9 December 2021
Word Count: 1150
Analysis of Tito Rajarshi Mukhopadhyay’s “Misfit”
Images of nature have been used in poetry and other literary works for as long as they have been written, generally to convey ideas of purity, idealism, and escape. However, while themes of nature are used in Tito Rajarshi Mukhopadhyay’s poem “Misfit”, they are instead used to establish how he, as an autistic person, fits into the world around him. Using these depictions of natural items along with the structure of the poem, repetition of phrases and images, and the use of motion, Mukhopadhyay examines what is natural and unnatural, how he and others connect to the world, and who are considered the real “misfits”.
Throughout “Misfit”, the structure of the work helps to convey a message to the reader. Beginning with a stanza set in space with the focus being on “There was the earth, turning and turning” and the way the stars recede, Mukhopadhyay starts the reader off by showing them an expansive perspective that sets the tone for the rest of the poem. The second stanza then zooms in, with images of birds flying and a lit up sky, followed by another line about the earth turning. This narrowing shows further perspectives of the natural world, as well as reminding the reader that everything is connected and that, as the birds are flying and the sky is bright, the earth is still continuing to turn. It’s not until the third stanza with the line “My hands, as usual, were flapping” that Mukhopadhyay’s point of view enters the piece. As the birds look down at him, knowing that he is autistic, Mukhopadhyay is integrated into the cycle of nature around him with the birds, the earth, and the sky. With the fourth stanza, a man and woman are introduced, staring at his nodding and labeling him a misfit. Though this is still focusing on the human perspective, the perspective is still being narrowed, zooming in on those who are not connected to what is around them. The stanza does not reference any of the natural images seen before, instead only concentrating on how they “stared at my nodding; / They labeled me a Misfit”. This effect of reducing the scale of viewpoint emphasizes the way that different parts of the world connect with one another, and how the author fits into both this natural world and the minds of the people around him.
The effect of repetition is seen throughout the entirety of “Misfit” as well. Mukhopadhyay first describes how “The stars receded, as if / Finding no wrong with anything”, emphasizing how nature continues along its path, not paying attention to the potential rightness or wrongness of the world around it. This concept is seen again, when “The birds knew I was Autistic; / They found no wrong with anything”. The description of Mukhopadhyay’s hands in the same stanza with the line “My hands, as usual, were flapping” seem to find no wrong with anything either, with the line implying that the hands were flapping on their own without the author’s input. The hands flapped, as usual, because they, like the stars and the birds, found no wrong in anything.
This repetition is broken up by the fourth stanza, where, instead of finding no wrong, the men and women staring at Mukhopadhyay label him as a misfit. By removing the repetition from this line, the author reiterates how the men and women are the real misfits, disconnected from both the patterns in the poem and the nature around them. It also makes it all the more powerful when, in the next stanza, Mukhopadhyay becomes the blowing wind, a part of nature who “found no wrong with anything”, free from the constraints and labels that the men and women forced upon him. Though changed slightly, the echoing phrase is last seen in the final line of the poem as the author poses the question of “Why stop turning and turning / When right can be found with everything?”. By changing the wording from “finding no wrong with anything” to “right can be found with everything”, Mukhopadhyay illustrates a change from a negative mindset to a more powerful one. It also asserts that the potential to find right in everything is possible for anyone, serving as almost a call to the reader to try and become the blowing wind and removing themselves from a mindset that labels others as misfits.
Tito Rajarshi Mukhopadhyay also uses the idea of motion and movement to make his point. Within the first stanza, the earth is noted to be “turning and turning”, while the stars recede in the sky. Birds are described as flying by “all morning”, indicating a perpetual, continuous action. Movement is seen later in the poem as well, with lines like “And then I was the wind, blowing. / Did anyone see my trick?”. There is motion even when “Somewhere, a wish was rising”, and in his “laughing lips”. This perpetual activity is what connects him to the nature around him, and what allows him to understand how “right can be found in everything”.
The speaker then notes how his “hands, as usual, were flapping”, moving alongside the persistent motion of the nature surrounding him. However, it is the speaker’s flapping hands and nodding that is frowned upon by the men and women watching him. Instead of being able to move alongside the rest of the world in peace, Mukhopadhyay describes how the men and women “labeled me a Misfit”. Despite this, the speaker clarifies that he is “(A Misfit turning and turning)”, demonstrating how, even when being discouraged from the motion the rest of nature engages in, he still continues to turn and turn. Within the whole of the poem, the only elements to never move are the actual men and the women that choose to label him. Unable to understand the speaker’s continuous motion, they are forced into a stand still that prevents them from connecting to what is going on around them. It is this lack of acceptance and movement that prohibits them from being able to see the right in everything, establishing that they are the true misfits, incapable of fitting in with the nature around them and the scene being depicted.
Tito Rajarshi Mukhopadhyay’s work “Misfit” uses natural imagery like stars, the moon, birds, and the wind to exhibit the way that he, as an autistic person, fits more naturally into the world around him than others expect and assume. By doing this, he points out that the real misfits are those who try to label him as such. Ultimately, the work serves to help the reader wonder how to find no wrong in anything and what is truly natural.
“I hereby declare upon my word of honor that I have neither given nor received unauthorized help on this work.” – Bailey Merriman