Plot Construction in Mulk Raj Anand Novels

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      Novel requires discipline. According to Mulk Raj Anand, “The novel demands a serious mental effort to control it from spilling over into amorphousness”. Novel writing is absolutely different from other forms of writing. One cannot create a novel by compiling some articles or news and arranging them in chronological order. Anand has been conscious and alive to the danger of amorphousness of novel. As form is crucial for novel, he follows strict mental discipline. He strictly follows the unity of place, time and space to produce harmony and coherence. He restricts human beings and their mutual relations in the present or in the relevant time. Irrelevant references of metaphysical and historical details are excluded. His approach is very selective and intensive. Haphazard collection of materials is not amenable to artistic treatment. He keeps himself confined to strict mental discipline. He treats every aspect of novel with serious concern. Further he exploits the devices of contrast and balance to give form and coherence to his stuff. In Untouchable, elements of contrast are perspicuous. Bakha’s sense of euphoria seems to be soaring and plummeting by turns. Coolie contains an elaborate pattern of parallelism and contrasts.

      Anand is a highly motivated, focused writer. He is a novelist with a mission. His novels are anthropocentric. The form he chooses, substantialises his purposes. Each and every aspect is well formed. Altogether they are well integrated and make an organic whole. S.C. Harrex writes, “For Anand the Marxist socialist pursuit of the proper (i.e. humanist) social structure and his own fictional pursuit of the appropriate verbal structure, if not virtually one and the same, are complementary aspects of a single purpose. Anand is a serious and moral writer because he sees the salvation of mankind as dependent on the humane, compassionate, loving, lasting fulfilment of this single purpose. His view point, or ethical base, is cosmopolitan—Indian, anti-Brahmin, this rather than other world oriented. Perhaps the ultimate form of fiction which he has attempted to write might be described as the ‘socio-political messianic novel’. This close integration of form and content is well illustrated by Untouchable. Here he has to perceive and render experience from the untouchable’s point of view and for so doing he must enter his mind. This is done by giving us his Stream of Consciousness and by limiting the action to a single day The result is a compact and well-integrated novel, which is a great work of art as well as a moving rendering of the agony and travails of a large section of the Indian people.

      The form or structure of Anand’s novels is a fusion of the western realistic tradition of the novel with the Indian tradition of the moral fable. Anand’s theory of fiction was influenced by his exposure to Western ideas. The subject of his fiction, however, was not intellectual cross-currents in Europe, but India as experienced by the Indian. Anand has, “Indianised a Western materialist structure derived largely from Marx and has tried to find for this structure, applied to Indian conditions, an alternative to the social realist mode of expression which, in the West, bas been the dominant methodology of fiction. This may explain why; even as early as Untouchable, Anand sought to heighten or intensify his representation of Indian life by setting it within a literary structure which is a version of the fable?’ Accusations like “communist” and “propagandist,” which have caused Anand to think of “naturalist” and “realist” as pejorative terms, are reduced to irrelevance by the fact that Anand, using be it noted, conventional realistic and naturalistic technique, “has opened up a vast subject area of Indian life which had been neglected in literature prior to Anand’s Thirties fiction.”

      Anand took to and integrated the Indian tradition of moral fable to the novel, which is characteristic of a western art form. Mulk Raj Anand tells us, “While accepting the form of the folk-tale, specially in its fabulous character, I took in the individual and group psychology of Europe and tried to synthesise the two styles. And thus I sought to create a new kind of fable which extends the old Indian story form into a new age, but embodying its verve and vitality and including the psychological understanding of the contemporary”.

      Untouchable is the best example of the fusion of the western realistic novel and the Indian fable. Evils are exposed at the outset and suggested to be eradicated with conclusion. ‘At the beginning of the day Bakha is a natural man. He is unaffected by the vice. He is portrayed at work; cleaning the latrines and the scene illustrates two concepts: First the Gandhian philosophy that all works are ennobling and a “drama” of contrast between the “body- soul” splendour of the youth and the unpalatable nature of his work. This work, though, is not to be despised because of its menial sensory natural characteristics, but because of the pernicious doctrine of caste with its vicious-circle identification of the work role—cleaning up dung and the state of the outcastes’ soul.”

