Child Subjugation in Coolie by Mulk Raj Anand

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Child Subjugation in the Novels of Mulk Raj Anand with the special reference to ‘Coolie’

by – Dr. Lucky Gupta & Dr. Lalita Gupta, Vol.II, Issue.XXII, November 2016

Introduction to the Authors:

Dr. Lucky Gupta is the head and reader at the department of English, T.R.P.G College, Aligarh. Dr. Lalita Gupta is a Ph.D. in English Literature.


One thing always become perplexing and make pathetic to me when I see any child working at any hotel, house, shop, cleaning utensils, running bare footed, in half shirt in foggy, rainy or hot season. But I could not do anything. People accept children as their servants because to control a child is easy by beating, threatening etc. I want to tell you a tiny incident which happened at my relative’s house. Her maid servant was cleaning stairs and all of sudden she slipped and fall down. My relative had a great sympathy for her and gave medicine and suggested to rest. But she said to her girl for cleaning and other household works till her mother recovers. Was it not a type of subjugation of that child?

The present paper is focused on the problem of subjugation of child in our country with the special reference of Mulk Raj Anand’s novel Coolie.

In the Indian English fiction, a large number of novels and short stories from pre-independence to post-independence, India, presented a forming brilliant images of child life. The writers have taken child.

Characters as an instrument to project the social-vices like Tagore, R.K. Narayan, Munshi Premchand, Mulk Raj Anand etc. Mulk Raj Anand presents a well-knit pattern of subjugation of child in his many novels and short stories. Indian writing in English is not too old than two centuries has bloomed tremendously today by number of Indian writers who got remarkable awards on their literary ferber. Indian writing in English today has become a literary firmament where innumerable stars twinkle every night and help each other shine. These stars have provided much light to enable the beneficiaries to understand the “complexities of Indian life, which is getting transformed very fast under the impact of forces from all over the world since independence.”‘

But the attempt to bring out the camouflaged crises enveloping Indian masses and the mind was agog in its pre-independent day too. Mulk Raj Anand, one of the three pioneers of Indian writing in English led this movement with a charismatic zeal to portray the penury and the predicament of common man in India crushed and trampled under the demoniac yoke debarring man from his fellow beings in the name of petty man-made dichotomies.

`Coolie’ is the second novel of Mulk Raj Anand, which is written in 1936. In this novel Anand provides an exploration of the limits of pain, central to existence Munoo, a weak and helpless person is subjected to a degrading society offering only hostility. Munoo is an orphan boy. At all stages of life, he is ill-treated, insulted and disdained. He is subject to insult, humiliation and exploitation. He tries to understand his position in the world. In ‘Coolie’ Anand shows that sufferings and pains are inevitable features of human existence but man cannot control pain and erode sufferings by universal brotherhood, love, compassion and equality. In fact, Munoo, represents a class, the poor class struggling to earn its living.

Probably, Munoo is only an inconsequential waif in the eyes of the world, but for Anand he is as important as any other human being in flesh and blood, and he brings to bear such profound pity on the boy that the novel gives the impression that his death implies the death of all that is good at the altar of cruelty.2

In his adventures Munoo meets not only cruel and bad people, but kind and good fellows also. Chota Babu in Sham Nagar, Prabha Dayal and his wife in Daulatpur, The elephant driver of circus and Ratan in Bombay show kindness of him. Munoo suffers not because of fate or chance. He is victim of circumstances of the cruelty of man. Since most of our problem have been created by man, they can also solve by man. Munoo is not treated as human being but as a beast of burden. The novel invokes pity for him and other exploited children. This novel depicts the sad and pathetic life of Munoo. He is the victim of the irrational systems and the inhuman cruelties of society.

Anand portrays the plight of coolies before India got her independence and portrays the tribulation of coolies in a class-ridden society. Munoo,

who is the victim and hero of the novel ‘Coolie’ is an orphan boy from Kangra Hills. He sets out in search of livelihood. First of all he is tortured by his uncle and aunt at village Bilaspur, later on, as the house servant with the family of a sub-accountant at Shamnagar. This turns out to be a painful experience. Being fed up with the miserable life that he is stung by insults and slowly settles into the routine of domestic slavery.

Though the Shamnagar episode is only the first act in Munoo’s tragic drama of exploitation, he learns from it his first lesson.

He was to be a slave, a servant who should do odd jobs, some are to be abused even beaten (33).

This forced him going to Daulatpur to work in a pickle factory. Here life for Munoo is pleasing in the beginning owing to the affection of Prabha and his wife Parvati, but; Happiness, is an occasional episode in the general drama of pain.3

Life becomes ugly and hellish because of Ganpat’s wicked behavior. Munoo becomes jobless when the factory is closed down because of Ganpat’s forging and treachery in business. As a result, Munoo not only loses his natural vivacity but is possessed by modes of extreme melancholy and dark feelings of self-distrust. Thereafter again in search of livelihood, he reaches Bombay, where he works as a labourer at Sir George White Cotton Mills, which exposed to the full force of the modern capitalistic machine.

