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Coolie by Mulk Raj Anand Summary

by Litinbox

Coolie‘ is a novel by Mulk Raj Anand published in 1936. It criticises the exploitation of poor in the name of caste and social class. Coolie is a pathbreaking novel which solidified Mulk Raj Anand’s position as a novelist and clinched a permanent place for him among Indian novelists.

The protagonist of the novel, Munoo, a 14 years old orphan boy, a poorly fed poor. The setting of the novel changes from place to place until end.

Coolie by Mulk Raj Anand

Munoo is an orphan boy from Kangra Hills in Bilaspur. His uncle and aunt raise him up. At one particular point of time, he is compelled to leave home and find a job for himself as his uncle is not affordable to support him.

Munoo finds job under Babu Nathoo Ram and this lasts only a while. Next he works in Prabhu Dayal’s pickle factory. Unfortunate Munoo, looses this pickle factory work when Ganpat, one of the partners of the factory, goes bankrupt. Then he finds work in a mill in Bombay and this makes no difference. Finally as a rickshaw driver in Simla, he passes away owing to severe tuberculosis.

Coolie by Mulk Raj Anand Summary

In Kangra Hills, Bilaspur

Munoo is a fourteen years old boy from a village surrounded by nature in Kangra Hills, Bilaspur. An ill-fated orphan who leads a content life with his uncle and aunt amidst various abuses and ill-treatments. His happiest days are only in his native village in Bilaspur and he is nostalgic for his village throughout the novel.

Munoo lives with his uncle Daya Ram and aunt Gujri. Gujri seems to be always callous towards Munoo. When the exploitation of capitalism spares less economy in the family, Munoo is forced to go with his uncle and find a job in town. He leaves school and goes to town with his uncle. On coming to town, he feels he is shown a different world. Every sight attracts his thought.

As a Servant for Nathoo Ram

Munoo joins as a servant for three rupees under Babu Nathoo Ram, a sub-accountant in Imperial Bank, Sham Nagar. He comes to admire Prem Chand, a doctor and the younger brother of Babu Nathoo Ram. Prem admires the young boy and be kindly towards him. He experiences many an abuse in the hands of Bibi Uttam Kaur, the wife of Babu Nathoo Ram.

One day Munoo accidentally bites Babu Ram’s daughter Sheila’s cheek when he is doing a monkey dance and this makes the condition upside down. Munoo is beaten up severely by Babu Nathoo Ram. Unable to tolerate such torments mentally and physically from dawn to dusk, he escapes the house and takes a train.

At Pickle Factory

The train lands him in Daulatpur where he is employed as a coolie in a pickle factory run by Prabhu Dayal with his partner Ganpat. Life in Daulatpur is a happy one for Munoo since everyone is kind to him. Particularly Prabhu and his wife treat him very kindly and it is more than expected for a coolie.

Prabhu Dayal’s neighbour Sir Todar Mal, the public prosecutor, has made a complaint against the pickle factory as it emits an unbearable amount of smoke which may cause a damage to his walls and some ailments to his body. But, Prabhu deals it with humility and able to convince him with some free pickles.

One day, Ganpat cheats Prabhu Dayal as he goes bankrupt. It becomes clear that Prabhu cannot run the factory anymore. So, he returns to his village. Suddenly, Munoo is left in streets once again.

At Cotton Mill

An elephant driver helps Munoo reach Bombay. He hopes to earn more money in Bombay by working in factories. But he soon realises that Bombay is no exception because there also coolies slept on the streets. Munoo soon gets a small job as a coolie in Sir George White Cotton Mill.

Hari becomes his close friend there. The exploitation is at its worst in the factory; Long working hours, but meager wage.  The economic condition of coolies makes them prone to the capitalism.

Ratan, a co-worker and wrestler, becomes Munoo’s role model as he is not afraid of Jimmy Thomas, the bullying foreman of the factory. Soon, the factory is shut down due to lack of work and when a communal riot breaks out. Munoo is unlucky enough to strand on roads.

As a Rickshaw Man

When Munoo is roaming among Bombay roads, Mrs Mainwaring’s car knocks him down accidentally. Mrs Mainwaring takes him to Simla as her servant. Mainwaring is kind to Munoo. He works as her personal assistant. He also takes over her rickshaw. However, he soon contracts tuberculosis and dies at just fifteen.

Coolie by Mulk Raj Anand Characters

‘Coolie’ by Mulk Raj Anand has a number of important characters. Munoo, the protagonist goes from place to place and meets some interesting characters in each place. The following is a list of important characters in this novel:


Munoo is the protagonist of ‘Coolie’, a 14 year old boy from Bilaspur in the Kangra Hills. He works as a servant and a coolie throughout the novel in various places. He is an orphan who is brought up in his uncle’s house in the Kangra Hills until he is 14 year old.

After he is sent out his uncle’s house, he is forced to look after himself by working as a coolie in various locations and faces abuses and ill-treatments. In such situations Munoo is nostalgic for his village.

Munoo is an innocent boy who suffers human exploitation. He also suffers without enough income and food. At the end of the novel, he dies as a coolie at the age of 15 owing to tuberculosis.

Daya Ram

Daya Ram is the uncle of our protagonist Munoo. Daya Ram takes care of Munoo after his father’s death until he becomes financially weak. He and his wife are not loving towards Munoo though he receives comforts in his house. Even he faces abuses at the hands of his aunt, Gujri.

Daya Ram takes Munoo to the town to find a job because of the family’s poor economic condition. From this point, Munoo’s struggles and sufferings start. He faces such conditions until death at 15.

Babu Nathoo Ram

Babu Nathoo Ram is a sub-accountant in Imperial Bank, Sham Nagar, who employs Munoo as a servant for three rupees. He and his wife punish Munoo severely after Munoo bites his daughter Sheila accidentally while playing like a monkey.

Prem Chand, the younger brother of Babu Nathoo Ram and a doctor, admires and is kind to Munoo. Bibi Uttam Kaur, the wife of Babu Nathoo Ram, rarely treats the boy kindly. Munoo suffers a lot at her hands and at one point, unable to tolerate the abuses, he escapes from the house and takes a train to Daulatpur.

Prabhu Dayal

Prabhu Dayal is the owner of a pickle factory in Daulatpur who treats Munoo kindly. Similarly, his wife is also kindly to Munoo. In the whole novel, this is the place where Munoo somewhat feels comfortable like at home.

After his partner Ganpat cheats him, Prabhu Dayal goes bankrupt and causes the factory to be closed. No more to be afforded by Prabhu Dayal, Munoo is again left on the road.


Munoo’s close friend when he works as a coolie in Sir George White Cotton Mill in Bombay.

Ratan Singh

Ratan Singh is a co-worker and wrestler at the cotton mill, who becomes Munoo’s role model for standing up to the bullying foreman, Jimmy Thomas.

Mrs Mainwaring

Mrs Mainwaring is partially a British woman and partially Indian. She is a kind woman who accidentally knocks down Munoo with her car and then takes him to Simla to work as her servant and personal assistant. This is where Munoo dies at the end after contracting tuberculosis.