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Coward by Saadt Hassan Manto

April 07, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 159



Saadat Hasan Manto

This story Coward revolves around a man named Javed who is devastatingly torn between his instinctual desires and his virtues. All his life he has spent an honest and a clean virtuous life till this moment where he just is barely able to contain his desires.

The title of the story is symbolic. The story is portrayed in a sub continent society. Over here the word 'sex' is a taboo. We over here don't even accept the existence of brothels let alone people going to one. In this society there are societies within societies. In the story Javed is an "educated man who can distinguish between right and wrong". The point here is that he is educated and he for some reason has not been able to marry yet, probably due to some financial issue or like the one mentioned in the story that the woman he loved was Hindu and that would create problems. He had continuously failed relationships. He had been longing a woman's touch for some time now as most men do. The fact that "Javed's own house was quite far from this place" suggest that he is from a decent family background who take these types of behaviors as a sin. The author over here is trying to show us the ordeal the young generation goes through in this time of capitalistic society where marriages are conducted late, well at least for the male part of the society. The conflict in the young man's mind has arisen due to the society teaching us to be moral and yet at the same time there is this part of the society where there is a checklist which will endorse the young men of the society as real men. This checklist is not a written document; it is an unwritten mutual understanding to all. In the subcontinent this is the world of men, the society of men. To become a real man the man has to consume liquor, he should have tambaco wala pan in his mouth, he should have fight when his honor is at stake or just to be dominant and last but not the least and the one that makes you instantly into a real man is losing their virginity. This man is taken to be a real man. If you don't do these feats you are labeled as a coward, not just the subcontinent but throughout the world this checklist applies excluding the pan part. The author has shown this through Javed who is a victim to the society's misdoings.

Now Javed growing up in such a society where there are two sets of conflicting beliefs he is shown fighting with his consciousness. To top that he is a Muslim in the sub continent and Muslims here are puritans. The take pleasure to be a sin. Throughout his life he has been hesitant and virtues, but now his body can take it no more and his mind is being taken over by pure barbarian instincts. The Lamp is symbolizing his hesitance that he has suppressed all these years which is reminding him of his virtues and respect as he doesn't want to be discovered at the brothel, the man part in him who is labeling him as a coward and continuously reminding him of that, it is also representing the part of mind which we refer to as reason as the lamp tells him the reason as to why he has been hesitant. The light of the lamp represent the society in a way. Once he has entered that light the society will know of his doings.

The Story is being narrated by the author. We can see, feel, hear, smell and taste what Javed can. The story has been narrated from his point of view. We are actually witnessing the ongoing battle in Javed's brain with his consciousnesses. Javed is the round character in the story as he changing every moment. Unity of time place and action is seen. There are occasional flashbacks in the story telling the situation of Javed. The story does not have a chronological order as the story starts from the middle and the author then tells how the character has landed into this situation. There is a proper beginning, middle and an end.

There a two ways to look at the ending. One is to look it from the society of the men which will consider him a coward and one that is the puritan one will consider him as strong and brave to have fought with his inner self and won right at the last moment when it seemed as if he would fall into the pits of hell.

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