Comment on Mulk Raj Anand's characterization of Munoo in Coolie.

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Mulk Raj Anand, who is considered the "Charles Dickens" of India, wrote about the plight of the lowest members of the caste system in India, and the terrible lives they were born to. One of those books is called Coolie.

The main character of the book is Munno, a young man who leaves his village at the age of fourteen to go to the city. He is a helpless, unskilled laborer. His employment, and his personage because of that work, is devalued. He holds a number of positions—house servant, factory worker and rickshaw driver. As a coolie, he commanded little respect and worked for low wages. His situation is deplorable due to...

...poverty and exploitation aided by the social and political structures in place.

Munno is of the Kshatriya by caste. K.D. Verma of the University of Pittsburg, Johnstown, points out that while other "dregs" of society in Western literature can question is position in society, those like the Untouchable in India may not. However, as a Kshatriya, Munno could—but does not.

Munno, the 'hero-anti-hero' of Coolie (1936), being a Kshatriya by caste, can at least rebel.

K.D. Verma compares the coolies to other workers of the "lowest kind" found in Western literature that share the same characteristics as Munno, or the coolie.

Like Blake’s chimney sweeps and Dickens’s orphans, [coolies] are the rejects, the disinherited and helpless victims whose lives and work have been permanently devalued, misappropriated and made into stagnant categories by repressive traditions of history...

Anand once commented that he wanted to write the stories that reflected the lives and experiences not of the upper or middle-classes in fiction. Instead, he wanted to paint a literary portrait of the very lowest and poorest in his society that had been virtually ignored in literature, as they are in life.

'I wished to recreate,' he [says], 'the folk, whom I knew intimately, from the lower depths, the lumpens and the suppressed, oppressed, [and] repressed, those who have seldom appeared in our literature...'

Munno is a poor adolescent who travels to the city, but unskilled, only the lowest jobs are available to him. He ultimately dies of tuberculosis.

 

Additional Source:

http://www.enotes.com/topic/Coolie_(book)

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