Explain the imagery in Rabindranath Tagore's poem "Where the Mind is Without Fear."

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durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In his poem "Where the Mind is Without Fear," Rabindranath Tagore uses clear visual and sensory descriptions to ensure that the reader understands the struggle for identity and freedom as it exists physically and spiritually. His poem is a plea or prayer and he wishes for "ever widening thought."

Tagore uses alliteration throughout, and in the first line the emphasis is on a proud people as "the head is held high." Other examples are when he mentions how "tireless striving stretches..." The pace created by the repeated "s" sound gives the sense of many years of struggle. This is not going to be attained easily. When Tagore talks of the "dreary desert sand of dead habit," the repeated "d" sound helps the reader to imagine the stunted and fruitless attempts of others to prevent the attainment of this place of freedom where there is no fear. Finally, when Tagore says, "...freedom, my Father," through the repeated f-sound he is associating real freedom with spiritual freedom as the one would be worthless without the other. 

Personification, which attributes human characteristics to non-human objects (or animals), is used in this poem. The quest for freedom requires the very essence of a person and Tagore personifies the act of "striving," which "stretches its arms," giving even more emphasis to the amount of effort required. Personification is also used when Tagore infers that rational thought ("the clear stream of reason") has the potential to lose "its way," and in fact as he speaks that is the reality he faces. He is trying to make the reader understand that without the freedom he refers to and a state of being where there is no fear, there can be no "reason."  He speaks of letting "my country awake," and personifies India ("my country"), praying that it can be inspired to recognize the problems with which it is faced and deal with them.  

The "depth of truth" where "words come out" symbolizes the endlessness of truth, and the depth could also signify deep meaning rather than the mere appearance of truth. When Tagore speaks of "narrow domestic walls," he really hopes that India's internal (domestic) struggles do not restrict it, and that people do not lack real vision and can see beyond "where the world has not been broken up into fragments." India was part of the stifling environment of the British Empire. Tagore uses metaphor to describe freedom as if it is a place like heaven; he desires this for all his people.