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...
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