Mrs. Mainwaring: Character Analysis in The Novel Coolie

Also Read

      Mrs. Mainwaring is a major woman character in the novel Coolie. She is a typical Anglo-Indian, that is, a descendant of parents one of whom is English and the other Indian. As Prof. Naik says, “As an Anglo-Indian, she is a house divided against itself, the passionate blood of her pagan Indian grandmother in her being at perpetual war with the European-Christian honor of the flesh and sex instilled into her by convent schooling,” The reality is that Mrs. Mainwaring is, a complex character and her Anglo-Indian origin is only one important factor in her life.

      Mrs. Mainwaring appears in the end of the story after her car has struck Munoo. She had olive-ivory Modigliani face and long thin hands. Then she is from old Anglo-Indian family of four brothers who had served as soldiers of fortune for the East Indian company during its wars of conquest in India. Her grandfather was the only one of the four brothers who survived and had fought for the English during the Mutiny. His son, William had a love affair with a washer woman, and they begot May - Mrs. Mainwaring. She was looked after by the wife of a catholic missionary and then was sent to the convent of the Sacred Heart at Simla. Here she grew up among the children of English colonial officers and developed a great inferiority complex because of her dark complexion. In order to compensate for her inferiority complex, she strives hard to appear as a true and perfect English woman white in colour, and so applies cosmetics regularly. She also goes to England for a long period in order to change her swarthy complexion. She wants to be honoured as a pukka memsahib in society. She calls England her ‘home’ and tries to look like an English woman, but her efforts ultimately prove to be worthless.

      Mrs. Mainwaring is very considerate and sympathetic woman. She shows these aforesaid traits towards Munoo. She employs Munoo as her domestic servant and takes much care of the boy. She is a better employer of Munoo than the previous lady Bibi Uttam Kaur who had not a grain of humanity. She often abuses and beats without any rhyme or reason where as Mrs. Mainwaring is a very caring woman who never hurts the sentiments of the boy. When he falls ill she calls the doctor and gives gifts of fruits and edible materials. Parbati, the other woman character in the novel, Munoo’s employer like Mainwaring is also loving and caring to Munoo. Lakshmi the wife of old Harihar on the other hand, also loves the boy. Mainwaring employed him as her attendant-cum-rickshaw puller. Though rickshaw-pulling in Simla was a tough job he felt more comfortable with her than working in Bombay Munoo himself felt old and broken but he was “something different to her.” He was not old to Mrs. Mainwaring nor even middle-aged, not even a brute of a young man. He was to her a young boy with a lithe, supple body with a small, delicate face and with a pair of sensitive eyes. When he was knocked down by her car, the driver wanted to carry him to his home. But in spite of the dissuasion of her Mohammadan driver, she decides to take the injured Munoo from the road side. In the course of coming by the car she came to know that he is fifteen years old. And she had looked into his dark eyes for a moment with her own dark brown ones pinched him on the arms with a playful flourish of her long, thin hands, patted him on the forehead. She is fond of the boy just right for servant. The truth is that he or a boy of fifteen was just what she wanted to keep her warm and pleased.

      Mrs. Mainwaring is a woman of loose character and it has been hinted and suggested by the novelist in many places in the novel. There is sufficient ground to say that she exploited Munoo sexually. She has illicit relations with doctor Merchant. She is a romantic lady longing for sex and love. Her life is a series of acts of moral laxity and immoral relations.” But there is a constant tension in her character between her sexuality and her Christian horror of sex. Anand has stated clearly: “For a time she mourned the loss of her husband. But she had never really gone out to him. For although she had outdone him in the display of physical passion, she had really remained a virgin at heart as if pulled back always by the fear of sin which had sunk deep into her subconscious due to her early Christian training. Her warmth, her ordour, her intense capacity for desire must have been due to the blood of her pagan Indian grandmother in her; her curious coldness of mind, the frigidity which had once made her jump into a, bath of ice water in order to quell the passion in her body she was conditioned by the Christian idea of sin.

      The fundamental contradiction in her nature resulted in perversity. She indulged in a strange, furtive surreptitious promiscuity She gave herself to people at the least felt impulse and regretted having done so afterwards”.

      Further, the novelist says that “if her mind had not been reacting against the deep rooted belief in the sin of sex, she might have had an integrity of character which would have saved her from the ones laughts of all these men, (husbands and lovers) but, vacillating between a belief she felt to be wrong and a desire which was continually insistent, she became a bitch to all the dogs that prowled round her bungalow.” It is a fact that she married Aga Raza Ali Shah, a captain in the Army, but she could not give herself completely over to him, and got divorce from him, and married Guy Mainwaring by pretending that she was pregnant and he was responsible for it. It is the basic contradiction in her nature that she could not develop integrity of character. According to Saros Cowasjee, “The problem is not that she is unauthentically portrayed there are no doubt women like her, but that the author goes out of his way to chastise the Anglo- Indian community—already much maligned in Indian fiction.” Dover wrote in the Congress Socialist: “Mrs. Mainwaring, then is not a vicious caricature of Eurasian womanhood, but a subtle comment on the prejudice and religion which has made the Eurasian community what it is. She is one of the big fleas and little fleas and lesser fleas created by British Imperialism.”

Previous Post Next Post