The Gold Watch by Mulk Raj Anand
In The Gold Watch by Mulk Raj Anand we have the theme of control, innocence, anxiety, acceptance, disappointment, change and connection. 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 control. Srijut is totally reliant on his employer and it seems to be a case that he has no choice when it comes to his retirement. Despite the fact that Srijut believes he has another five years left to work. If anything Srijut’s employer is dictating the direction in which Srijut must go. Srijut has no option but to retire. Which may leave some readers to suggest that Srijut has no control over whether he should retire or not. The matter has been taken out of his hands by Mr Acton. This may be important as Anand may be suggesting that many people due to their position in life have no choice but to follow the path that is dictated to them by their employer. Also Anand may be exploring colonialism and the affects that colonialism had on the average Indian person. Not only was India ruled by the British but the lives of everyday Indians like Srijut were also ruled by the British (Henry King & Co).
The fact that Srijut first thinks that he is being rewarded in some way when Mr Acton tells him that he has something for him is also interesting as it may suggest that Srijut is somewhat innocent. It would be unusual if not rare for an employer to have a present for an employee that was a product of the employee’s efforts. It is only later on when Mr Acton tells Srijut that he is giving him a gold watch. That Srijut realises he is being forced out of his job. Something which obviously causes anxiety to Srijut. He believes he has five years left in his job however Mr Acton feels differently. Again there is a sense that Srijut is being controlled rather than being in control of his circumstances. It is also interesting that Srijut doesn’t really voice his concerns with his wife or Hari. Rather he allows Hari to take his silver watch as Srijut believes he will have no use for it anymore. Throughout the story Srijut internalizes the anxiety he feels.
The fact that Srijut goes to Mr Acton’s office as soon as Mr Acton comes to work might also be significant as it may be a case that Anand is suggesting that Srijut is accepting his fate. He knows that he cannot do anything but accept the position he finds himself in. Though it is noticeable that Srijut wishes to object to the fact that his retirement is being forced on him. However so anxious or shocked is Srijut he does not challenge Mr Acton. Who appears to see nothing wrong with what he is doing. This too may be important as it may suggest that Mr Acton is disconnected from Srijut. That he is thinking of Henry King & Co first. Where some critics might suggest that Srijut’s feelings should come first. It is also possible that Mr Acton believes that he is doing Srijut a favour by retiring him five years early. However some readers might suggest that Mr Acton’s decision is based solely on business and the fact that it is easier (and cheaper) to retire Srijut at fifty rather than at fifty five.
The fact that Srijut accidently breaks the gold watch may also be significant as it could symbolically suggest that Srijut is no longer in synchronisation with his fellow workers or he is out of time. Also it could suggest that the gold watch itself is a useless gift to Srijut as he no longer needs a watch to monitor his time-keeping. The watch might have a nice appearance but the reality is that Srijut no longer has a need for a watch. Throughout the story there has been a sense that Srijut has been a victim. Not only because he is essentially being fired from his job but because he has no control over what will happen to him. If anything Srijut has been left to struggle. With Hari still in school and a lower pension than Srijut may have thought he would receive. Despite his loyalty to Henry King & Co it would not be wrong of the reader to suspect that Srijut is disappointed. His life has been changed completely and he is ill prepared for the future. It doesn’t help Srijut that the watch is broke but in many ways the condition of the watch matches Srijut’s condition. Srijut himself leaves Henry King & Co a broken man. Defeated by a system that no longer considers him to be useful at fifty years old.