Ruskin Bond is the most popular Indian English novelist and short-story writer, though he has not received the acclaim he deserved from the critics and even from the reading public. Bond's novellas and novels depict the life of the adolescents. All narrations are made by them. He describes their circumstances and helplessness realistically and ushers us into the world of the downtrodden and of poverty without being pessimistic.
Ruskin Bond: A Critical Evaluation, perhaps the first full length study of his work, discusses his novels and major short-stories for a better understanding of his narrative. Besides Introduction, which evaluates Bond as a writer and draws a comparison of Bond with other eminent writers of the past who dealt with the problems of adolescents in their fiction like Charles Dickens and Rudyard Kipling, the book analyses critically Bond's important novels: The Room on the Roof; Vagrants in the Valley; Delhi is Not Far; and A Flight of Pigeons. An exclusive chapter has been devoted to Bond's writing technique and art of narration. It describes how Bond follows the line of traditional writers like Charles Dickens, Rudyard Kipling, Jack London and Hugh Walpole, instead of following the avant-garde novelists of our time. Bond's plot construction, characterization and the element of humour have been discussed in detail. Conclusion highlights the autobiographical elements in Bond's novels and emphasizes the originality of his style.
The book will be useful for the students and teachers of English literature and researchers in this field.
M.P. Singh, a scholar of national repute, was Professor and Head, Department of English, Kanpur University (Now CSJM University) from 1988 to 2002. Besides publishing a good number of research papers in reputed journals, he has chaired academic sessions in national and international seminars. His published works include WB.Yeats: His Poetry and Politics; Research Methods in English; Modern Linguistics; Jonathan Swift: A Critical Study and Alexander Pope: A Critical Study of His Major Poems. He is the main author of this book.
Ravi Jauhari is Associate Professor of English at DSM (P.G.) College, Unnao (UP). He has teaching experience of more than twenty-five years and has guided fifteen research scholars. He has published research papers in various research journals of national repute. His first published book is Research Compendium. He is co-editor of Journal of English Studies and Social Sciences-a research journal published biannually from Kanpur.
Nigam J. Dave is Assistant Professor of English at P.D. Pandya Mahila Commerce College, Ahmedabad (Gujarat). He has published two research papers on John Ruskin. He has been teaching English literature for the last fifteen years.
Ruskin Bond: A Critical Evaluation is, perhaps, the first full length study of the celebrated Indian English novelist and short-story writer. It is rather surprising that in spite of his great popularity and perfect technique, Bond has not been given due recognition by Indian critics whereas novelists of lesser calibre and novels that lack substance have received more honour and admiration than they actually deserve.
The greatness of Bond is that in spite of going back to England, the country of his origin, he decided, like Sir Ronald Ross, to return and settle in India and be a part of its soil. The main reason for doing so was his deep love for his boyhood friends who sustained him with all kinds, of support they could during his difficult days. While in England, he could never forget the hilly region of northern India and its people. He learnt from them how to live cheerfully amidst adverse circumstances and how to overcome all kinds of challenges with minimum support. He learnt that it is love and fellow-feeling that are the foundations of the edifice of human society. The young characters in his novels and short stories are all endowed with these two great gifts of nature. His novels, though primarily meant for adolescents, give adults a good idea of the young people's mind and behavioural pattern.
One function of literature is to make us happy, and we certainly become happy in the sunny world of Bond.
We hope this evaluation of the greatest Indian English novelist of the adolescent will help its readers understand his fiction in a new light.
We are thankful to Dr. K.R. Gupta, Honorary Advisor and Mr. Harjeet Singh Publishing Co-ordinator, Atlantic Publishers and Distributors (P) Ltd., for their co-operation.
Ruskin Bond (b. 1934) is the most popular Indian English novelist and short-story writer among school children and adolescents. His stories, novels and reminiscences are prescribed in school syllabuses all over India. But it is rather ironical that inspite of his popularity, he has not been taken seriously by critics or even by the reading public. Many writers who write less efficiently than Bond have received more critical attention because they select to write on the themes of communal harmony, social stratification, poverty in India, untouchability or liberation of women. Bond deserves better treatment for his handling of the sensitive issue of "growing up". Young people are the future of a nation. In order to give guidance and direction to youth, their aspirations and frustrations must be understood. It is important to note that a child has tremendous power to grow and fight against the adverse circumstances. Most of the great people have overcome penury and emerged victorious against odd circumstances. Bond's adolescents fight bravely with full optimism and come out with flying colours. He describes their circumstances and helplessness realistically and waves us to the world of the downtrodden and of poverty without being pessimistic. He himself passed through the ordeal of an orphan's life and it is by dint of his hard labour and zest of life, he became a successful writer.
