The Dog of Tithwal by Saadat Hasan Manto
In The Dog of Tithwal by Saadat Hasan Manto we have the theme of conflict, connection, ignorance, pride and struggle. Taken from his Kingdom’s End and Other Stories collection the story is narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator and from the beginning of the story the reader realises that Manto through the setting may be exploring the theme of conflict. The story takes place just after the partitioning of India and when India and Pakistan went to war. What is interesting about the setting is that Manto gives each side a voice. The reader is given access to both the Indian and Pakistani camps that are fighting against one another and the remarkable thing is that there is very little difference between any of the men in either camp. Particularly when it comes to their treatment of Jhun Jhun. It is as though he is treated as a trophy by both sides till he no longer becomes useful and is shot by Singh from the Indian Camp. Rather than viewing Jhun Jhun as a pet both sides use him as a toy to promote their own goals and ideals. The same goals and ideals that have caused the war in the first place. With both sides considering themselves and their way of life to be better than the other side.
Though the conflict between both sides is described as being a waste of time at stages there is also a farcical element to the battle between each side. So close to each other are they in proximity yet no man is killed. The only victim in the story is Jhun Jhun. It is as though both sides view the conflict half-heartedly. As though they have been given orders to fight yet are not committed to fighting. Which may be the point that Manto is attempting to make. He may be suggesting that the war itself was futile when in reality everybody who participated in the war was in fact similar to one another. Each man had families at home that worried about them and the conflict could have easily been resolved by political means rather than by use of force. The only dividing factor between those who participated in the war was their religion. Manto also appears to be using night and day to symbolise the blindness of both sides. As expected one would find it difficult to see at night time. However the killing of Jhun Jhun occurs in the day time. With each individual on both sides using Jhun Jhun as a symbolic tool to promote their nationality.
It is also possible that Jhun Jhun symbolises the ignorance of both sides. Allowing the matter of a dog’s nationality to merit such importance and recklessness from both sides. The compassion shown by Singh when he gave the crackers to Jhun Jhun is not mirrored the next day when he shoots Jhun Jhun because he has encamped himself on the Pakistani side. In reality Singh’s actions are cruel but that is the nature of war. It is not only humans who may be used as pawns to fight or die but animals too due to man’s ignorance can also become victims of a struggle that they have no knowledge of. If anything neither Singh nor those he is fighting against realise that they themselves are victims of the war. Such is the hatred that exists between both sides that each are willing to use a dog as an instrument of suppression. To satisfy their own lust for victory. In many ways Jhun Jhun could be a person. An innocent individual who happens to be caught between both sides.
The end of the story is also interesting as Manto highlights just how desperate and cruel war can be. With both sides pride being at stake Jhun Jhun is eventually shot by Singh. Who like his opposing counterpart appears to show no remorse. Instead he is satisfied that Jhun Jhun was the wrong nationality and as such had to be shot. It might also be important to consider that Jhun Jhun does not have a voice in the story as this would have been the case for millions of people while the war was in progress. Many people were killed based solely on their nationality and their religion and one suspects that very little emotion would have been shown by any of the perpetrators. Regardless of what side of the conflict they were on. Just as Singh shows no emotion when he kills Jhun Jhun men similar to him would have shown no emotion when it came to the matter of having to kill somebody. Whether they were an innocent civilian or a member of the opposing side. If anything Manto may be highlighting to the reader the futility of war when in reality each character in the story has more in common with one another than they might suspect.