Jawaharlal Nehru Critical Essays

Emil Lengyel


(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Lengyel’s prologue makes explicit the author’s intention of placing Nehru’s life in the context of his remarkable family. Thus Nehru’s life story is flanked by brief summaries of the contributions of a courageous father and a talented daughter to the cause embraced by Nehru and Gandhi. The prologue also dramatizes Nehru’s spellbinding impact on crowds and individuals alike, despite differences in language and culture. Lengyel interprets this impact as the result of the quality of darshana, “the aura of beatitude.” A dual focus on Nehru’s humanity and his heroic stature makes this biography particularly appealing to a young adult readership.

After the opening scenes of the prologue, Lengyel narrates the known facts of Nehru’s life with little recourse to fictionalization, dramatization, or speculative embellishment. One effective rhetorical technique that draws young readers into the text is the author’s habit of following the narration of an event with the kind of questions that might have occurred to the young Nehru. Having described Nehru’s fellow prisoners at Naini Central prison, Lengyel poses the question, “What were the crimes of the convicts?”; he “discovers” the answer as young Nehru might have. The author draws freely on materials from Nehru’s journals and autobiographical writings.

Lengyel is warmly partisan. His portrait emphasizes Nehru’s abundant gifts: good looks, a keen intellect, personal charm, and spiritual discipline. He has not, however, avoided reference to Nehru’s characteristic aloofness, his personal sense of alienation from both the world he was born...

(The entire section is 671 words.)