Book Review: Godan by Munshi Premchand

Like many other poor peasants Hori too wants to own a cow in a hope to elevate his puny social status to some height of self-importance. Much opposite to his circumstances, he purchases a cow at a debt of 80 rupees. However, things spiraled out of his control when he tries to cheat his younger brother, Heera, by 10 rupees. This haggle causes a huge fight between Dhaniya (Hori’s wife) and Heera’s wife. Heera poisons the cow and runs away to avoid being caught by the Police.

To settle down the cow’s death matter, Hori takes some loan from a moneylender and bribes the police. On the other hand, Gobar (Hori’s son) has an affair with a widow Jhunia. When Jhunia is pregnant with his child, Gobar runs away to the city to escape the wrath of the villagers. But then Jhunia is taken into care by Hori and his family. Because of Jhunia’s issue, the village Panchayat orders Hori to pay a penalty amount for his son’s deeds. Thus, Hori again takes the loan from moneylenders.
As the debt increases on his head, Hori marries off his daughter Rupa with a deal of 200 rupees only to save his ancestral land from being auctioned by moneylenders. To pay off the debt Hori works beyond his capacity and eventually dies in the end. His son Gobar manages to lead a tenable life in the city but never could earn to pay off his father’s debt.

Godan is one of the major hit novels of Munshi Premchand. Apart from Hori and Gobar, the novel also consists of many subplots i.e. covers the stories from the village’s poorest to the richest of cities. The novel, in depth, discusses the plight of common masses during the pre-independence era, especially of farmers who always found it tough to emerge out of the vicious circle of debt laid out by the moneylenders.