The Liar by Mulk Raj Anand
In The Liar by Mulk Raj Anand we have the theme of storytelling, friendship, innocence, respect and jealousy. Taken from his Selected Short Stories collection the story is narrated in the first person by a young boy called Acha and after reading the story the reader realises that Anand may be exploring the theme of storytelling. Labhu has the ability to take the mundane and turn it into an adventurous tale. Something that intrigues the narrator. However it is noticeable that sometimes Labhu’s tales are so fanciful that the narrator does not believe them and as such terminates his friendship with Labhu. It is as though the narrator does not wish to be taken as a fool. Which may be important as it is possible that Anand is suggesting that when it comes to storytelling not every listener of a tale will believe the storyteller. Should they feel as though the storyteller is exaggerating a story to the point that the story becomes unrealistic and there is no doubting that Labhu’s stories are fantastical in their nature and quite unbelievable. Then the listener will not listen to the story. Though it is noticeable that on occasions Labhu is able to keep the narrator enthralled. Which for a storyteller would be their primary goal. To keep either the listener or reader captivated by what they are being told.
How strong the bond or friendship is between the narrator and Labhu can be seen by the fact that they forget their disagreement when Labhu returns from his hunting trip. If anything the narrator is genuinely concerned about Labhu’s well-being. The fact that Labhu is not well might also be important as through his illness he is able to produce another fantastical tale which keeps the narrator mesmerized. The reader sensing that the narrator is holding on to every word that Labhu is telling him. The fact that the narrator is still young might also be significant as there is a sense that he is still innocent of the world and as such believes a lot of what Labhu tells him. Also the narrator’s mother does not mind the narrator listening to Labhu even though Labhu is of a lower caste. Which may suggest that in many ways there are some like the narrator’s mother who see the advantages of Labhu telling his stories. It might also be possible that the narrator’s mother has respect for Labhu. He is able to hold an audience. A difficult thing for most people to do.
There is also a sense that others, including the narrator’s father, are jealous of Labhu. Something that is noticeable by the fact that they ridicule Labhu’s hunting abilities. It is as though people are attempting to put Labhu down. While he himself has done nothing to them. There is no doubting that Labhu is using hyperbole when he is telling his stories to the narrator and others. However so intriguing and imaginative are his stories some people may feel inadequate about their own abilities to tell a story. Though the narrator’s mother respects Labhu. Others might not and may simply be judging him on his caste and not allowing for their imagination to be awakened. Where some people may believe a story and be entertained as the narrator is. Others will strive to find holes in a story and criticise the storyteller for what they might perceive to be irregularities in the story. The title of the story is also interesting as there is no doubting that Labhu is a liar. That is if he is to be taken literally. Which he shouldn’t be.
If anything Labhu has a vivid imagination and a willingness to share his imagination with others not so much to boost his own self-worth but to entertain and enchant those who listen to his stories. In reality every storyteller could be called a liar for every story may be a lie. It is what a person can take from a story which is important and the narrator takes a lot of happiness from listening to Labhu tell his stories. It might also be significant that Labhu shows a degree of honesty in the final line of the story when he asks the narrator has he heard the story before. This might be considered to be ironic considering that others believe Labhu to be a liar. However throughout the story Labhu has told no lies but has used his imagination to entertain others. He has helped those who have listened to him to escape from life for a brief moment and enter a magical world. A world in which anything is possible and there are no limitations. A place that any child would like to live in. It is only in reality that children (and others) are limited by their circumstances. If anything Labhu manages to create worlds that captivate the listener. Even if he may be prone to exaggeration. Though sometimes a story needs to be exaggerated in order for it to grab the attention and imagination of the listener.