Mulk Raj Anand as A Short Story Writer

Also Read

      Mulk Raj Anand is the greatest master of writing short stories in English. He is perhaps the most prolific of the Indian writers in the art of writing short stories. To his credit, we have six collections of seventy short stories which have been published from time to time all through his life. These collections are: The Lost Child and Other Stories (1934); The Barber's Trade Union and Other Stories (1944); The Tractor and the Corn Goddess and Other Stories (1947); Reflections on the Golden Bed and Other Stories (1953); The Power of Darkness and Other Stories (1959); Lajwanti and Other Stories fl966) and Between Tears and Laughter (1973). In addition to these, he has two important collections of retold older Indian Tales—Indian Fairy Tales (1946) and More Indian Fairy Tales (1961).

Synthesis of Eastern and Western Style

      There are various influences which have conditioned Anand’s art of short-story writing, and he has himself brought in these influences in his articles, introductions and prefaces. He had been inspired and influenced by the style of the Indian folk-tales and fairy stories since his childhood when he used to listen to his mother’s recounting of these tales. There is a synthesis of traditional Indian style of the short story and western psychological approach in his short story writing. Anand himself speaks of—“Therefore, while accepting the form of the folk tale, specially in its fabulous character, I took in the individual and group psychology of the European short-story and tried to synthesise the two styles. And thus, sought to create a new kind of fable which extends the old Indian story-form into a new age, without the moral lessons of the Indian story, but embodying its verve and vitality and including the psychological understanding of the contemporary period.” Thus, it is worth noting that Anand’s art of story-writing is a complete synthesis of the styles of the East and West and the old and the new approach. And there is no doubt that his art of the short story is entirely his own, for it is the combination of traditional framework of the folk-tale having deep concentration on characters and the situations of contemporary life.

Various Types of Characters

      Anand’s characterisation has a large variety. His novels and short stories present a complete account of fictional world, followed by different categories of characters, reflecting the wide, view of the Indian social and political scene, over a period of more than thirty years. During the colonial times, it is perhaps, Anand, among the Indian novelists, who gives the most comprehensive picture of the Englishman in India. It is explicit in seeing a great variety of types in his British Characters. First, in the story ‘Babu Bulaki Ram’, there is, the Pukka Sahib, as Colonel Pottinger the opposite type is the liberal Briton, a rebel against the cult of the white man’s burden. In between these two extremes, there is a well-meaning Englishman who is unable to establish a connection with the Colonial Indian on account of cloud of misunderstanding.

      Anand’s fiction is a huge crowd of people where all kinds of people come in contact with one another. He presents the entire social range from the Raja to the subject, from the Anglo-Indian to the downtrodden. In his fictions, we come across Maharajas, Nawabs, landlords and the tenants, the whole army hierarchy and different types of soldiers, lawyers, policemen, revolutionaries, politicians, teachers, priests, merchants, money-lenders, contractors, clerks, coolies, factory-workers, sweepers, washermen, barbers, cobblers, fruit-vendors, carpenters, farmers and coppersmiths. ‘The women in his fictional world’ includes both rustic and urban type characters, both the Maharani and the beggar maid, the beautiful village girl and the society lady. There are also many memories of the child mind in Anand, as we see in his stories like The Lost Child and The Eternal The most memorable of Anand’s characters are obviously those who have either aroused his humanitarian compassion deeply or have evoked his admiration. In the short-story Birth, Gauri and Paravati are perhaps, his most outstanding characterizations among his women.

Wide Range and Scope of His Short Stories

      It is an admitted fact that Anand’s stories have got infinite variety and wide range and scope. This variety of his short stories is observed in their mood, tone and spirit and also in their setting or locale, in their characters and in their form. The action of a few like Professor Cheeta, Little Flower and The Lady and the Pedlar is set in England; the locale of the rest is India. The scene of the events shifts from Punjab (as in The Parrot in the Cage) to Uttar Pradesh (as in The Price of Bananas) and Kashmir (as in The Kashmir Idyll); and both the rural and urban side get almost equal representation. In some of the stories of Anand, the scene shifts from the human to the animal world. His Short Stories: Various Mode, Manner and the Poetic Vein Anand has written a large number of short stories on different subjects and his short stories are characterised by variety of mode, manner and theme. They touch the lyric awareness of the human crisis, allegory fable, social satire, loud farcical laughter and psychological perception. The suffering of the child is treated with lyric intensity in The Lost Child, among his best stories, the tone is poetic and so heightened that the suffering of the child becomes realistic, and a symbol of human predicament in this distressing world. It’s a matter of fact that “The story has a neat and balanced structure and the descriptions, in a lyrical vein in the earlier half effectively bring out the moods of wonder and joy the child feels until the final blow falls.” In Birth also the tone is poetic and so equally heightened. The writer describes the birth pangs of Parvati, the central figure in the story at least in passages. Parvati is sustained by her traditional faith in her hour of need. The story of birth also gives an account of Anand’s best work which reveals a deep apprehension of what is enduring in Indian folk tradition. Parvati represents the traditional rustic Indian woman at its very best.

Moral in His Short Stories

      Anand wrote some other short stories in which scene of the action shifts from the human to the animal, and the fables, in the manner of Aesop, are brought to point a moral. M.K. Nayak is of the opinion in this respect, “In the Five Short Fables and Little Chicks, the scene shifts from the human to the animal world, though these short narratives often have human life as their ultimate point of reference, inspite of the fact that the protagonists belong to the beast kingdom. The fables, show a variety of treatment. The Golden Cockerd and Little Chicks are almost pure description with no inherent symbolism, though the first has a touch of humour in its account of the cock frustrated in a love affair, and the second depicts with tenderness three little chickens as miracles of littleness learning the rules of the art of survival. Each of the rest of the fables ends with an explicit moral. The Butterfly pin-points the pathos of the law, of beauty vanishes, beauty passes; The Peacock is a sermon on vanity and humility, and A Leaf in the Storm underscores the necessity to have roots but not to get rooted in barren fields. These fables differ from those of Aesop, in that the hard, clear-cut contours of allegory which are so characteristic of the latter are replaced in them by lyrical description steeped in symbolic overtones.”

Conclusion: Achievement and Shortcoming of His Short Stories

      As a writer of short stories, Mulk Raj Anand has his limitations. He has a compassionate zeal for the poor and the helpless, and he writes more about their plight in their stories but his pathos is often over-done and turns into bathos. His exaggeration often mars his attack of irony and therefore, he is practically unable to create memorable characters. However, despite such limitations, he is a great short-story writer. His contribution is impressive. Moreover, “He is a born story-teller, endowed with an unerring sense of situation and with the ability to visualize a scene clearly He has a well-defined theory of the short-story to which he tries to conform in his own work, and an extensive range which is wider than that of Raja Rao and his work exhibits a greater variety of mood and tone and a great complexity”. All the same Anand has few equals among the Indian short-story writers in English.

Previous Post Next Post