Problems with Society and Self
Although the plot of Women Unknown may seem like the theme of a Bollywood movie, the author has implanted several different thematic ideas in this short story. One of the most important themes of this story is the value of materialistic wealth or possessions. At the introduction of this story, the reader is informed that Anupam’s father was a poor man who had “earned a great deal of money as a lawyer, but never had the leisure to enjoy his wealth. This small, yet significant quote reveals quite a lot about the viewpoints of the author Rabindranath Tagore regarding the issue of materialistic wealth. Even if a person is able to gain the money-oriented status in the world, such earthly goods are not so significant because these earthly goods can be snatched away from the person just as soon as they achieve them (as the famous saying goes, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away). Rather the greatest wealth that a person can possess, according to Tagore, is the ability to overlook the difference between the different peoples of the world that we interact with.
To further elaborate on this conception, Rabindranath Tagore presents the character of Anupam’s maternal uncle who “had an ingrained love of money. ” The actions of this maternal uncle greatly reveal to the reader how a person that only possesses earthly goods begins to act selfishly and pompously towards others. By giving several examples of the maternal uncle’s rudeness and improper behavior towards Shambhunath Babu, Tagore attempts to persuade his readers to understand that the world should not focus their energies on achieving materialistic valuables.
Rather, Tagore wants his readers to admire and desire knowledge and sophistication, because only such possessions are the most valuable possessions that one can acquire. In addition to the theme discussed above, Rabindranath Tagore also elaborates on the importance of one’s personal beliefs and values. While our world continues to globalize itself at an alarmingly fast rate, people have the tendency to reform their moral beliefs to obtain personal achievements. However, in this particular story, Tagore presents situations in which characters don’t shred their personal beliefs to gain some type of riches.
For example, Shambhunath Babu states, “I cannot give my daughter in marriage to a family that considers me capable of stealing her gold. ” Shambhunath’s decision to cancel his daughter’s wedding due to such a humiliating action taken upon the bridegroom’s family shows how not all individuals care about wealth. Through this example, Tagore prompts his audience to bodyguard their own personal set of beliefs from the false valuables of life such as high-class status, money, cars, mansions, etc.
Another example that Tagore provides to support such high level of thinking is the example of Kalyani. For example, even though marriages are considered very important part of life in Indian society, she refuses to accept Anupam’s proposal at the end of the story because she highly believes in providing her services to a good cause. Through this example, Rabindranath Tagore suggests that people should not let society, or—as a matter of fact—any other cause, let them influence their personal set of beliefs.
Since the values that we have developed from our infant years to the present is what defines us as different and unique individuals of the world, we should not let anything or anybody alter such a character development that we possess. Another major theme that Mr. Rabindranath Tagore has integrated in this story is the loss of self-identity in a globalized world of wealth. For example, at the beginning of the story, Anupam informs his audience that he was “pampered and fussed over as a child” and was “trained to follow orders from the women’s quarters. Such details about Anupam reveal that he was never really given the freedom to explore his true identity in life. Belonging to a wealthy family, he never had to worry about anything and, therefore, he never really had the chance to explore life beyond the boundaries of his luxurious life as a son of a wealthy and a prominent family. Without the exposure of the real life, Anupam developed internal conflicts regarding his individuality. These inner conflicts then create problems for Anupam because when he is asked to make choices and decisions he mostly has to rely on his maternal uncle or his mother.
For example, when Shambhunath Babu asks him how he feels about checking “all the gold jewellery before the ceremony begins,” Anupam just lowers his gaze and remains silent. It is not until almost the conclusion of the story when Anupam feels that he has found a place for himself. He was only able to find this place, or in a sense his true self-identity, after being exposed to the problems that normal people encounter in actuality—problems like rejection and desolation. Through this theme, Mr.
Rabindranath Tagore informs his audience that the exposure to the harsh world and a life with thorns is necessary and important for the development of a person’s true individuality. If a person never gets the opportunity to develop a unique character or a unique personality, a person is incomplete. If certain walls, hypothetically, are constructed to protect that individual from sufferings or other kinds of pains and troubles, then the person has to deconstruct those walls personally to achieve their ultimate goal—which is—the creation of a self-identity.