What is the theme of the short story "The Victory" by Rabindranath Tagore?

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durbanville | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Tagore's short story "The Victory" explores the theme of destiny. He exposes the difference between appearance and reality and also that between victory and defeat, with the message that you must never give up as you do not know what is in store for you.

Tagore tells the story of how Shekhar, the palace poet, sings his heart out and expresses love and sadness to the point that everyone in the kingdom, and particularly the king's daughter and her maid servant, is affected by his words. All feel a personal connection to what he says. One day, he is challenged for his position by the "mighty" Pundarik whose reputation precedes him and who has come to the palace to "ask for war," challenging the humble Shekhar. 

Pundarik is eloquent and wows the people in the arena who are in awe of his ability with words. He asks the question, "What is there superior to words?" Shekhar is so intimidated by Pundarik that he cannot compete adequately and his words are seemingly inferior and even childlike in comparison, despite the fact that he knows that the princess loves his poetry.

The reader is given a brief glimpse into the culture and Tagore cleverly combines this with subtle biblical references suggesting that the power of "the Word" (according to Pundarik) is contradictory; appearances can be deceiving. The story explores intentions and perceptions, and reminds us that giving up should never be an option. The narrator reminds the reader that "truth and falsehood mingle in life—and to what God builds man adds his own decoration." In other words, Man tries to govern his own destiny but it is not within his control.

Ironically, Shekhar takes poison only to be visited by the princess who was not fooled by Pundarik's hollow words and has come to Shekhar to "crown you with the crown of victory." It is too late and the poison takes effect and kills him. If only he had not tried to interfere and to take his future into his own hands, he would have realized that the princess already loved him. 

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