Mulk Raj Anand: Theme of Short Story Writing

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Theme of Religious Hypocrisy

      Anand’s immense variety is observed in the theme of his short stories and the fine shades of difference in the tone and accent dealt with which even the same theme. Anand is well acquainted of both the limitations and the strength of the traditional way of life, and the influence of modern life on this tradition is thoroughly examined from different angles. Sometimes, his mood is considerate, and at other times, he is indignant, satiric or ironic. His moods always continue to change from time to time. In at feast half a dozen stories, such as The Priest and the Pigeons, Mahadev and Parvati, At What Price My Brothers, the theme is religious bigotry, hypocrisy and the instrument of exploitation etc. In the story Mother's religious hypocrisy finds a satiric-ironic treatment.

Feudal Theme

      Anand’s source of both tragedy and comedy is an age old and outdated political and social practice in life. In his A Kashmir Idyll and A Pair of Mustachios, feudal attitudes and feudal power are exposed and ridiculed to a great extent. The former short story exposes savage irony whereas A Pair of Mustachios and The Signature express farcical humour due to feudal attitudes. In A Cock and Bull Story, The Silver Bangles and Torrents of Wrath, he has attacked the caste system.

The Relationship between the Rural and the Ruled

      The relationship between the colonial Indian and the white man is the main aspect of modernity theme of this short stories. This is of course, a recurrent motif in all Anand’s works. This relationship is portrayed both against the background of England and India in his short-stories. Anand is in great difficulty to establish perfect rapport between the two race in his three stories set in England, Professor Cheeta, Little Flower and The Lady and Pedlars.

Theme of Freedom Struggle

      The theme of freedom struggle is revealed in stories like The Terrorist, The Informer, The Interview and On the Border. All these stories describe the tale of Indian struggle for freedom from the British Raj in India. As a confirmed realist, Anand is at the right point, resisting the temptation to glorify his characters, although he is very close to being sentimental in On the Border in portraying the state of a rustic Pathan woman where village is bombard by British aeroplanes.

      It is an admitted fact that the position of woman in traditional Hindu society is a recurring theme in Anand’s fiction, and quite a few of his short stories are devoted to it, bringing out both the tears and the laughter latent in the subject. Among these Lajwanti is perhaps the most memorable. Here is a motherless young rustic girl whose husband is away at college. Being alone in the house she is targeted by her brother-in-law, but she runs away to her father’s house but is sent back, and in the end, tries unsuccessfully to drown herself in a well. As she is saved out, her plaintive cry is “There is no way for me ....I am condemned to live”. The story Nainaresents with deep compassion the psychological torture is undergone by a young wife whose husband treats her as a lust-satisfying machine and before she could know her position in the house, she is shocked by death, in an accident, of a workman outside. In Lottery the theme is treated in a light vein and the treatment is uproariously funny in Two Lady Rams.

Eastern-Western Theme

      Anand’s large numbers of stories deal with the influence of modernity on the Indian tradition, and both the darker and brighter sides of the picture are taken into consideration. There are confrontations of Europeans or their westernised sycophants and the orthodox Indians and it resulted in the theme of his stories. Sometimes, the theme is explored through the impact of industrialisation or the agricultural way of life. In A Rumour, Dhandu is the representative of the Indian rustic uprooted from his traditional world and thrown into the jaws of the malestorm of modern industrialism and meets his end. Saudagur, in The Cobbler and the Machine is an old rustic cobbler who has a passion for machines. He imports a shoe-stitching machine from abroad and incurred a heavy debt and finally he is starved to death. The Man Whose Name did not Appear in the Census reflects heavy laughter, but the fun is touched with a sense of sadness, for a sensitive reader, at the appalling ignorance shown by the colonial Indian rustic when contacted with a modern phenomenon.

Stories of Satire on Post-Independent Rulers

      The modernity theme takes on yet different colouring after the Independence of the country since Anand passes from the colonial days to the post-independence period. He makes whiplash of satire on those persons in power who instead of facing the challenge the time, busy feathering their own nests. He says that a huge suit of money sanctioned on the construction of water tank in a village but it goes into the pockets of the engineer. The fact is that the amount which goes into the pockets of the engineer which are deeper than any tank. Naik says, in Agronomist, the scene shifts from India to Pakistan, but bureaucracy being the same whether on this side of the Indus or that, Mir Muhmmad Mustapha, who returns from England with a specialisation in Botany, finds himself appointed as an agronomist to the Ministry of Agriculture in Pakistan—a job about which his ignorance is as colossal as that of his superiors.

