The Tractor and the Corn Goddess by Mulk Raj Anand
In The Tractor and the Corn Goddess by Mulk Raj Anand we have the theme of self-importance, generosity, failure, responsibility, modernity, change and suspicion. Taken from his The Tractor and the Corn Goddess and Other Stories collection the story is narrated in the first person by an unnamed narrator and from the beginning of the story the reader realises that Anand may be exploring the theme of self-importance. Through the narrator we can see that Chajju has an inflated opinion of his self-worth. It is as though he is confident without necessarily having ever achieved anything to give him such confidence. If anything Chajju may be a rabble-rouser and may have caused more harm to others in his lifetime than having been of assistance to. He is full of his own self-importance again without having actually done anything which might be considered beneficial to others apart from himself. Even the narrator throughout the story highlights to the reader some of the things that Chajju has done and none have been beneficial to others.
The theme of generosity is self-evident in the story. Mumtaz does everything in his power to lighten the load of those he is in charge of. He tries to outlaw death taxes but because those in the villages are so used to them. He ultimately fails in his goal. When Mumtaz tries, by deed poll, to denounce his position, he also fails. Even though again his actions are intended to benefit those that Mumtaz has a responsibility to. At no stage in the story does the reader suspect that Mumtaz will succeed in helping others until he actually purchases the Tractor and alleviates everybody’s suspicion. Allowing for the tractor to be taken apart nut by nut and bolt by bolt. All under the closeful eyes of Chajju. Who remains the most suspicious of those in the village? Though ironically he stands to benefit the most with the prestigious job of being the tractor driver. Something that at the time pleases Chajju but as time progresses he regrets taking on the responsibility. Most likely because Chajju has founds the position involves too much hard work. Something that Chajju may not be accustomed to and has the expectation that others should really be doing the work for his benefit.
There may also be some symbolism in the story which might be important. The tractor itself could be a symbol of modernity and change. By introducing the tractor to the villages. Mumtaz is not only saving everybody else time but he is bringing the community into the twentieth century. The fact that the villagers can hear the word ‘comrades’ coming from the big house is also telling as Mumtaz is showing others his political beliefs’. He is a socialist (or possibly a communist) who believes in the power of the worker. Just as Mumtaz is trying to change the position for those in the villages, when it comes to his decrees. He is also thinking firstly of the villagers when he buys the tractor. Though again there is a lot of suspicion about the tractor and Mumtaz‘s plans. When in reality there shouldn’t be. The suspicions that are felt by others could also be a symbol of the need for change within the community.
The end of the story is also interesting as the reader never really gets a full insight into why Chajju turned against the use of the tractor. From going to having his picture taken with the tractor. Chajju has turned one hundred and eighty degrees to dislike the tractor. As mentioned it is possible that Chajju found himself at the beck and call of others. To plough their fields and as such he had no time for his own plans. The reader in little doubt that Chajju is intent on improving his position for himself and no one else. If anything some critics might suggest that Mumtaz acts as a foil to Chajju. They are completely the opposite of each other in their intentions for those in the villages. Mumtaz acts altruistically and for the benefit of others. While Chajju appears to be acting selfishly for himself. The real winner at the end of the story is Mumtaz and the other villagers. While Chajju appears to be bitter about what has happened.