What symbolism is seen in Rabindranath Tagore's short story "The Hungry Stones"?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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One symbol found in Rabindranath Tagore's short story title "The Hungry Stones" is the "solitary marble palace." Tagore was actually born of Indian noble ancestors, and when he was 17, he "stayed in an old Muslim palace" (eNotes, "Style and Technique"). His heritage, time spent in the palace, fascination with the Mughal emperors, and the fact that he advocated independence from Britain were all factors of inspiration for the short story.

The Mughal Empire is considered India's last strong dynasty. Great Britain became interested in India as a source of economic gains in as early as the 1600s. By 1707, the Mughal Empire began collapsing for many different reasons, including loss of revenues, loss of key authority figures, and losses due to several wars. In 1719, the Mughal emperor was executed, and the empire was broken up into regions ruled by multiple Mughal successors. In 1757, Englishman Robert Clive led troops of the East India Company, along with French allies, into the Battle of Plassey, allowing Britain to gain control of India ("Mughal Empire: Explanations for the decline"; "British Imperialism in India"). Hence, in Tagore's eyes, British imperialism in India was made possible because the Mughal dynasty fell due to corruptions.

In the short story, it becomes clear that the marble palace represents "countless unrequited passions and unsatisfied longings and lurid flames of wild blazing pleasure." These unsatisfied desires and passions have become trapped in the palace due to the fall of the Mughal Empire, a fall that eventually resulted in British rule over India. Hence, Tagore is using the marble palace to symbolize both the unrequited desires of the Mughal Empire due to the corruptions of the dynasty, desires that shall now never be fulfilled due to British imperialism. Hence, all in all, the marble palace symbolizes both the consequences of corruption and the consequences of imperialism.

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