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What is a critique of the short story "The Fourth Daughter" by Subhadra Sen Gupta?

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Subhadra Sen Gupta's short story "The Fourth Daughter" offers a critique of Indian and Hindu cultures' treatment of females, particularly young girls. The story follows Mini, the fourth daughter in a family that values sons over daughters, who is raised by the family's maid after her parents reject her. Despite her parents' objections, Mini grows up to become a doctor, while the much-anticipated son becomes a degenerate. The narrative, written in Indian English, uses a chronological structure, tropes, and metaphors to highlight the irony of Mini's life.

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A critique of Bengali writer Subdahara Sengupta’s 1992 short story “The Fourth Daughter” requires an examination and indictment of Indian and Hindu cultures with respect to the treatment of females, especially female children.  With India in the news often these days because of highly-publicized cases of gang rapes of young women, one of whom subsequently died from her injuries, and increased scrutiny of the role gender discrimination has played in facilitating the evolution of a culture in which such crimes would occur, Sengupta’s story of the rejection by her parents of the fourth daughter born to a materially-comfortable family holds special resonance.  In addition to the gender element of this story of the ironic evolution of an Indian family, there is a racial element as well. 

“The Fourth Daughter” tells the story of a baby rejected by her parents because her existence brings no value to the family.  In a culture in which males are more highly valued, the arrival of yet another daughter is no cause for celebration.  “Mini” is the fourth daughter of Radha and her husband.  Radha, a fair-skinned and beautiful woman, disdains Mini not just for her gender – who needs another daughter when a son would provide for a more profitable future – but for her dark-skinned complexion, which represents her father’s lineage more than that of her mother.  Rejected by her parents, Mini is raised instead by the family’s maid, her husband-driver, and their son, who provide the loving, caring environment that should have been the provenance of Mini’s well-to-do parents.  It is the maid, Parvati, who feeds, clothes and sees to the girl’s education. 

The end of “The Fourth Daughter” provides the story its supreme irony.  The rejected daughter grows up to be a doctor – over the objections of her biological parents, who argued that Mini’s future should entail training for the responsibilities of wife and motherhood – while the much valued son grows up to be a degenerate gambler, drinker and womanizer incapable of and unwilling to care for their aging parents.  It is Mini who assumes the responsibility of caring for her parents – the role traditionally expected of the male offspring. 

Subhadra Sengupta is the prolific author of children’s books reflecting the Bengali, Indian and Hindu cultures.  Her story of the rejected daughter growing up to assume the responsibilities of the highly-valued son is a reflection of the environment in which she herself grew up.  “The Fourth Daughter” is a melancholy tale of the fate of girls in a society that prizes boys.  That it has resonated so little in her native land is a testament to the resiliency of cultural traditions that value one category of human over another.

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How do I write a critique of "The Fourth Daughter" by Subhadra Sen Gupta?  

A critique of a literary work includes analysis and discussion of all parts of the work. Thus a critique will cover aspects like structure; narrative devices, like chronology and point of view; tone; mood, also called atmosphere; tropes, which are figures of speech, including word schemes; imagery; and symbolism. An in depth critique isn't possible here but an overview can be provided.

"The Fourth Daughter" is a short story written in Indian English in 1952 by Indian writer Subhadra Sen Gupta. The story is told in chronological order without flashbacks or flashforwards, although the narrator often interrupts the flow of the story to provide editorial comment, such as:

The obsession with sons is deeply ingrained in the Indian psyche, particularly in the northern states. Thanks to rising consumerism and escalating dowry demands, nobody wants daughters.

The tone the third person narrator takes is editorial with a subtle disdain and irony that borders on sarcasm. This is evident in sentences like these:

If there is no son to carry on the line, their money would be scatter among relatives. Surely that's a thought no one could possibly bear.

The mood of the story is incredulously ominous and depressed. The mood is established in the first lines:

A mother refusing to feed her new born child. It was something Parvati Bai had never heard of before. ... Well, under certain circumstances it may happen. If it is a daughter; if it is a fourth daughter.

Sen Gupta employs the trope word scheme called anaphora, which is the repetition of beginning clauses. Three paragraphs repeat the same, or similar, opening clauses:

1.  Mini, the unwelcome fourth daughter, survived because Parvati, the maid ... took her....
2.  Mini continued to live because Parvati, the maid, hunted through her trunk ....
3.  Mini grew up in a misty place between the garage room and the big house.

Sen Gupta also employs the word scheme called asyndeton, which is the elimination of joining conjunctions to create drama or simplicity or speed, when she writes: "Unwanted. Unwelcome. Neglected. Spurned. " She employs the opposite word scheme, polysyndeton, which is the addition of conjunctions for an overwhelming and dramatic effect, when she writes: "Sweets and greeting and smiles."

The story is written in a realistic, almost documentary style, so symbolism and other figures of speech, like metaphor and simile, are few. Although, the story is built upon and closes upon important metaphors. The first opening, foundational metaphor is "the fourth daughter," which is a metaphor for rejection and infanticide. The closing metaphor is "her weapon of defiance," which is a metaphor for defiantly living and attaining a worthwhile life because of Parvati’s mercy and despite being a fourth daughter: “the thin, dark squatting baby with huge accusing eyes.”

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