The Cow of the Barricades by Raja Rao
In The Cow of the Barricades by Raja Rao we have the theme of conflict, independence, struggle, control, sacrifice, peace and freedom. Taken from his Collected Stories collection the story is narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator and after reading the story the reader realises that Rao may be exploring the theme of conflict. There are two sides in dispute. The government (British) and those who seek independence from the government. Though those in opposition of the government wish to fight the government using force. The Master does not. Something which leaves many people in conflict with themselves as they view both the Master and those who oppose British rule to be right. This may be important as there is a sense that Rao is reflecting upon the difficulties that some may have felt at the time India struggled for independence. It is also possible that the Master is a representation of Mahatma Ghandi. Who struggled to obtain independence from Britain through peaceful means. Something that the Master himself attempts to do throughout the story. It is also noticeable that when Gauri arrives at the barricade the workmen lay down their weapons believing that they can see Ghandi in Gauri. For the first time in the story there is a sense that those in opposition to the government become conscious of the fact that they should follow the Master’s lead and strive for independence through peaceful means.
The barricades that the workmen build may also be symbolically important as they represent the workmen’s opposition to British rule. Similarly by refusing to pay taxes to the government the workmen (and others) are not only highlighting effectively their opposition to British rule but symbolically they may also be attempting to defeat the government by peaceful means. A government needs taxes to run a country without money a government will collapse. Which is the hopeful intention of those who oppose the government. The fact that no blood comes from the head wound that Gauri receives might also be important as Rao may be suggesting that the ideology that came with the struggle for independence cannot be defeated. Though it is true blood came from Gauri’s breast it is likely that symbolically Rao is suggesting that the Indian people’s hearts might have been broken. However the Master does believe that Gauri will be reborn again. In reality the struggle for independence from Britain cannot be defeated. As long as it is achieved through the instructions of Ghandi. By peaceful means.
If anything Gauri may be a symbol of peace or a peaceful way to achieve a goal. Something that becomes clearer to the reader when Gauri refuses all offerings except the grain that the Master offers her. There is a bond or connection between both Gauri and the Master. Symbolically they may both want the same thing. An independent India. In whereby an Indian governs an Indian without outside influences from Britain or any other country. It is also possible that Rao is exploring the theme of control. For a government to be successful they have to remain in control. It is for this reason that the British soldiers have been sent to the town to quash the rebellion that is taking place and most likely which is occurring in others villages and towns throughout India. If anything there is a sense of fear among some of the people in the town. Something which a person should not feel when it comes to the government. Though it might be important to remember that the British government was not the government of choice for Indian people. Hence the fight to secure independence from Britain.
The fact that Gauri achieves martyrdom may also be important as it highlights just how important she is to the people in the town. She is not forgotten. Though many people may not have understood her and believed her to be a God. She has sacrificed her life in the struggle for independence. It may also be significance that those who live in the village have the comfort in knowing that Gauri is not gone for good. If needed she will return again. Which may leave many readers to believe that not only is Gauri a symbol of peace but she is also a source of strength. Should those in the town struggle again they can rely on Gauri for help. Through the master’s words and Gauri’s actions peace and independence has come to the town. Also those in the town appear to live a happier life. Something that is noticeable by the fact that the children are playing around the statue of Gauri. It is as though a sense of freedom has swept through the town. Freedom from British rule and an ability of all Indian people to govern themselves. Without the influence of a colonial power. The very thing that Ghandi strived for during his life.