The framework of “Coolie” is picaresque and episodic. The hero, Munoo moves from place to place, from village to town, from town to city, from one city to another, from the North to the South and then back again to the North. Except Munoo, nothing here seems to have any causal relationship between the events and serious incidents. They are mostly the results of Chance and accident. Munoo does nothing but suffers everything passively and drifts along.
Munoo’s entire life can be divided into four phases- Sham Nagar, Doulatpur. Bombay and Simla Phase. In each and every phase, he meets a variety of people and with many of them, his contact is only marginal. Each of them appears in a particular chapter and fades away in the next never to return. Thus the plot of the novel seems to be disjointed, a series of five different as well as disconnected episodes, the only relation between them is the single individual – Munoo – one who takes part in all of them.
However, a closer study reveals that Annand has imparted form and unity to his vast, complicated and heterogeneous material in a number of clever ways. These disconnected events may not have any causal or logical unity but must have thematic unity. The theme is the exploitation and suffering of the poor, the underdog, the millions of the sub-continent. The British reign degrades and dehumanizes the exploited who lose all sense of dignity and self-respect and caring and flatter for their right to life. Various phases Monoo’s Life are related thematically; in each, there is a deeper and deeper probing into the same theme.
Further, the vast and complicated material which Anand has brought into the scope of this panoramic novel has been organized & formalized through a skillfully wrought pattern of parallelism and contrasts. The wife of Nathoo Ram has her counterpart in Ganpat, who has his in Jimmie Thomas. Prabh Doyal and his wife are paralleled by Hari, Lakshmi, and Ratan. There is suffering and poverty everywhere, such as the exploitation of the poor. The lives of the rich and poor are contrasted. The idyllic rural way of life is contrasted with the urban. His parents’ exploitation at the hands of the village landlord is paralleled by our Munoo’s own at all the four phases.
Munoo is the center of consciousness’ in the novel and the entire action has been looked at through his eyes. Anything around him has been depicted as they would appear to a child, full of spirit, curiosity, and zest for life. The point of view is of a true child, maintained throughout, which brings all the material into focus and formalizes it. We see here what a child surveys the Indian sub-continent. Thus no incidents are superfluous, and no characters merely caricatures. It is a child’s true experience. Anand has Dickence like the capacity to enter a child’s mind and to look at the world through his eyes.
The Simla episode, the last phase in Muroo’s career has been generally regarded as the weakest part of the novel. It has been condemned as being entirely superfluous, having no organic and logical causation but of the crude and melodramatic device of a chance car accident. M.K. Naik observes it as the completion of a Munoo’s social panorama with his entry into the world of aristocracy. Besides, after the starkly realistic and vivid Bombay episode, it appears to be an anti-climax. The Bombay ends in the Simla whimper. C.D. Narasimhaier, however, wished the chapter to be cut off and Munoo to be going on suffering According to him, the anti-climax does not contribute significantly to our final assessment of either Munoo or of the novel.
But to me, Saros Couresjee is more acceptable. He thinks, Muro correctly is retrieved from the horrors of Bombay and to allow him to regain some of his identity before death. It is the correct finale: the boy coming from hills to town finally being restored to the peace and quietude of hills. Only Anand’s indulgence in pillorying the Ango-Indian woman that makes the hero fade away is objectionable. Of course, with his coughing lungs outpolling rickshaw for Mrs. Mainwaring, Munoo wins our attention and his “reaching back to the deeds” his death reminds us of his being the hero. The chapter is largely criticized not for Anand’s unauthentic portrayal of Mrs. Mainwaring but for the space devoted to her in the novel. Anand is perhaps snared in the net of allurement for going out of his way to chastise the Anglo-Indian community, already much abused in Indian fiction. In fact, Anand’s concern is social and human rather than artistic. Except for the excessive stress on the lady, the episode serves to complete the fate circle of Munoo, representative of the oppressed, as well as to complete the novelist’s panorama of life. It brings in the aristocracy and their life with which no other has died so far.