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Briefly outlining the story, explain the role of

irony in the story "The Lost Jewels."


With irony as the contrast between what is stated and what is meant (verbal irony), or between
what is expected and what actually happens (situational irony), there are both instances of irony
in "The Lost Jewels."
A story told in the Benghali tradition of philosophy with a certain mysticism and hidden
foreshadowing, the unknown narrator, a merchant, relates his encounter with a schoolmaster who
moors his boat (ironically, as it turns out) beside "an old bathing ghat of the river... in ruins."

Pointing to a ramshackle house, the schoolmaster begins his tale of the misfortune
attached to it. He describes the merchant Bhusan who married a beautiful, but selfish woman
named Mani. In his weakness, Bhusan spoils her:
She used to get her caresses without asking, her Dacca muslin saris without tears, and her
bangles without being able to pride herself on a victory. In this way her woman's nature became
atrophied, and with it her love for her husband. She simply accepted things without giving
anything in return.

Throughout the story, the schoolmaster alludes to the weakness of the merchant who is
foolish in his thinking that "to give is the way to get" because man must retain some of his
barbarism in order to keep his wife eager for his love.

Without warning Bhusan's business reaches a point where he cannot get credit. Since
allowing his creditors to know that he must borrow will bring ruin, he asks his wife if he can use
some of her jewels as collateral for a loan,but he cannot say, "Look here, I am in need of money;
bring out your jewels";instead he broaches the subject delicately, and Mani looks cruelly at him,
saying nothing.

Too "proud" to touch his wife's jewels, Bhusan goes to Calcutta in an attempt to find
some money.

While he is gone, Mani calls a cousin of hers, who advises her that her husband will not
procure the money and will be forced to take her jewels. So, Mani decides to leave, wearing all
her precious jewelry as she does not trust this cousin, Modhu.

An old steward writes to Bhusan, informing him of what has happened. Still, he does not
become angry; he is only "distressed." When he returns home, hoping that once Mani has hidden
her jewels she will also return. The steward tells him he should learn where his mistress is, so
inquiries are made, but Mani and Modhu are nowhere to be found.

With all hope exhausted, Bhusan enters his deserted bedroom, taking no notice of the
damp wind and pouring rain. He looks at all Mani's things, hoping that she will return for them,
at least. For hours, he remains in the room.

His stupor shaken, he hears jingling that seems to come from the steps of the ghat. He
runs to the door, but it has been bolted from the outside by the porter. Bhusan shakes the door so
hard, that he is awakened from this dream and realizes "This world is vain." Yet on another night,
this dream is repeated, and Bhusan "struck his forehead in despair."

Because he cannot stand the separation from Mani, Bhusan wants to die. Again he
dreams, but this time there is a skeleton that beckons him and leads him to the ghat. As they
descend into the water, Bhusan awakens, but he is unable to save himself from drowning.

The narrator asks if his listener believes the tale. "No," the man replies,"...my name
happens to be Bhusan Saha." Then, the schoolmaster asks what his wife's name was. "Nitya
Kali" the man answers.
This surprise ending is an example of irony of situation. Bhusan's reply to "What was your wife's
name?" is verbal ironyRabindranath Tagore's short story "The Lost Jewels" is told
through a dialogue between the main character and an old schoolmaster whom he
happened to stumble upon. He was visiting what 15 years prior was his own estate,
which now lays in ruin just as he, Bhusan, lays in anonymity. The man who was
speaking to him was basically telling the story of the ruin of the said Bhusan Saha;
on how his biggest weakness seems to have been the love that he had for his wife.
A love so strong that it rendered Bhusan weak, mistakenly assuming that the only
way to possess his wife completely is to give in to her every whim, particularly every
material desire that she wishes. However, this is the Asian culture and the role of
men and women change considerably from those roles practices in the Western
world. In a way, the schoolmaster blames Bhusan for having lost his wife's love.

