Comment on Rabindranath Tagore's use of the supernatural in The Lost  Jewels.

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durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The short story The Lost Jewels by Rabindranath Tagore tells the tragic story of a man who only has his dreams and their supernatural power which create the anticipation of his wife's return. This gives him hope for the future when he has no real chance of a happy ending to his tale. This supernatural force (his dreams) is presenting Bhusan with an opportunity to take charge of the matter but he fails to learn from it until it is too late.  

Bhusan tirelessly works to please his wife and indulges her every whim but never expects anything in return. Consequently, his wife is selfish and concerned only with her own satisfaction, with a heart like an "ice-box." This story, like all of Tagore's short stories is cautionary and has a timeless element which ensures that a twenty-first century reader from the "psychic" age can gain insight into his own shortcomings whilst at the same time understanding more of the culture surrounding the story's time and place. As both the narrator, who at the end of the story, is revealed as the merchant of whom he is speaking (without revealing his identity to the schoolmaster), and his petulant and fickle wife are from the "primitive" age and are unable to recognize the destructive power of their behavior, neither taking steps to rectify the problem.

Bhusan's wife leaves their home with the jewels he has given her for fear that he will take them from her to relieve his financial difficulties. These jewels are more precious to her than her husband's love. However, he does expect her to return and when he returns from a trip to secure a loan, he is devastated when she is not there and it is only his extremely powerful dreams which provide any hope of her presence or return. He hears the jingle of her "ornaments" and her footsteps outside the door on various occasions and is ecstatic at what he thinks is her return, only to wake from his dream. When the vision, (a skeleton bedecked in jewels) reveals itself, "his blood froze in his veins." The skeleton transfixes him and he is prepared to follow it into "eternal" sleep, waking just in time to avoid drowning, having been sleep-walking. 

Now he understands the purpose of his dreams; to reveal that he should have been a better husband and more traditional and she should have been a better wife. It takes a supernatural event to make Bhusan aware of his inadequacies and his wife's failure as a wife, whilst at the same time he realizes that although he has changed she has never changed nor will ever change.