Anand vividly portrayed the harsh lives of the workers and their families, the squalor of their slums. The working hours are long and tedious. From these intolerance conditions, a strike erupts and turns into a Hindu-Muslim riot. As the ill-paid, ill-housed and under nourished labourers like Hari are broken, both in mind and body. Munoo gives him self-introspection;

Am I really ominous? … My father died when I was born and then my mother and I brought misfortune to Hari now. If I am ominous, why don’t I die? (217)

After that in an injured position he is brought to Shimla by a European lady Mrs. Mainwaring, when her car knocks him down. After his convalescence, she uses him as her rickshaw puller and personal servant. But after some days he became unable to bear the strain of a rickshaw puller and consequently he meets his tragic end as a result of consumption at the age of 16  S.C. Harrex observes;

It is the conventional ‘tragic’ ending of the naturalistic novel, the life principle is wiped out. Death completes the hero’s victimhood.(4)

`Coolie’ touches the pathetic and the sublime areas of human experience. Thus through the novel, the scene shifts from one place to another carrying same misfortunes for the poor boy, Munoo, who is treated by his masters not better than a sub-human being.

Munoo is a sensitive and intelligent boy full of high spirits and zest for life. Poverty compels him to be apprenticed to a servant’s life at the age of 14. His only prayer is;

                   I want to live and I want to know, I want to work. (311)

Munoo is a miserable creature. His condition becomes even worse, when he shifts from his uncle’s house to Babu Nathuram’s house appears to him like a madhouse, inhabitated by mad people quarrelling and shrieking all the time. The lady of the house, Bibi Uttam Kaur, snobbish and suspicious termagant underfeeds, nags and humiliates him. The man who gives solace to Munoo is Chota Babu. Finally, he realized that his position is like a slave, a servant who should do the work, all the odd jobs, someone to be abused even beaten also.

                    In this novel, Munoo is the central character and he shifts from one place to another in search of his dreams to be settled safely and happily with some job at one place. He never finds rest.

                              To get rid of beatings of Babu Nathuram and his wife, Munoo runs aways from their house at midnight and hides himself inside a train, where he meets with a kind Seth Prabhadayal, who take away with him to Daulatpur. But Munoo fails to receive their parental care for long as Ganpat, Prabha’s partner is callous and cruel. Ganpat refuses to help Prabha in the business and goes away. He is not able to pay the debts at once and he falls ill with fever and ultimately has to leave Daulatpur

on the advice of doctor. He cannot take Munoo with him because of shortage of money. Munoo is again left alone.

At the railway station Munoo stood sadly looking at his master and mistress… He felt miserable and alone, as if he had already been cut off from them forever. (152)

In Bombay, Munoo sees the miseries of others. The next employment, he finds in a cotton mill, which is another hell for him. Coolies are brutally treated here.

The coolies toil with their sweat and blood while oppressor discusses the weather over a cup of tea.5

The factory is a huge octopus with its numerous tentacles clutching the labourer in its deadly grasp, slowly paralyzing and poisoning him. The British Management offers no security of tenure, a landlord, who rents out ramshackle cottages at exorbitant rent and money-lender all rolled into one. The Pathan, door-keper practices usury with even more drastic methods. The ill-paid, ill-housed, under nourished and bullied labourer is broken. Anand tries to lift the image of Munoo, a boy, Coolie represents all the cadres of the society starting from coolies to autocratic Englishman. The variety of the ranks of people is basically selected to highlight the contrast between the various classes.

            At last, Munoo’s suffering became end with his own death, and the remains are his wishes, his desires. He was wanted to live. He was wanted to do work. But God finished his all miseries, all wishes with his death. Thus the novel `Coolie’ of Mulk Raj Anand gives the picture of

the subjugation of child, who is not only victimized by the society but also crushed by the, cruel hands of society. Anand visualizes their predicaments with full of sensitivity and reality. He exposes that the norms of society crushes human values and again human laws works against the law of nature. Man is made for love and sympathy but man made rules and deformities in the society kills all that comes in their way. Subjugation of child is one of the social vices. Every child is the future of India and that future is under subjugation, For that, people should improve yourself and should understand human liberty, quality and dignity.



  1. Maheshwari, V.K. Preface to Perspectives on India English Literature, New Delhi : Atlantic Publishers and Distributors, 2002.
  1. Anand, Mulk Raj. Coolie, Arnold Associates, 1981. (All the subsequent references from the text are cited from this edition).
  2. Thomas, Hardy. The Mayer of Casterbridge, London : Macmillan, 1974.
  3. Harrex, S.C. The Fire and the Offering : The English Language Novel of India, 1935-70, Calcutta : Writer’s Workshop, 1977.
  4. Paul, Pramila. The Novels of Mulk Raj Anand : A Thematic Study, Delhi : Sterling Publishers, 1978
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