      “Out of this situation, Anand evolves a narrative pattern which combines the moral fable form and the principle of interplay indeed interpretation of situation and character” which Anand saw as the ‘significant feature of the western short story’. Present in Bakha’s character is the pathetic incongruity of natural vitality sapped by conditioned docility. Then in the epiphany like main “touching” scene, we see the interplay of character and incident producing the germ of a new consciousness in Bakha, beginning with a realisation of his social identity The birth of this consciousness conforms to Gandhi’s psychological approach to the problem of untouchability whereby the outcaste is encouraged to develop self-esteem in place of self-abasement. From this point on, the narrative development involving as it does Bakha’s increasing enlightenment regarding work, social discrimination, poverty and the doctrine of pollution—fulfils the requirement of the moral fable. The evil of the social system has been exposed and the novel concludes with a desire-image suggesting how the evil should be eradicated. Bakha experienced the “shock” of self-recognition: “It illuminated the inner chambers of his mind. A shock has passed through his perceptions, previously numb and torpid.” “After this experience, Bakha is developed into something of a fabled figure and is endowed with an elementary quality.”

      There are two other devices of the moral fable which Anand uses to focus his moral. First there is the desire-image. Desire-image is the futuristically visualised dream of utopian society. The concluding portion of Untouchable is anticipating the possibility of conversion to other school of thoughts or religion.

      The second device Anand applies is to project and promote his social vision. The young poet, who is introduced in the final scene, explains the ‘choice of possibilities’ to a section of crowd which includes receptive Bakha. The poet offers his heart-felt tribute to Gandhi as “the greatest liberating force of our age.” He emphasised the importance of machine. He urges them to cultivate a trend of self-respect and abolish the practice of self-renunciation and inferiority complex and anticipated that untouchability can be eradicated if India adopts flush-system. Coalescence of ‘desire image’ and ‘spokesman’ makes a successful plot. The conclusion which is supposed to be the vital organ of a novel seems integrated to the social purpose of Anand and to his adoption of the Indian moral fable.

      In this context S.C. Harrex writes, “The device of the spokesman, discussed above, was for Anand a means of satisfying two distinct inner urges, thus he projected into the novel an image of the desired reality and an imagined connection between himself as the reformist spokesman author and the under-privileged on whose behalf he was writing fiction. The device is reincarnated in the final scenes of Coolie in the person of Mohan, revolutionary intellectual, who says to Munoo, “Come with me and we shall kill the landlord one day and get your land and who at the end clutches the dying Munoo’s hand thereby signifying that, despite the tragedy of the past, its victim dies briefly united to a potentially regenerate future. In Anand’s third novel, Two Leaves and a Bud, Mohan has become a major character indicating that in this work Anand regarded the fable element as equally important as the portrayal of the peasantry and the exposing of corrupt imperialism.

      The desire-image and self-projection techniques are most completely synthesised in The Big Heart, in which the spokesman figure is again a poet and undoubtedly Anand’s ideal of himself The hero of the novel, Ananta, is a spontaneous roguish Adam whose generous character is evident in his favourite saying: “There is no talk of money; brother; one must have a big heart”. The poet sees in Ananta the foundation of the new modern man. However, it is the poet who articulates the humanism which the hero enacts: “I believe in the restoration of man’s integrity...the reassertion of man’s dignity; reverence for his name, and a pure love for man in all his strength and wealmess, a limitless compassion for man, an unbounded love especially for the poor and the down-trodden”. Thus Ananta embodies those qualities of the heart and the poet those of the head which in combination will create the new Adam of Anand’s future society. The poet’s discourses at the end of The Big Heart are not merely a chorus comment on the tragic action; they are intended to leave the reader with a catharsis of hope, the image of a desirable social form for which Ananta is a noble sacrificial prelude.”

      Anand has made his most comprehensive attempt to define myth, fable and poetic realism through allegorical representation of his novel theories and philosophical ideas. The hero of Anand’s trilogy; Lal Singh is the product of the world of traditional myth of orthodox ritual and superstitious and mysterious powers, in the universe of Anand’s modern myths: the People, Humanism, Revolution, Reason, Human Love.

      New myths supersedes the ancient one in The Sword and the Sickle. Anand has described the ‘New Fate’ which superseded the old one in the beginning of his novel The Sword and the Sickle we notice Kali-Kalyug symbolic framework for Across the Black Water. According Marxian philosophy this new fate is the historical process and the new Kali is a blend of Indo-British, Bourgeoise capitalist, imperialist landlord Ogre. Anand visualises his epic avatars in some of revolutionary and epoch making personalities like Marx, Lenin, Gandhi and Nehru. He has profound reverence for them. Anand’s vision of ‘Utopia’ can be substantialised through humanism, love and under-standing. Massacre, genocide and ethnicide are not the solutions. Lal Singh represents modern India. The new mythology is not imposed but it evolved of itself from Anand’s social and humanitarian concern. His novels are organic wholes in the virtual sense of the term because the form and content are well integrated to each other and to the social context.

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