Themes of Traditional and Modern Elements Blended

      There is no doubt that Anand is the critic of Indian tradition: and Indian society but he also appreciates the good in Indian tradition. He is alive to the power that generated when the good; in Indian tradition mingles with the good in modernity. In Birth, Parvati is sustained and strengthened by her faith.

      There is blending of the elements of tradition and modernity with! happy results in The Power of Darkness. The confrontation between orthodoxy and modernity is exposed, and the central character, Bali, who combines in himself the good elements of the both, and thus he tries his best to harmonise the combination of tradition and: modernity. “He is able to convince the villagers by means of a rousing bardic recital that the very goddess who had incarnated herself in their village, as Kalmi, has now reincarnated herself as electricity and the villagers are thoroughly convinced.” In The Tractor and the Corn Goddess, a variation on this theme is handled with a deft touch of comedy. When the progressive-minded young man brings tractor, it creates panic in the village. The giant machine desecrates mother earth and it violates the Corn Goddess. On the other hand, another school of thought considers it to be an engine of magic power, containing Jinns, or bhuts or Shiv-Shakti. According to an alternative theory it is a weapon of destruction with guns hidden in it, to be used to shoot the peasants down. The clever landlord convinces the villagers that the thing is after all so much of iron-and steel, used for ploughing the land quickly. Thus, the peasants’ down to earth commonsense overcomes superstition connected with the introduction, of Tractor.

Exploitation of the Poor and Down-trodden

      Anand’s short stories have another important theme that is of the exploitation of the poor and the down-trodden; helpless and oppressed. In some stories, the agents of exploitation are traditional forces—casteism, communalism, feudalism or modern phenomena such as urbanization and industrialisation. The stories like The Price of Bananas, and A Promoter of Quarrels show a coolie, fruit-vendor and a pair of cowherd women respectively they are unpaid and deceive by the rich. In the story Boots, the young widow of a dead soldier isn’t permitted even to keep her husband’s boots as a memory when the house is auctioned. In The Plantain Tree, an old peasant named Sukha, who is drowned, for he tries to swim to his landlord’s house with a bunch of bananas in his mouth during the flood. It arouses pity for the loss of the bananas, whereas the dead Sukha is only a curse! In Duty, we have a picture of the oppressed who eventually becomes an oppressor with a little touch of power. Duty is an interesting psychological study of human mind.

      The Story of an Anna shows the another form of tyranny evoked by parental cruelty to children. The little Mohan is so scared of his father for he has stolen one anna from his pocket, that he prefers to jump into the river instead of facing his angry and miserly father. In Lamejit on Death of Master Arts, the life of young Nur becomes hell due to parental high-handedness.

Mulk Raj Anand’s Narrative Art

      Mulk Raj Anand is a born story-teller and he has command over narrating his stories with effective beginning and binding conclusion. A number of stories of his show the narration is direct and straightforward and begin close to the action as in The Liar, The Silver Bangles and The Two Lady Rams or with short, appropriate description which creates the suitable atmosphere as in The Tamarind Tree, Birth and Lajwanti. He is sometimes, tempted to begin his stories in a leisurely fashion having a long introduction which delays the action unnecessarily This is shown in stories like The Price of Bananas and The Signature, with a leisurely introduction to The Power of Darkness, is perhaps an estimated device underscoring the bardic nature of the entire narrative. According to Naik, “The endings of the stories show interesting variations. The action reaches a clinching conclusion in stories like The Lost Child and Lajwanti, while in The Thief there is a fresh twist given to the action at the end. Birth rightly ends on a note of hope for the future, and some of the Fables, not inappropriately, with a moral. Lullaby ends effectively with a refrain describing the factory scene and while there is a genuine poetic note here arising naturally out of the mood and tone of the narrative, the ending of Silver Bangles is open to the charge of poetising, since the drift of the entire narrative does not support a conclusion in a poet’s vein, which strikes an obviously false note.”

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