Punishment Essay, Research Paper
Punishment, by Rabindranath Tagore, is a short story involving Indian culture and a dilemma for two brothers. Dukhiram and Chidam slaved in the fields all day, as their wives would fight and scream at each other at the house. One day the brothers came home to their wives with no food awaiting them. Dukhiram, furious and enraged, asked his wife where the food was. Radha, his wife, said sarcastically,” Where is the food? You didn’t give me anything to cook. Must I earn the money myself to buy it?” (Punishment, pg.1451) After a hard days work, Dukhiram couldn’t handle the sarcasim. So he stabbed Radha in the head with his knife. In the mean while, Ramlochan, the pillar of the village, came to collect rent from the brothers. He walked in the house and witnessed Dukhiram sobbing in the corner. Chidam rushed over and explained the recent events to the Ramlochan. Since Ramlochan was the man who took care of legal matters, he decided to help Chidam. They both decided it would be best to place the blame on Chidam’s wife, Chandara. Chidam did not wish to lose his brother, and he felt he could make up a story to clear his wife from the charges anyways. Word of the murder spread around town and soon the police came to question Chandara. Chidam had instructed her to say that Radha attacked her with a slicer, and she reacted in self-defense. However, Chandara told the police the opposite. She said that Radha didn’t attack her in any way. Chidam, absolutely shocked, couldn’t believe what his wife had said. She continued to confess her guilt to all who questioned her. The case then went to trial, where once again she pronounced her actions of murder. Chidam was questioned after her, and he confessed that he had killed Radha. However, the judge didn’t believe him. He concluded that the brothers were only trying to save Chandara. So she was sentenced to death by hanging.
The relationship between the story and Indian culture is very significant and evident in the writer’s story. One significant aspect of the story was the relationship between men and women. Indian culture generally discriminates on women. India’s main website said that young girls have it much harder than boys, having to do much more chores and tasks, and the “discrimination doesn’t end with adulthood” (www.Asianinfo.org).
This aspect of Indian culture was evident in this story through a few examples. First, the wives both stayed home and cleaned the house, Radha looked after her son, and they cooked the food. They were also treated inferior by their husbands. An example of this is when Dukiram comes home demanding and expecting food from his wife. He treated her like he was the boss or as if he was more important than her. Lastly, Chandara willingly accepts her husband’s request to confess the crime. This indicates that women back then viewed theirselves as being inferior to men because of the way Indian culture taught them.
The other culturally significant part of the story had to do with family customs. “Family is important in India, and it is what their lives are centered around” (www.Asianinfo.org). An example from the story is when Chidam becomes very worried and scared when he realizes his brother will die for his crime. He says to Ramlochan,” If I lose my wife I can get another, but if my brother is hanged, how can I replace him?” (Punishment, pg1453) This statement implies that immediate family is more important. Siblings were more important and more valued than wives were in Indian culture, for Chidam was willing to lose his wife in order to keep his brother alive.
In conclusion, it is interesting to observe the cultural significance this story has. Tagore wrote this story based on his cultural experience in India. Little pieces of the story point to the way of Indian life and values. Coming from another culture, it wasn’t too hard to figure out what Indian customs were like after reading this book. So Tagore, in my opinion, did an excellent job of providing the reader with a basic understanding of how relationships between men and women existed during his time.
Family Customs in India. www.asianinfo.org/asianinfo/india/pro-family_customs.htm. Asianinfo.org, 2000.
Social Issues in India. www.indiagov.org/social/menu.htm. Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, 2001.