What is the theme of the story "The Devotee" by Rabindranath Ragore?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In Tagore's story, "The Devotee," there are certainly more than one important ideas expressed, but the main theme, the most significant idea in the narrative is that of the necessity in one's life for truth.

  • In the exposition of the story, there is a subtle suggestion of the theme as the narrator watches a cow placidly eating and notices the beauty of its hide and "wonders idly at man's deliberate waste of money in setting up tailors' shops to deprive his own skin of its natural clothing" as he covers himself in something false.
  • After the devotee comes to him with flowers and expresses her worship, the narrator declares that he has been moved by this experience. Afterwards, "I offered my worship to the pure [true] joy of living, which is God's own life."
  • Later, the devotee visits, but it is not outdoors in nature where she has seen him before. She questions the narrator about his false surroundings,  "Why have you brought me here before your throne, my God? I used to see you among the trees; and that was much better. That was the true place to meet you."
  • When the narrator asks the devotee why she does not go among the "godless" rich and lead them toward a better life, she replies,"My God is not there....I seek Him where I can find him....this truth may be a mere intangible abstraction, and therefore unreal to ourselves. Where I can see Him, there is His reality in my soul.
  • On one visit, the devotee criticizes the narrator for putting flowers in a vase. The narrator then realizes that these flowers exist as though they are prisoners. He then observes a truth that the flowers need loving care.
  • Finally, in Part II of Tagore's story, the devotee tells the narrator about her life and its falsehood and the resulting loss of her son; further, she relates her experience of the falsehood of the Guru who looked at her with lust and spoke of his lust as she walked past him after her bath. Afterwards, she knew that she must leave her home and her husband who was devoted to this Guru and would not understand if she spoke the truth about him.
  • When she tells her husband that she must leave, he asks for the reason, and she replies, "Guru Thakur." The husband inquires why the guru would tell her to leave; she simply instructs her husband to ask him, knowing that the guru will not confess his lust. She also tells her husband that she will never meet the guru again; after this statement, her husband peered at her:

"I knew that, somehow, he had seen into my mind, and understood what was there. In this world of mine, there were only two who loved me best--my boy and my husband. That love was my God, and therefore it could brook no falsehood. One of these two left me, and I left the other. Now I must have truth, and truth alone."

In another part of the narrative, this theme of truth is also stated, "Those who understand simply understand truly."

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