Ruskin Bond's major novels are about adolescents and children. His first novel The Room on the Roof is a novel by an adolescent about adolescents. In order that we can better appreciate his novels, it is pertinent to understand the nature of adolescence first.
The term "adolescent" has a specific meaning in psychology. It should not be confused with the word "teenager", although the periods of adolescence and teenage are almost the same. Teenage is the period between thirteen and nineteen. When a boy or girl enters the age of thirteen he or she is called a teenager and continues to be called so till the age of nineteen. The period of adolescence covers the years from thirteen to twenty and according to some psychologists upto twenty-one. However the following chart made by Luella Cole and Irma Nelson Hall is accepted by leading psychologists.'
Preadolescence or late childhood 11-12 years (girls)
13-14 years (boys)
Early adolescence 12-14 years (girls)
15-16 years (boys)
Middle adolescence 15-17 years (girls)
17-18 years (boys)
Late adolescence 18-20 years (girls)
19-20 years (boys)
If we look at the characters of Ruskin Bond, all the important characters such as Rusty, Somi, Ranbir, Sudheer, Kishori, Ruth and Suri are in their early adolescence.
The term adolescence is derived from the Latin word adolescere which means "to grow up". According to Lester D. Crow and Alice Crow,
The period of transition from childhood to adulthood or from dependence on adult direction and protection to self-direction and self-determination is referred to as adolescence, adolescent age or adolescent period of development.
Friedenberg describes adolescence thus:
Adolescence is the period during which a young person learns who he is, and what he really feels. It is a time in which he differentiates himself from the culture; though on the culture's terms. It is the age at which, by becoming a person in his own right, he becomes capable of deeply felt relationships to other individuals, perceived clearly as such.'
Adolescence is first of all a period of physical and physiological change. This growth furnishes the basis for emotional, social, intellectual and economic maturity. What are the physical and physiological changes? One may ask. Let us take the physical changes.
The first change in the boys is the growth of hair on face in the form of moustache and beard. Besides hair begins to grow on chest, in the armpit and private parts. The body grows large in size. The growth is so fast that the whole appearance changes at the age of fifteen. Besides, the sweet and shrill voice of the child becomes mature and masculine.
The same case is with girls. There is the growth of hair in the armpit and private parts. The obvious change is the development of breast.
The physiological change is the formation of semen in boys and beginning of menstruation in girls. These changes make them feel that they are growing big and entering a new world, the world of new challenges. This phase, the most important formative phase, is the phase of transition. It is the most important formative phase because, to quote Cole and Hall,
If a child did not increase his stature, if his muscles did not become strong, if his sex did not grow, if his brain did not mature, if his internal organs did not increase in size and efficiency to meet the requirements of an enlarged body, the child could never achieve mature ideas and attitudes, could never support himself and could never take his place in adult society.
Since adolescence is primarily the stage of development, psychologists have specified the following areas:
1. Physical development-It consists of growth of tissue, muscle, bone and skeleton in totality. Besides there is growth in strength and various skills and physical deviation.
2. Intellectual development-With the enlargement of the brain, there is mental growth. The adolescents begin to show their intellectual abilities and intellectual-cultural interests. In addition they begin to look at things critically and pass their own judgements.
3. Emotional development-Emotion is a response to some kind of stimulus. It is an experience that affects an individual's vital processes, stimulating him to greater activity than is normal. Emotional growth of an adolescent leads him to act with greater drive. His self emerges and he begins to assert his independence and thus there is the development of personality.
4. Social development-The seeds of social development are sown in the family and the primary school. But at a later stage, extra-curricular activities lead the adolescent to have contact with people of all age groups. It is at this stage that boys and girls develop friendship and choose their future career.
5. Moral development-Children do not take religion seriously nor are they sufficiently conscious of the feelings of others. In adolescence, young boys and girls begin to think about religion seriously, the dos and don'ts of society and ethical principles. They accept community influences, sometimes without question and sometimes with a grain of salt.
It is at this stage adolescents think of their goal of life. According to Cole and Hall the main goals of the adolescent are:
(a) Control of emotion by reason
(b) Social adjustment
(c) Independent adulthood
(d) Financial independence
(e) Choosing a career
While pursuing these goals, the adolescent faces a number of problems. It is the responsibility of society to help the adolescent achieve his goals and be a responsible citizen of his country.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
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