Characterisation in the Castaway

Tagore’s The Castaway basically pivots around Kiran, Sharat’s wife, and Nilkanta, the shipwrecked orphan who formerly was a young actor too. Although Satish, Sharat’s younger brother, entered into the scenario later it was he who brought the twist in the course of the story. Despite the number of main characters in the story being four, they were sharp in contrast. The attitude and demeanour of both Sharat and Satish were quite harsh towards Nilkanta who, on the other hand, was pampered by Kiran. Kiran was the cynosure of all eyes of her family members. She was a jovial, amiable, caring and sensitive lady. The loneliness of the riverside villa at Chandernagore where she had come to recover from an illness was haunting her and she was eagerly looking for some sort of companionship. The solitude of the place was stifling the cheerful, joyous nature of Kiran and this shows a kind of conflict. Fortunately for her this conflict got resolved as Nilkanta, the shipwrecked came into her life and she not only looked after him with utmost care but also spoiled him with profound affection and sympathy.

Besides giving him sufficient food to eat and dress to wear, she also gives him freedom to come to her room. Moreover, she also had a great liking for Nilkanta’s recitation and singing. In addition to that the tragic account of his former days with the theatrical troupe made her even more caring and protective about him. She started enjoying his company. But the arrival of Satish drifted her attention away from Nilkanta and gradually he (Nilkanta) started feeling isolated and ignored and this is what unknowingly hurt him, bruised his tender mind. The biggest inner conflict that Kiran felt was at the juncture of time when she discovered the theft of the ink stand, done by Nilkanta. She was shell shocked. Her affection for Nilkanta was conflicted with the discovery of the act of stealing. The more affection Kiran showered upon Nilkanta the more he began to be disliked by Sharat though he was afraid to say anything to his wife. There is no denying of the fact that Nilkanta went wayward and became insolent to some extent. He started taking too much of liberty by smoking Sharat’s hookah, by using his silk umbrella and he even went on to bring a mongrel which spoilt Sharat’s spotless bed with its dirty paws.

To add to this Nilkanta became the leader of the local truant lads who used to pluck mangoes from the trees of the neighbours even before they were ripe. Sharat often punished him for all his mischief by boxing his ears. He was annoyed at Nilkanta and did not know how to handle him without causing anger to his wife. Despite his annoyance at Nilkanta, Sharat could not take any stern step against him because his wife shielded and pampered the insolence and disobedience of Nilkanta. Things began to change completely as Satish, the younger brother of Sharat, arrived. Kiran had a friendly relationship with her brother-in-law Satish. She shifted her attention from Nilkanta to Satish and this created a sense of insecurity, unhappiness in the adolescent mind of Nilkanta who, consequently, began to feel jealous of Satish. The indifference of Kiran towards Nilkanta made him feel that the cocoon of the caring family was no more with him. From the very outset Satish was against Nilkanta whom he considered to be an intruder. When Nilkanta broke out in tears listening to the news of their imminent departure from that villa Satish non-chalantly said that much like an opportunist he was weeping to soften the mind of Kiran. Nilkanta before the entry of Satish was a completely different fellow than Nilkanta after his entry.

The energetic, agile, spirited self of the boy was replaced by a morose, insecured one who took Satish as his biggest enemy. Not being able to torment Satish directly he let out his anger and hatred surreptitiously by stealing a beautiful ink stand. He did it in a moment of frenzy without realizing the outcome of it. His possessiveness towards Kiran was the reason behind his act of theft. Although Nilkanta was saved by Kiran from the ignominy of being found out as the thief, it was she who eventually discovered the ink stand in his box. The situation became even more poignant as Nilkanta watched her discovering the ink stand in his box. This moment brought the biggest conflict in the mind of Nilkanta. He neither realized that she had actually opened his box to give him the parting gifts nor was ready to accept the stigma of being a thief cast upon him by his own Kiran. Thus being mentally shattered he left Chandernagore forever with heavy heart without giving anyone any clue about his sudden and mysterious departure.