obligations settled. She had poisoned herself. All were lost in admiration of the wifely loyalty she had shown in her sati, a loyalty rare indeed in those degenerate days.

Tagore's story is tied together by two principal ironies. One, while Gouri turns to her guru to be saved she ends up saving him. Two, Gouri spends her married life trying to break free of her husband and ends up spending eternity with him.


This short story reflects in simple economy how tangled our lives can get when it intertwines with others. One wonders why Paresh persisted in his jealousy even thought it was evident that this was baseless and was driving his wife away. On the other hand, one feels for Gouri who is trapped between two extremes (a hot blooded marriage or the coldness of asceticism) and has to choose one to save the other.

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