Though Tagore does not specify Neerja’s illness in his novella, The Garden, readers are made aware of its terminal nature following her surgery and the loss of her child. As the novella progresses, what draws the readers’ attention is not Neerja’s physical ill health but the “unreasonable torment” plaguing her mind. Tagore’s depiction of her distressful mental suffering and its corresponding psychological repercussions—chronic anxiety, low self-esteem, guilt, depression, and obsessional jealousy—tend to preoccupy the central focus of the narrative. In the early twentieth century, the general awareness of mental health issues was still at a formative stage in colonial Bengal. In the absence of requisite palliative care and appropriate treatment of Neerja’s underlying psychological distress, she remains a hapless victim of her tragic circumstances. Undertaking a close psychoanalytic exploration of the text, this analysis argues that through his keen observation and a meticulously detailed portrayal of his female protagonist’s predicament, Tagore represents the helpless despair endured by mentally challenged victims of his time.

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