Mulk Raj Anand’s Art of Characterization


Mulk Raj Anand is a superb master in the art of characterization. He is remarkable for the intimate touches of realism. His sad, miserable poor characters are those whom he actually saw and knew in his childhood and youth. These down - trodden and untouchables were his acquaintances. He draws these characters with his experience and high imagination imparting them semblance of reality. It goes to his credit that for the first time he has introduced the under - dogs as the heroes of the novel. Many of his central characters are as immortal as the heroes of Charles Dickens, Hardy and Munshi Prem Chand.

Mulk Raj Anand’s Art of Characterization


Three Types of Characters: 

Mulk Raj Anand's characters have three categories -- the sufferers, the oppressors and the good men, usually the heroes are the sufferers, the privileged people are the oppressors. They are the money - lenders, priests, landlords, the powerful and wealthy people. The good men are the labour leaders, social workers, poets and idealistic doctors. They all plead for progress and equality. Doctor Mahindra in “The Old Woman and the Cow” tells about the use of medicine and soap, and the need for cleaning up the village and Iqbal Nath Sharshar in ‘Untouchable’ speaks of the mechanizing the mode of the disposal of garbage to eradicate caste system. Bakha, Munoo, Ananta, Lal Singh, Chota and Gangu are the sufferers, the down - trodden and the exploited. They are fired with the desire for rebellion but soon this fire is extinguished, as they have been slaves for ages long. 

Real Characters: 

Most of his characters are real and life - like. They are the poor miserable common people who are victims to hatred and injustice in society. They are too weak to fight against the evil forces that are bent upon to crush them. But they are brave and courageous and show fortitude and nobility even in their sufferings and miseries. Bakha is the sweeper - boy whose touch contaminates Kali Nath who contacts Bakha's sister Sohini with evil intentions. Bakha is a real sweeper - boy who is sometimes lovable, sometimes grand and sometimes weak. He tries to get rid of his servile dirty condition, but the slave in him cows him down. Munoo, Mrs. Mainwaring. Bakha, Gangu, Reggie Hunt, Leila and Lal Singh all are the reflections of the people Anand has met within his real life. A critic remark, “Almost all characters in Dr. Anand's novels reflect his intimate experiences and it seems that he had clearly and minutely observed the prototypes of his characters.” Dr. Anand himself once remarked, “My characters are taken from my intimate experience, but are transformed creatively from within - often a lamb becomes a ion and a dove becomes a jackal.” 

Element of Humour: 

His central characters lead very sorrowful life but they have their light moments also. They spend some of their time in fun and laughter. Bakha spends some happy moments in the company of Ram Charan and Chota. He has a fine sense of humour when he sees Ram Charan in fine clothes, he remarks humorously. “I see. What a fine waistcoat! Only a bit frayed, that gold thread on the velvet. Why don't you iron it? And oh! I like that chain! By the way, is there a watch attached to it or is it merely for ‘fashion’?” The character of Babu Nathu Ram is humorous. The following description is very funny and laughter - provoking: 

“This is a family photograph taken on the occasion of my marriage, Sir”, said Nathu Ram “lifting a huge, heavily framed picture off its peg and clumsily dropping two others, so that Mundu, who stood in the doorway staring at the rare sight of the pink man, rushed into save them.” 

Autobiographical Element: 

Anand's characters have autobiographical touch. Bura Babu's son in ‘Untouchable’ is Dr. Mulk Raj Anand in his childhood. The author himself is the hero in ‘Seven Summers’ and ‘Morning Face’. Some characters in ‘Private Life of An Indian Prince’ reflect some aspects of his own emotional life. Dr. Shankar is the rational side of Dr. Mulk Raj Anand.

Reappearance of the Characters Having Some Traits: 

His characters are often repeated in his novels. Bakha and Chota appear in ‘Untouchable’ and reappear in ‘Seven Summers’. Lal Singh is the hero of ‘Triology’, ‘Village’, ‘Across the Black Waters’ and ‘The Sword and the Sickle’. Mundu and Gangu have the same traits. Ananta is a physically strong replica of Lal Singh. Bakha, his father and his sister reappear in ‘Morning Face’. By making his characters reappear in his novels he, emphasises the unhappy fate of the poor and the under - dog. His characters have the some fundamental traits but adjust themselves to the changing conditions and situations of life in which they are put. 


Anand is a superb master in portraying children. His children are the most memorable characters. They have stirred his humanitarian compassion deeply and evoked his admiration. Bakha, Munoo, Ananta - his male characters and Gauri and Parvati his female characters are very outstanding and unforgettable creations. 


His women play a very subordinate role in comparison to men in his novels. It is said of Shakespeare regarding his tragedies that he has no heroines but here in the case of Anand, it is true that he has a few heroines. His heroines are simple, suffering and sincere women like the women of Hardy. All his female characters like Janki, the mistress of Ananta; Maya the daughter of the landlord and poor Leila, the daughter of Gangu are simple hearted and innocent and suffer a lot due to their goodness. The Memsahibs provide a contrast and surprise the village people. 

Psychological Insight: 

Mulk Raj Anand has a remarkable knowledge of the human psychology. He expresses excellently sorrow, frustration, despair, mental agony and suppressed emotions touching his characters in the moments of tension and crisis. The novelist provides a psychological study of the character of Bakha, the sweeper - boy in ‘Untouchable’. Silence is writ large on his face. He belongs to the world where happiness cannot reach. Anand writes, “For in the lives of the riff - raff, the scum of the earth, these dregs of humanity only silence, grim silence, the silence of death fighting for life, prevailed.” Bakha's indignation after the whole day's humiliation is uncontrollable. The author writes. “It was as though a demon had taken possession of him. He was not conscious of the shattering moment which had suddenly determined his flight. Nor was he aware of the feeling of revulsion that had filled the moment.” The technique of the stream of consciousness of Virginia Woolf and James Joyce has influenced him greatly.


Mulk Raj Anand's characters are types but not individuals. His memorable characters Bakha, Sohini, Kali Nath, Lal Singh, Mundu, Ananta and Raggie Hunt still come before our eyes in the garb of individuals who come in our contact every day. These characters are universal types that will never diminish their importance. These characters represent different segments of society. Sometimes they stand for a cause or sometimes for a group. In ‘Big Heart’, Ananta stands for the strong advocates of machines. Bakha stands for the untouchables who want to bring justice and fair play for their caste. Kali Nath represents age old hypocrisy of Indian pundits who pretend to live very pious life. Ganesh in ‘Untouchable’ and ‘Remained in A pair of Mustachios’ represent money lenders. In this way, these characters represent certain types of people. They do not have their own identify and individuality. 


His art of character - sketch is superb and excellent. He is not a builder of good plots, but a delineator of universally living characters. His characters are not as complex as those of Shakespeare, but they are no way inferior to the characters of Charles Dickens, Hardy or Hindi writer Munshi Prem Chand. His sympathies are with the bottom dog who have dehumanised themselves due to permanent indebtedness and constant struggle to keep body and soul together. They suffer badly but they do not dare fight against injustice and exploitation. The barbarity of the privileged ones is exposed by him with a severe attack at them. He has a wide variety of characters as there is God's plenty in Chaucer's Prologue to the Canterbury Tales.