...it is hardly necessary to tell you that the ordinary female is fond of sour green
mangoes, hot chillies, and a stern husband. A man need not necessarily be ugly or
poor to be cheated of his wife's love; but he is sure to lose it if he is too gentle.
The problem with the jewels is that they were the primary object of desire of
Bhusan's wife, Mani. It replaced anything that Bhusan and Mani could have had in
common; the want for children, their mutual trust, their mutual desire...all that the
wife felt for Bhusan was the same emotion one feels when one has hit a lottery that
keeps on giving.
More ironic still is that, after Bhusan's fall from grace, the jewels began to represent
the last vestige of his lifeline: the only thing that could potentially bring back what

once was. Still, the irony comes when his wife is willing to die with her jewels rather
than give them to her husband to recuperate his loses. She goes as far as escaping
with an opportunistic cousin to her father's house to keep the jewels preserved. This
adds to the humiliation and desperation of the situation. It shows that Bhusan has
lost every control of his wife, and his life in general. The saddest part is that the wife,
nor her cousin, are ever found again. We are unsure if they drowned in the river, or if
they escaped together. Yet, this goes to show that the value placed upon material
objects was never worth the salt of the marriage, nor did it ever get to demonstrate
anything:
The unfortunate Bhusan had been turned out of the machine of modern civilization
an absolutely faultless man. He was therefore neither successful in business nor in
his own home.
The irony also comes from the fact that the schoolmaster insists in that being good
and kind is what leads to problems; that it denotes weakness and that being
incorruptible is actually a bad thing.
Man is the rod of God's justice, to him has been entrusted the thunderbolt of the
divine wrath, and if at wrong done to himself or another it does not at once break out
into fury, then it is a shame. God has so arranged it that man, for the most trifling
reason, will burst forth in anger like a forest fire, and woman will burst into tears like
a rain-cloud for no reason at all. But the cycle seems to have changed, and this
appears no longer to hold good.
The fact that the roles are interchanged, and that the role of the good husband and
provider is seen as a sign of weakness, are some of the biggest ironies seen in the
story "The Lost Jewels".

Homework Help > Rabindranath Tagore

What is the role of irony in "The Lost Jewels"


by Tagore?
Download Answer Download Study Guide
The story begins with a conversation between a merchant and a schoolmaster. The merchant is
on a sabbatical of sorts; he's staying in a house by a certain river. The schoolmaster proceeds to

tell the merchant an unfortunate story about the previous owner of the house, one Bhusan Saha,
who was reputed to be the heir to a large fortune.
Bhusan Saha was a college-educated gentleman possessed of an unusually beautiful wife.
Although his wife, Mani, reveled in her husband's generosity, she eventually became
disenchanted with his passivity. The schoolmaster asserts that, under "the spell of modern
civilization," man had lost the "God-given power of his barbaric nature" and "was therefore,
neither successful in business nor in his own home." It transpired that Bhusan, hard-pressed for a
way out of his financial troubles, was afraid to even broach the topic of his distress with his wife.
For her part, Mani eventually disappeared with her jewels. The story is that Mani, with her
jewels intact on her person, had eventually committed suicide in the river.
In the story, Tagore uses situational irony to highlight the role of feminine and masculine energy
in the area of attraction. He asserts that "the ordinary female is fond of sour green mangoes, hot
chilies, and a stern husband. A man need not necessarily be ugly or poor to be cheated of his
wife's love; but he is sure to lose it if he is too gentle." Here, Tagore describes the idea of
polarization as a factor in attraction: opposites attract, just as the different poles of a magnet
attract each other. In the story, instead of preserving his wife's love with his gentle
submissiveness, Bhusan effectively causes his wife to respond with contempt and apathy.
Tagore also uses dramatic irony to characterize his short story as an allegory involving different
manifestations of revered Hindu gods and goddesses. Dramatic irony is usually used by an
author to create tension and mystery; in this short story, Tagore uses this literary device to
perfection. At the end of the story, we learn that the merchant is the supposed Bhusan Saha from
the schoolmaster's story, and his wife, Mani, is really Nitya Kali, a Hindu goddess who manifests
herself in different forms. The intricate dance between feminine and masculine characteristics in
each of Nitya Kali's manifestations is a representation of polarization in the realm of Hindu
spirituality.
If you like, please refer to my answer about characterizations of Hindu gods and goddesses in the
story.
Bhusan Saha and Nitya Kali.