How is the traditional Indian nature of a widow shown in Rabindranath Tagore's Chokher Bali?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Tagore's novel explores how social commendation of widows impacts women whose husbands have died.  Tagore's construction of Binodini as a widow is one who has not relinquished her passions for love, sex, and companionship.  Tagore makes it clear that the idea of progress cannot be present in Indian society if it views women whose husbands die in such a harsh light.  Tagore's depiction of society's treatment of widows is one in which women whose husbands die almost themselves lose the right to live.  It is unspeakable for Binodini to think of another man and almost indecent for her to have feelings for Mahendra.  Tagore also points out a contradiction within this dynamic.  While it is socially unacceptable for Binodini to look at a man, Tagore criticizes the society that does not sanction Mahendra for coveting a widow, or any woman, while he is wedded to Ashalata.  For Tagore, this hypocrisy underscores the backwards nature of Indian society in its treatment of women, and widows, in particular.  It is here where Tagore shows how wrong the traditional Indian society is in its view of women and widows.


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