A Pair of Mustachios by Mulk Raj Anand
In A Pair of Mustachios by Mulk Raj Anand we have the theme of pride, class, conformity, acceptance, tradition and freedom. Taken from his Selected Short Stories collection the story is narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator and after reading the story the reader realises that Anand may be exploring the theme of pride. Khan though not a wealthy man comes from a rich heritage and believes that Ramanand is not entitled to style his moustache as he does. For Khan it is a matter of pride and he instructs Ramanand to return his moustache to what is socially acceptable to Khan. If anything Khan feels as though Ramanand has no right to wear his moustache as he does based on his class. With Khan considering Ramanand to be of a lower class than himself. This may be important as it would seem to be a case that how an individual styles their moustache defines their class with no deviation being allowed. Something that is clearer to the reader by the fact that some people have been murdered due to their non-adherence to the accepted societal norms. How important the issue of how an individual wears there moustache is to Khan is noticeable by the fact that he allows his pride take over his reason and ends up becoming a pauper.
Though he was not a rich man. Khan is left with nothing. Which may be the point that Anand is making. He may be suggesting that should an individual allow for their pride to rule their heart and head. They will only end up hurting themselves and not gaining anything. Which is very much the case when it comes to Khan. It is as though the class structure that exists is out dated and impractical but it is noticeable that nobody is prepared to deviate from what is accepted. A man and his lineage is judged by the shape of his moustache. Something that some readers might find to be ridiculous when a man’s character should define who he is. However this is not the case. It is the style of an individual’s moustache which decides their place in society. Which may play on the theme of freedom. An individual is not allowed to style their moustache as they see fit due to the class system that is in operation. If anything an individual’s freedom or ability to act on their own initiative is hindered. Each man must conform to what is accepted and what has been accepted for generations.
It is as though not only an individual’s freedom is being curtailed but there is also a heavy reliance on tradition. A tradition which may not necessarily be pleasing or accepted by all concerned. Something that is very much the case when it comes to Ramanand. He does not see how he styles his moustache as a problem. However when Khan considers it to be a problem. Ramanand is clever enough to realise that he can outwit Khan. Someone who is supposed to be a class above Ramanand. If anything Khan’s weakness is his excessive pride and his adherence to a tradition that not everybody believes in following. It is also possible that Anand is suggesting that an individual can be hindered by pride, tradition and perception of their class. The fact that Khan lives among the old ruins of his ancestors might also be symbolically important as Anand could be highlighting the fact that Khan is rooted in the past and the class system that he believes in and which he thinks everybody else should adhere to.
It is also possible that Anand is highlighting not only the ignorance of Khan but his arrogance too. Though he has very little in life and is obliged to Ramanand he still considers himself to be better than Ramanand. Based solely on his right to style his moustache in a certain way. So rooted is Khan in tradition that he is prepared to give up everything he owns in order that Ramanand changes the appearance of his moustache. It is an extreme sacrifice to make but highlights to the reader how serious Khan considers how an individual styles their moustache. If anything Khan is prepared to sacrifice everything he owns based on an individual’s right to style their moustache in a particular way. It might also be important to remember that every culture in the world has a class system. Though it may not be based on how an individual styles their moustache. It is nonetheless based on other things. It may be based on how an individual is allowed to dress or where an individual may be educated. The important thing to remember is that Anand may be suggesting that the real problem in all societies is the apparent significance that an individual may give themselves based solely on their perception of class.