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Social realism in Mulk Raj Annad 's novel, Coolie


Mulk Raj Anand

Coolie by Mulk Raj Anand- Social Realism

How does Mulk Raj Anand portray the social realism in his novel, Coolie?

Answer: Mulk Raj Anand has painted Coolie with the colors of social realism. The novel depicts the hard core reality of the Indian society of early decades of twentieth century. The novel describes the sufferings of the protagonist, Munoo and records the miseries felt by him. The novel has occupied a special place in Indian literature. Coolie gives a voice to the predicament of the mute humanity in vicious circumstances. The suffering is not caused by fate but by fellow human and the social surroundings from which the sufferers still have great and immortal hopes for betterment of life. Mulk Raj Anand’s novel Coolie is the saga of suffering of the protagonist, Munoo.

Anand has taken the theme of his novels from real life and so his novel is nothing but social realism.Coolie concentrates on social evils which issue from an inequitable economic system which Anand has presented in realistic manner. In Anand’s realistic treatment of themes, he may be compared with the masters of realism; Balzac and Zola, through his realistic portrayal of characters and true and bold depiction of the problems of Indian society. He has first-hand experience of the lives of the poor and the lower class of society. He is truly the pioneer novelist due to his realism, humanism and social protest. Coolie includes an immense variety of heterogeneous human material. The novel is real in its sweep, range and variety, a prose epic of modern India, an epic of misery. The framework of the novel is picaresque and episodic.

Anand continued his interest in social themes together with his next few novels dealing with the destiny of the working class in India. Coolie centered on Munoo, an orphan boy dying of tuberculosis brought on by malnutrition. It exposes the entire system through its victim's tale of exploitation. Even in the dreariest of surroundings, the little hero retains his qualities of warm-heartedness, love, comradeship and curiosity. In The Village, inspired by the experience of Anand's mother's family whose land was taken away by the landlord of the village, the novelist explores the state of the poor peasantry under British rule.

In Anand’s Coolie, Munoo is denied his fundamental right to life and happiness and is exploited and made to suffer, till he dies of consumption. The novelist makes it quite clear that Munoo is not the sole victim of such exploitation. He represents millions of those for whom such exploitation and denial of life and happiness is the lot of everyday life. The lot of the poor is equally wretched and miserable whether in rural or urban India. Whether in a village like 144 Bilaspur or small town like Sham Nagar or big cities like Daulatpur and Bombay the story of suffering is the same.

Mulk Raj Anand has presented the miserable condition of social backward class and coolies in India. Both these novels have been written with a purpose. These novels are powerful indictment of modern capitalistic Indian society and feudalism with the shameless and tragic exploitation of the underdog and poor. Both the protagonists want to live but the society does not allow them to live. They die of exploitation, poverty and hunger. If the poor are treated humanely, most of the social problems can be solved easily. Humanism is the only solution to the problems.

Anand lays stress on the demands of the present; he refuses to be bound by stale custom and orthodoxy. In fact, his novels convey emotional truths also as social realities and therefore the beauty of his art of fiction is well realized by way of analysis and interpretation of social problems and of corrupt practices in Coolie.

He combines wide experience with architectonic skill, cosmic vision with objective truth, as in Coolie, a novel instinct with epic amplitude and magnificence. It is a undeniable fact that he never allows idealism to eclipse his vision of social reality.


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