Punishment is a short story by Tagore that involves the Indian culture and the dilemma of two brothers. Chidam and Dukhiram earned their living through working as labors in other farmers fields (Robinson, A & Krishna, D 1995). Radha was the wife of Dukhiram and Chandara was the wife of Chidam. These two women were quarrelsome always fighting with each other, and the husbands were short tempered. The story begins with the killing of Radha by Dukhiram after he stubbed his wife mercilessly with his farm knife into her head. This happened when he was denied food by his wife. Radha collapsed in the hands of his husband, and it was an extremely shocking incident. Chidam decided to save his brother and told his wife Chandara to admit that she was the one who had killed her sister in law.

Chidam decided to tell his wife to confess because he knew if he lost his wife he could replace her with another one, but it could be hard to replace his brother. After the police questioned her, she admitted that she was the murderer. Chandara was then sentenced to death by hanging after making everyone believe that she was the one who killed Radha. The Indian culture is evident in the story and also the relationship between women and men.

The story describes the complexity of the human behavior. It also displays the unjust social set up during the time when women carried no importance and status in the family. Women were victimized to all kinds of physical assaults, inhumanity, indignities, insults, and injustice. The words from Chidam that a wife can be replaced and a brother cannot, is an indication how women were badly treated in the society, and they were vulnerable to all kinds of violence. Women in the story are portrayed as being inferior and obedient to their husbands. The theme that the author develops in this story is the status of women in society.

Women status

During the 19th century, women were being treated in extreme ways. Punishment is a story that describes how women and men related and how the Indian society viewed women in general. There are many incidences that indicate the position that women took in their societies and also in their families. In most societies, men were considered as being superior to women and women were forced to do whatever men wanted them to do. In the short story punishment by Tagore, it displays how women were shockingly treated by their husbands. Tagore shows how women had no human rights and the way they lived in complete poverty facing humiliation from everywhere (Robinson, A & Krishna, D 1995).

The story depicts how women were being treated in the (East Simon, P et al 2009). It shows the excessive amount of oppression and submission that women faced and how they were accepted in the society during the nineteenth century. The story was not necessary written to degrade women, but it tend to consider them as worthless, and anything negative that is mentioned the men do attribute it to the women. In this case, when Dukhiram kills his wife, his brother does not hesitate to tell his wife to take the blame and claim to be responsible of the death of Radha (East Simon, P et al 2009). This act shows the people’s mentality in the society. The Indian culture tends to discriminate against women, and the act of Chidam and Ramlochan clearly proves this.

Ramlochan acted against his responsibility as he was trusted of the legal, matters in the village and he portrayed acts of discrimination and injustice when he joined Chidam in convincing Chandara to claim responsible of the death of Radha. In this short story, there are a few indications that display the status of women during the 19th century. One of the women’s status that is displayed is that women were staying at home, cooking and cleaning for their husbands. Women were being discriminated as they were not allowed to live home to go and work (East Simon, P et al 2009). It was their responsibility to stay at home and do household chores.  Radha was left home to look after her son, and she also cooked food. When the husbands went to work in the fields, they left women at home and expected to get food once they come back home after work. Women were given the domestic role of only taking care of household and raising the children (Wolpert, S 2004).

In the story, the author displays women as being minor. Generally men were superior to their wives as when Dukhiram arrives home from the day’s work, he demands food from his wife. Dukhiram gives a straight order to his wife, and he does not have the decency of kindly asking for food (East Simon, P et al 2009). By demanding for food when he arrives home shows that Dukhiram felt that he was the ruler of the house.  By Chandara accepting the blame, it shows that she had no right to go against the demands from her husband. She willingly accepts the orders from her husband without showing any signs of concern or revolt.

The reason as to why Chandara accepted the orders from her husband might be because she was scared of the consequences if she would refuse the orders. It could also be possible that according to the Indian culture, no one cared about the feelings of women. Chandara also continues to confess in the court that she was the murdered because she had seen how her husband had not valued her intense feelings for him (East Simon, P et al 2009). Chandara loved her husband very much, but Chidam could not love her more than he loved his brother. This also indicates that women were obedient to the commands from their husbands as Chandara did not even argue with his husband after he told her to take the blame of his step sister’s death. It appears that women were expected to obey their husbands in everything, such that Chandara goes to the extent of saying that she killed Radha just for the sake of making sure that she obeyed her husband instructions.

Women are viewed as inferior to men or in some circumstances as subhuman. When Chidam is having a conversation with Ramlochan, he says that if he loses his wife he can get another one, but wonders how he will replace his brother if he is executed. This is an extremely shocking sentence as one clearly wonders how a husband has absolutely no concern for his wife. The statement from Chidam indicates how he was much concerned with his family than his wife. The wives were considered of less importance than the husband’s family.

Children were also considered to be extremely essential than wives. The man prefers his wife being executed for a mistake that she has not committed (East Simon, P et al 2009). This is as though the life of Chandara was not worth as that of Dukhiram. Men in the East do not have any concern for women (Wolpert, S 2004). Women in India were not considered as full human beings because it is only possible for one to consider another person as a subhuman so that to prefer the life of one over that of another (Wolpert, S 2004). The act of Chidam and Ramlochan, was in ultimate in violation of goodwill and justice, as they advocated the life of a woman who was innocent in exchange of a criminal life.

The image that Chandara portrays in the story is that of an angry and proud individual and assertive woman who is fighting back against the moral weak men in her life and a patriarchal society (East Simon, P et al 2009). She takes the role of a long suffering wife in the story. At the end of the story, she tend to long for her punishment, which is death so that she can end the humiliation and the suffering she has undergone after having been deceived from her love to Chidam. Before Chidam is executed, the civil servant asks her if she will talk to her husband, but she rejects and decides to talk to her mother (East Simon, P et al 2009). Chandara rejected to talk to the husband who she still loved and was reluctant to show her mutual love to Chidam in public. The story also portrays the pride of women as the pride of Chandara prevented her from backing down from the claims.


The status of women in Punishment indicates how women were being treated with no equality, poor, as subhuman, and in degrading forms. The story displays the unjust social set up during the time when women carried no importance and status in the family. According the story, women were victimized to all kinds of physical assaults, inhumanity, indignities, insults, and injustice. The status of women in this story is that they are seen as inferior and men are considered superior to women. The author wrote this story based on the status of women in India. The story describes the relationship of women and men in Indian and how women were viewed by the society. By writing the story, the author clearly displays to the public the position of women in society. The author wanted the story to be a mirror where men could be able to see themselves and have the desire to change. It would be possible to change the lives of women by changing the way men looked at themselves.


Conor, S Clinton, J & Simon, P (2009). The Norton anthology of world literature W.W Norton & Co.

Wolpert, S (2004). A new history of India Oxford University Press

Robinson, A & Krishna, D (1995). Rabindranath Tagore Bloomsbury

Is this your assignment or some part of it?

We can do it for you! Click to Order!

Order Now

Translate »

You cannot copy content of this page