Gora by Rabindranath Tagore – Book Review


Gora, the protagonist, is a very staunch follower of Hinduism and has very high regards for his religion. He is not only a strong advocate of his religion but practices Hinduism thorough strict austerity and conviction. He is a very good orator and the leadership qualities are imbibed in him naturally. At heart, he is very optimist who dreams about ideal Bharatvarsha, a prosperous and happy India that can only be achieved when all castes and classes are united under the large umbrella of Hinduism. Gora is highly patriotic and sympathetic by nature who can not stand injustice and inhuman treatment done by the upper society towards the poor and downtrodden. The impelling attitude of Gora makes him seem like a violent and arrogant person.

It is very important to note at this point that the word “gora” means “fair-skinned.”  The word was also being used to refer to the fair skinned Britishers.

Gora develops soft corner in her heart and feelings of love towards Sucharita (one of the leading female characters of the novel who is a free-thinking woman). He get hurt and upset when he learns about Binoy, his best friend’s, inclination towards Brahmos. Binoy is a compassionate and soft spoken gentleman who initially comes merely as a shadow of the protagonist but later on emerges as more genuine and self-analyzing person.

The storyline matures these two friends come in contact with Poresh Babu. Poresh Babu is a mature person rder=”0″ marginwidth=”0″ marginheight=”0″ scrolling=”no”>
with high thinking. He and his family are followers of Brahma Samaj and represent the other facet of the society, the Brahmos. Being Brahmos, they have adopted more open minded and liberal lifestyle where the ladies have equal importance and say in the house. Lolita is the second female leading characters whose love story with Binoy runs as a parallel plot. Both Lolita and Sucharita are educated and have their own point of view towards towards life.

In this novel, Tagore has raised a strong protest against segregating women from the mainstream of the society by putting a label of Goddess or Mother on them. The leading ladies of his novel are real humans with flesh and blood who have all the natural feelings, emotions and responsibilities towards society as any other human being. They are strong with their independent thought process, self-confidence and individuality.

A revelation of truth about birth of Gora comes as a shock for him that transforms the whole course of life and thought process of the protagonist.

Book Review:

Gora is a masterpiece and a monumental work in the history of Bengali fiction, rich in thought and reflection of the social, political and religious scenario of 20th century Bengal. The canvas of the novel is very vast with lots of characters woven together beautifully. Although there are so many characters in the novel, yet each one of them have their own identity and individualism. The backdrop of the story is Bengal at the time of turn of the century when it was witnessing the conflict between intense nationalism & revival of ancient spiritual values and also influence of the liberal western thought.

Gora beautifully illustrates the struggles faced by educated Indians in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The novel is not only about socio-political scenario of Bengal of pre-independent era; but the story is also about self-searching, of resolution, of conflicts and of self discovery that has been told brilliantly by Tagore. Some of the characters are way ahead of the times when this epic was written. In fact, it’s through these different characters and their stories only, Tagore has woven almost every single concern of the society. For this, several sub-plots and intermediary stories and events have been added in the story which have added to its beauty. Each of the characters contributes and justifies the current status of the society in its own way.

It is a journey of development of the soul within. It is very difficult to craft an interesting and engrossing storyline with plenty of material that compels you to think about religion, fanaticism, nationalism, caste and spiritualism; and this is what sets Gora apart from other fictional novels. It questions the identity of India as a nation as well as each of its characters. Tagore,  in this masterpiece, observes the difference between religion and religious fanaticism. The transition of the characters with the development of the story is so subtle and natural that you feel the complexity of it.

Gora might also be called a mirror of the Indian Renaissance and is a revisit of the Brahmo Samaj and the disruptive times when the Bengali society in Calcutta (Kolkata) ) was blatantly divided into the traditional orthodox Hindus and the liberal thinking Brahmos. Of these two, the Hindu Samaj strictly followed their renascent practices and ceremonials taking pride in it, and the Brahma Samaj, the liberal and reformed societal component of Brahmoism, a monotheistic reformist and renaissance movement of Hindu religion that was started by Raja Rammohan Roy. This awesome piece of literature does not preach or advocate any principle but is full of debates, arguments, thoughts and observations that may be interpreted in various ways. The story does not thrust any definite conclusions upon the readers anytime, rather it provokes you to think and introspect your self-being, your religion and the integrity with which you follow what you perceive is right. Even the end of the novel is also a new beginning of the concept of secularism.

Today I am Bharatiya. Within me there is no conflict between communities, whether Hindu, Muslim or Krishtan (Christian). Today all the castes of Bharat are my caste ……is the ultimate realization that strikes Gora , the central character of the novel.

Gora is a powerful story, with its perfect detailing, twists and turns through the disruptive and cultural confusion era of pre-independent Bengal which would definitely make every reader think.

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