Allegation of Propaganda on Mulk Raj Anand Novels

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The Allegation of Propaganda

      As a self-motivated, zealous, and avowed writer for the cause of the under-dogs or social pariah, Anand has been criticised for digression. He seems obsessed with missionary zeal to bring dignity to the have nots.

      Anand is aware of the allegation of being a propagandist. Anand said that he did so because he had been better exposed to the characters and situation prevailing in the outcaste society.

      “Therefore, if the attempt to discover the meaning of life in any given human environment is propaganda, then I am a propagandist; otherwise, it is expressionism, which I define as an enactment of the body-soul drama of human beings, through the imagination.”

      In this context M.K. Naik writes, “Able and spirited as this defence is, it does appear to leave some questions unanswered. In his critical pronouncements, an author is often tempted to generalise on the basis of his own experience and to leave his own individual artistic convictions to the level of universal axioms. No one can, of course, find fault with Anand for making these questions the central concern of his fiction. The crucial question is, having done this, has he given us in a pure form, an enactment of the body-soul drama of human beings through the imagination (to use his own expressive phrase) or has this drama been vitiated by the admixture of elements which go against the grain of art? The answer is, “yes and no”. At his best, Anand’s humanist convictions and his humanitarian compassion have fired his imagination and have given us unforgettable scenes such as Bakha touching the caste Hindu and paying the penalty; Ananta being knocked down dead on the machine which he loves; Munoo’s traumatic realisation that he is born to be exploited; Gauri being transformed into a Sita with a difference, living a new, modem Ramayana with an altered ending; Lajwanti finding herself condemned to live in a situation where death would be far more welcome; ignorant rustics enthusiastically accepting modernity when they are convinced that it does not mean the descreation and destruction of tradition, but is rather a new avatar of an age-old deity”.

Impact of Propaganda on His Art

      Anand transcended his fiction beyond the level of art. Anand transgressed the requirements of art in three different ways. First, the protagonists do not evolve and mature. Bakha and Munoo are not allowed to evolve properly. Secondly Anand exaggerates the body-soul drama that culminates into farce or melodrama. Thirdly his characters are transformed into his mouthpiece. Iqbal Nath Sarshar’s anger and anguish against casteism is only such example. Sometimes his compassion degenerates into sentimentality.

      In this context Narasimhaiah says, “The social, political or religious nexus stifles art only when the writer is under obligations to further a cause, as I fear, Anand seems to be, say in short stories like The Barbers, Trade Union and The Tractor and the Corn Goddes. But in works like The Cobbler and the Anfachine the dase in different—his love of the cobbler and love of the machine are in conflict and the response is mixed. He rises to the heights of great art when he shows the cobbler dying—killed by the machine—with the following words on his lips:

The days of your life are ending
And you have not made your accounts with God

      Strange that Anand, whose own predilections are for the machine and against religion, should let himself be swayed by the overwhelming human impulse as against the machine which seeks to stifle it and let the story proceed on traditional lines—such is his fidelity to the life around him that he lets the character seek his fulfilment in the only way known to his state of life, class, and the milieu to which he belongs. His doctrine or his leftist sympathies such as they are, are nowhere allowed to do violence to the integrity of his art”.

      As Saroj Cowasji rightly points out that Anand’s disapproval of propaganda is a proof that his writing is free of propaganda or of diatribe against those whom he mistrusts. But he is no facile propagandist, he is what George Orwell was, an expositor; a political novelist, one who sees his characters and their actions in relation to the social, economic and political upheavals of his time.

      In fact Anand as a writer is not biased and his characters are almost out of the gamut of his caste. It may happen coincidentally His first nine novels give an insight into a gradual progression in the caste and social plight of the hero. His novels project the real life characters who are condemned to live in misery and have been ostracised from all interactions with the caste Hindus, landlords and priests. Study of his novels show that his first novel (Untouchable) deals with the problem of untouchability. Bakha represents the whole community of pariah. The second novel deals with a coolie who dies of tuberculosis, coughing and spitting blood. He dies very young, three other novels deal with a well-built peasant, a machine hand and about his own childhood and finally a novel deals with prince and its chief characters. Anand seems to be preoccupied with suffering, misery, and cruelty. He does not go out of his self-fabricated microcosm. It does not matter whether his protagonist is affluent or pauper. They are sufferers, victims and oppressed. According to Arnold Bennet, Anand is an embodiment of compassion for them.

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