Social Scientist. v 5, no. 51 (Oct 1976) p. 69.


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Prem Chand's Ideology

HINDI LITERARY CRITICISM has failed to delineate a clear picture of Prem Chand's works. If some critics have taken a realistic approach, most have given in to preconceived notions: one section called him reformer and idealist, while the other devoted all its time to proving him a thorough-going Gandhian. When both were called into question a middle path was evolved which characterized him as an ^idealistic realist". Notwithstanding this attractive terminological garb, a study of Prem Chand does not substantiate any of these assessments. However, it is true that these ^established' views successfully detract from a proper appreciation of Prem Chand's writings. His is one of the most powerful and authentic accounts of the national movement and people's life: their aspirations, struggles, victories and defeats, injustice, exploitation, courage, cowardice, and in particular the community life of rural India, peasant commonsense, non-conformism and sacrifice, these all have been etched with a keen sense of realism.

Prem Ghand's understanding of the character of different classes has few parallels in Hindi literature. Landlords, rajas, capitalists, traders, landlords' agents, patwaris, policemen, petty court officials and colonial bureaucrats are all prototypes of their classes in real life. Very few Indian writers achieved such a thorough acquaintance with the ways of the different social strata. He mounts a broad frame on which to paint the canvas of inter-class relations: in the novels, rich and poor peasants, landless labourers, petty shopkeepers and traders, are given their due importance. They are men in their own right. In fact, Prem Chand is not merely sympathetic to the exploited masses but he takes sides with them, without turning a blind eye to their shortcomings.

Prem Ghand can truly be called a progressive writer. His writing, in contrast with that of his contemporaries, shows a clear pattern of development over two decades during which it became richer and fuller. Spanning Seva Sadan and Godanl it is an authentic account of the national struggle, at the same time unfolding the author's own ideological and



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