PremadasaMissilin By Chitra Fernando Theme of exploitation Chitra Fernando’s short story, “Missilin” presents the story of a woman who is continuously exploited by a series of characters. 1. First of all, the astrologer claims that if she stays in the village, she will face a lot of problems, “‘Apoi! Her head is like the Fort railway station. She may even go mad! Or else a serious illness will result from a chest affliction. ’ He advised the wearing of a gold talisman, the recital of benedictory stanzas, and a change of locality. ”
It is apparent that the astrologer is more interested in money rather than giving humane advice by making such negative predictions about Missilin’s future. 2. One of the most exploitative characters in Missilin’s life is Mrs. Ranasighe, her mistress. • In the first part of the story, Missilin is continuously prevented by Mrs. Ranasinghe in visiting her village. ? First it is the New Year, and Mrs. Ranasinghe is sick (yet, she recovers enough to attend the New Year dinner at her sister’s place! ). ? In May, she does not allow Missilin to go home as she has to visit Dondra, to fulfill a vow. Yet, her exploitative nature as well as cruelty and selfishness become obvious the way she (and her family) reacts to Missilin’s fatal illness, tuberculosis, “Mrs. Ranasingha reproached her bitterly. Not satisfied with having killed them, did she, perhaps, plan to exterminate the whole of Ceylon? ” • Finally, Missilin is “bundled off” to the hospital and until her death she is completely neglected by the Ranasinghas. 3. Leela, Mrs. Ranasinghe’s sister also makes use of Missilin’s good nature and innocence. She is the one who prevents Missilin from going home in August as she wants Missilin’s help to maintain her love affair. Even though Missilin is rewarded with visits to places like the Cinema and Vel festival, Leela was using Missilin to reach her own targets. • Then even when Missilin visits Leela after her elopement, she continues to exploit her. • She borrows money from Missilin and does not return it. • Leela also attempts to force Missilin to leave the Ranasinghes and come and work for her. If Missilin had done that, Leela would have exploited her to the extreme. While Leela and Mrs.
Ranasighe can be considered the main characters who exploit Missilin, 4. even her family members do not treat her kindly. • Her brother comes and takes money from her . • then even her own mother is too interested in New Year celebrations which ultimately lead to Missilin’s departure from home. Missilin – her character 1. Missilin is an ignorant, plain, warm-hearted village woman who desires nothing more than a simple life. • This becomes evident from her reply to Mrs. Ranasinghe who scolds her for not joining in the religious activities which would make her future life better: You’ll never get any merit,’ she snapped. ‘In your next life too you’ll be like this – a cook-woman. ’ ‘Why should I be anything else? If I can move on my arms and legs, that’s enough for me. ’ 2. She has a loving heart which is evident from the love she shows towards her cat, “Kalu” and her reaction to his death illustrates the depth of her feelings: • Missilin wanted to go to the police station. She couldn’t believe the garbage man would actually get off, free as a bird when he was guilty of murder. Mrs. Ranasingha told her not to be crazy. This was what came of being attached to the things of this world.
But Missilin burned with rage. • She could have hacked the garbage man into a thousand pieces with a bill hook! She wept copiously and muttered incoherent curses. May the bastard be born without arms and legs in a million future lives! 3. Interestingly, she is capable of loving even women like Mrs. Ranasinghe and Leela. • Her loyalty and respect towards Mrs. Ranasinghe is apparent from her dislike to come and work for Leela. • Then she never really abandons Leela. She visits her several times, gives her money and even helps her with the household work. 4. She fiercely dislikes men, probably because of what happened to her sister, and on a number of occasions criticizes even Gomis, the only man who admires her with romantic feelings. • In fact she never really worries about the prediction made by the astrologer that she would never get married, “She didn’t care a jot. She wanted nothing to do with men. ” 5. However, she temporarily changes her dislike of men and develops feelings towards Gomis. But this ends in tragedy as Gomis turns away from her which leaves her devastated and determined never to fall in love again. • In several instances, the writer shows Missilin’s thriftiness, She hated waste. ” • She eats rice carefully and if she drops even a few grains, she would make her “Kalu” eat them. • She also haggles with Arnolis, the fish man and attempts to save money. This attitude may be the result of her poverty and the suffering she underwent in the village. In this manner, she is a contrast to Mrs. Ranasinghe who seems very extravagant. 6. Missilin is fatalistic in her belief in the horoscope and her acceptance of her life unquestioningly. 7. At the same time her simple attitude to life is her most remarkable characteristic. • Even though she admires Mrs.
Ranasinghe’s decorated house with its furniture, she never really desires such comforts for herself. This makes her a far better character than Mrs. Ranasinghe who only follows the rituals of Buddhism without understanding its core values such as simplicity, love and kindness, values that Missilin follows throughout her life. ? Thus, “Missilin” is the story of a simple, honest, hard-working village woman who is exploited endlessly yet who displays greater qualities than any of the other characters in the story. ? Yet, she is never considered worthwhile or appreciated by the society in general.
Interestingly it is the other exploited people like the fish man and especially the vegetable oman who respect her. ? The story has an ironical end after Missilin dies of tuberculosis. In order to feel virtuous or good, Mrs. Ranasingha pays for an almsgiving in her memory and it is she who is admired by both her neighbours and the Buddhist monks: • However, three monks were duly invited. After a very substantial meal, the chief monk delivered a short sermon. After briefly expressing the hope that Missilin would be born in better circumstances in this long cycle of births and deaths, he passed on to the goodness of Mrs.
Ranasingha in having an almsgiving for a dead servant. And this, Mrs. Ranasingha felt, was exactly how it should be. ? In this manner, Fernando while laughing at the simple-minded selfishness of the traditional society also succeeds in generating sympathy for Missilin who is a symbol for all the poor and innocent people exploited by society. Language and techniques: Chitra Fernando is an academic who is interested in language and linguistics and this interest seems to enable her to experiment with the language she uses in the short story. . The story is full of Sinhala terms and expressions. Aney , elder sister,’ she told the postmaster’s sister, ‘now I can breathe again. All these days cooking, cooking from morning till night. No time to listen to a sermon, no time to go to temple. Only this morning I told him I can’t be a cook-oman any longer; bring at least the dinner from the Buhari hotel. ’ • In this instance, Fernando does not follow the rules of English grammar but creates the idiom of her characters by mixing both Sinhala and English. 2.
The story is also coloured with vivid local imagery. • Images streamed past her like the scenery from the carriage window. Her mother was pounding paddy. Bing bong! Bing bong! The carriage wheels seemed to echo the dull thud of the pestle as it struck the bottom of the mortar. 3. Chitra Fernando also uses flashbacks and shifts between the past and the present. In the village, New Year was different. The sound of Chinese fire crackers filled the air all day and sometimes nearly made people jump out of their skins.
Dressed in their New Year clothes they would go up and down on the swings or sit under the trees playing at tossing the coin and such games while the old people chewed betel and gossiped. In the nightb a thousand fireflies winked cheerfully in the darkness and Kira, the carter, sang to the moon, the cows, and a couple of stray dogs-untunefully, loudly, drunkenly. 4. Thus Fernando with her experimentation with language, the use of imagery from the local environment provides a unique local colouring to the story which effectively supports her narration of the story of Missilin, a simple village woman.