Duty by Mulk Raj Anand
In Duty by Mulk Raj Anand we have the theme of corruption, control, power, commitment, greed, selfishness, responsibility and self-importance. 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 corruption. Mangal is not against using his position as a policeman for his own advantage. Whether it is to accept bribes or fine people. Mangal does not have a conscience or any respect for his position as a policeman. He views his role as being one that will serve him well rather than considering that his role might be to serve others and to keep the peace. If anything Mangal wishes to be in control of those who are less fortunate to him. In order that he can line his own pocket with bribes and fines. It may also be important that Mangal knows his limitations. Something that is noticeable when Abdul his supervisor catches Mangal sleeping. Mangal knows that he is answerable to others despite the power that he himself likes to exert over those he takes fines and bribes from.
Abdul’s character may also be important as he appears to be seeking an advancement within the police force and judges Mangal’s actions as being something that may hinder this advancement. Rather than being in control of those he has a responsibility for. Abdul appears to have to beat his men in order for them to perform their duties to his and his superiors liking. As to whether Abdul is corrupt is difficult to say as he is only briefly mentioned in the story. Though his treatment of Mangal is inappropriate. Though possibly something that is acceptable at the time. Mangal’s actions also highlight the fact that he is not suitable for the police force nor is he committed to the police force. He is driven by his own desires to prosper. Which may leave some readers to suggest that Mangal is greedy or selfish. His primary concern as a policeman is how he can profit from other people’s misfortune. At no stage in the story does the reader suspect that Mangal is thinking of anybody but himself. Where one would expect a policeman to be reasonable and fair. This is not the case with Mangal.
The fact that Mangal regrets having not joined the army because he feels he would have received better clothes is also interesting as it could suggest again that Mangal is thinking only of himself and not the responsibility he might have should he have joined the army. Responsibility does not appear to play on Mangal’s mind. As far as he is concerned he is responsible to no one due to his position as a police officer. It is as though Mangal believes in his own self-importance. Allowing his ego to control his actions. In all likelihood Mangal knows that he has a job for life and as such once he does not bring attention to himself can carry on as he is doing. Which may be the point that Anand is attempting to make. He may be suggesting that at the time the story was written the police force from top to bottom was corrupt. With individual police officers concerned more about lining their own pockets than actively participating with society. If anything it is possible that police officers ignored crimes when they realised that there would be nothing in it for them should they investigate the crime.
The end of the story is also interesting as Mangal exerts complete control over the man who owns the donkeys. Beating him in the street when another course of action would be more appropriate. It might also be possible that Mangal is sour over the actions Abdul took against him and as such takes his anger out on the man who owns the donkeys. Mangal could have easily resolved the situation another way but choose not to. It is easier for Mangal to blame others on how he is feeling than to accept that he himself might have been in the wrong. Something which would further play on the theme of responsibility. The fact that Mangal makes very little movement in the story may also be significant as Anand could be symbolically suggesting that Mangal is paralysed. That nothing will change for him. He will continue to avoid responsibility and he will continue to be corrupt. Serving himself and not society. In reality Mangal views his position in the police force as being one of authority. His authority over others and as such he believes that he has a right to do as he feels. If anything Mangal though a member of the police force may consider himself to be above the law.