Rabindranath Tagore’s “Punishment” deals with the power of men over women in the Indian society and struggles of women to run away from this intimidating violence. This is effectively reflected through the two brothers, Chidam and Dukhiram, and their wives, Chandara and Radha, respectively. Raymond Carver’s “So Much Water So Close to Home” also discusses the treatment of women in society and the cruelty they are subjected to in their own communities. The story is superbly told from the perspective of a female character, Claire, who is married to Stuart, one of the men who discover a dead woman’s body on a fishing expedition. The most significant similarities between the stories include the theme of violence against women, the use of a similar image of water to explain potential problems, brutality, and the aspect of persistent conflict. The two stories differ in their approach to marriage and understanding between spouses. Accordingly, they differ in the reflection of women’s attempts to free themselves from the bondage of violence in their homes and communities. This essay compares and contrasts Tagore’s “Punishment” and Carver’s “So Much Water So Close to Home” themes of violence against women and the imagery of water.
One of the most significant similarities between “Punishment” and “So Much Water So Close to Home” is the theme of violence against women. Tagore offers a clear view of violence women in the Indian society through the explication of the relationship between the two brothers, Chidam and Dukhiram, and their wives. The overall incident of violence against women begins immediately when Chidam and Dukhiram come home from their daily activities in the fields. Dukhiram demands food from his wife, Radha, to show his dominance over her. However, his wife taunts him, insisting there is no food in the house. This annoys him and he beats her up before stabbing her to death. This is a clear reflection of the violence that women have to undergo in the society. In Tagore’s view, women have to undergo humiliations that all the time put them below men. This form of violence and the demeaning of women is worsened by Chidam’s decision to put his wife, Chandara, on the line by convincing her to take responsibility for the murder of Radha. Carver’s “So Much Water So Cloe to Home” describes this violence in a similar fashion. When Stuart and his friends get to the river for their fishing trip, they discover a nude dead body of a woman, raped and mutilated. They hesitate to report this to the authorities and continue fishing. The dead body of women indicates the height of violence against women in American society. Apart from being beaten up in their homes, they are used as sex objects and then thrown away in demeaning places such as rivers. Women are defenseless in both of these stories because of the violence waged against them by strong and dominant men. It is a complicated situation that shows how hard it is to escape from their daily troubles in society.
The stories are also similar because they both explore the aspect of a conflict. In Tagore’s “Punishment,” there is a constant conflict between Radha and Chandara, who are in fact sisters-in-law. They tend to fight and argue from morning till evening when their husbands are in the fields engaged in their daily activities. Their verbal fights become so common in the village that most villagers never make a step to stop their fights. According to Tagore, most villagers say, “They are at it again…..no one was at all curious to investigate the cause of the conflict.” This is a reflection of the persistent nature of this family conflict and its commonness to every villager. Carver’s “So Much Water So Close to Home” also entails the aspect of a conflict. However, the conflict, in this case, tends to be a personal conflict within Claire. The conflict begins when she realizes that Stuart, her husband, is among the people who have discovered the body of a dead woman. She thinks he could have been involved and wonders why she is still with him. For instance, Claire says, “One of the men, I do not know who, it might have been Stuart,” to show her internal conflict and confusion about her husband’s behavior. She is not sure about the step she should take towards the problem with her husband. It is a difficult decision for her because she tends to have a strong feeling that he might have been involved in the murder.
Another significant similarity between the two stories is the use of the symbol of water to illustrate tragedy and violence in the community. The murder of Radha is significantly symbolized by water. Tagore states that the water had, “flooded most of the grain fields and had come close to the houses” to illustrate the looming disaster. It was not going to be easy to deal with the mud and the water that had taken over most parts of the village. This was a reflection of the tragedy and the violence that Dukhiram was going to wage against his wife. The flooding of the grain fields is a reflection on the continuing trouble that faces families, especially those with married individuals. Carver uses a similar symbol of water in “So Much Water So Close to Home” to highlight violence against women. The dead woman’s body is found wedged in branches in the water. However, it did not come here by natural causes. It was dumped here by ruthless men who had raped and mutilated the woman. The water tells a lot about what women in both societies go through. They have to face cold indifference of men who do not care about their plight. They are supposed to remain submissive and responsive to the authority of men who use them as sex objects. Men do not care about the predicament of women in society. Their aim is to subject them to cold treatment and violence on a regular basis. In fact, the fishermen tie the dead woman’s body as a sign of imprisonment in the pool of water.
The only notable difference between Tagore’s “Punishment” and Carver’s “So Much Water So Close to Home” is the relationship between married partners and women’s strategies of self-emancipation. In “Punishment,” marriage relationships between different partners are extremely unfriendly. They do not get the opportunity to talk to each other calmly. For instance, when Durkheim comes home, he demands food from his wife. The wife answers him by yelling at him. This is a reflection that marriages in the story are in massive trouble with regular communication breakdowns and the inability to share a romantic moment together. Again, women try to emancipate themselves from this form of violence by accepting death. When Chandara is asked to see his husband after the death sentence, she says, “To hell with him” to highlight her desire to free herself from his dominance in her life. On the other hand, marriage relationships in Carver’s “So Much Water So Close to Home” accommodate the views of each party without unnecessary violence. For instance, Claire freely scolds her husband, Stuart, for getting involved in the incident relating to the death of the woman. She does not like the fact that he is involved with ‘murderers’ and fears that he might be answerable to authorities. They also have some intimate moments together, showing that they are in love with each other. The approach to woman’s emancipation from men’s violence is also different from what is presented in the “Punishment.” In “So Much Water So Close to Home,” women try to escape from men’s violence by identifying with each other and talking to men about their concerns. Claire decides to attend the woman’s funeral and tells her husband that she is not happy about the events that have occurred. She wants to ensure that he understands the plight of women in society and treat them with the dignity they deserve.
Tagore’s “Punishment” and Carver’s “So Much Water So Close to Home” discuss similar problems of violence against women in society. Men tend to have excessive power over women and do anything to humiliate them. Rampant violence results in the death of women, as it happens to Radha and the dead woman in the river. Additionally, they have similar approaches to the use of water to indicate a tragedy and violence in society. Despite all these similarities, the stories significantly differ in addressing violence against women and their position in marriages.