Where The Mind Is Without Fear Critical Appreciation

What is a critical appreciation of the poem "Where the Mind Is Without Fear" by Rabindranath Tagore?

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Jane Ames eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In "Where The Mind Is Without Fear" (also known as "Gitanjali 35"), Tagore imagines a place wherein people are allowed to thrive, free from the yoke of fear and stratification. The imagery oscillates between hopeful and bleak, as Tagore envisions the future while realistically facing the present. For instance, the speaker believes in the existence of the "clear stream of reason" but acknowledges that it currently veers into the "dreary desert sand of dead habit." Tagore's metaphors sketch the disparity between the present time and place and a future where people are truly free. 

Other elements of the poem besides imagery also reflect this in-between feeling, this liminal mood of being aware of the present and trying to envision a better future. The first six lines of the poem end in semi-colons, punctuation which indicates both a stop and a continuation—a complex feeling of staying put yet moving forward.

The last two lines, on the other hand, resound with hope. There is a comma at the end of the seventh line, gracefully pushing the eye to the final line, where the speaker ends definitively with a period: "Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake." It is a hope, a prayer, and a call to action for the reader to "awaken" and allow our mind to be "led forward." We also know this line is the true essence of the speaker's meaning, the real point of the poem, because of how it begins. The last line begins with "Into," whereas every single other line begins with the word "Where." The last line is hereby made more distinct, and we can identify it as the meaning on which the poet wishes our thoughts to land.

(It's also important to know that Tagore was the architect of international education methods, and even at one time had his own experimental school. His belief in the unifying power of education certainly comes through in his description of a place "Where knowledge is free / Where the world has not been broken up into fragments / By narrow domestic walls.")

teachersage eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Rabindranath Tagore, who died in 1941, lived and wrote this poem while India, his country, was still a colony under the rule of the British. This short, simple poem is directed to his fellow Indians but spoken to God, who Tagore addresses as "thee," meaning "you," and "Father." He asks God to lead his people, who have long been oppressed, to a higher plane of being, where they can live with dignity, striving for perfection and no longer trapped by bad habits from the past. In the end, he asks that the people become awakened so they can become free.

The poem is effective because of the clarity with which Tagore expresses his desire that his people be freed. Freedom is a universal desire, and by asking a wise and powerful being like God for this, Tagore points to how deep the longing runs.

The poem speaks as a voice for all the Indian people who are oppressed by British rule, which means it transcends the merely personal and becomes an articulation of the desires of a group. The image of yearned-for unity

Where the world has not been broken up into fragments 
By narrow domestic walls 

offers an effective visual image of people pulled together for a common purpose.

Likewise, the images of "the clear stream of reason" and "the dreary desert sand of dead habit" offer visual images of the direction in which Tagore hopes his people will head. Overall, starting with the image of a head "held high," the poem offers quiet inspiration to a nation.

kc4u | Student

'Where the mind is without fear' is the 35th no. in Tagore's English 'Gitanjali'. 'Gitanjali' means 'song-offerings', and this is one such song--a prayer to God, the Father.

The poem was written when India was under British colonial rule, struggling for freedom. But for Tagore, freedom was more than merely political; it was to be truly spiritual. The present poem reads like a prayer for that spiritual freedom.

True freedom means liberation from the shackles of fear.  The head 'held high' is a manifest posture of that liberated mind.

The whole world of man must be re-integrated; narrow, parochial walls fragmenting the world are to be demolished for achieving this holistic oneness.

Words must issue forth from 'the depth of truth'; that is to say, language shall have to be liberated from the half-truths and lies of expediency.

Untiring efforts should be directed towards the goal of perfection.

Reason is like a 'clear stream', the transparency of which should not have been swallowed up by outdated and irrelevant customs--'the dreary desert sand of dead habit'.

True freedom lies in the mind which is always led forward by the universal mind of the Father into 'ever-widening thought and action'.

Tagore prays for 'that heaven of freedom', seeks the grace of the Father, to be awakened to a new spiritual consciousness.

The poem combines patriotic zeal with fervent spritual longing. The urge for political freedom is enhanced and tranformed into a moral-intellectual freedom of the mind. The poem is also remarkable for its simplicity of diction and images.