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English Literature made easy

Madol Doova 

by Martin Wickramasinghe

Madol Doova is a fiction written by the famous writer Martin Wickramasinghe. He was born in 1890 at Koggala. We are indebted to him for it's through him that the Sinhala novel and short story reached maturity. Madol Doova is a popular novel and has been translated into several languages.

The story is full of joyful events and escapades of boys in the remote areas of the Southern coast of Sri Lanka during late 1890s. The mischief of young boys and their carefree lifestyle is vividly portrayed in the episodes such as 'The Dish of Live Frogs', 'Cadju Raid' and 'Veddah Game'.

The incident of the 'Exploits of a Confidence Trickster' adds humour and delight to the narrative. Simplicity of language and the smooth flow of narration is enhanced by the incidents portraying how the objections are raised by grown ups; threatening children for their mischievous behaviour, these threats arouse sarcasm and humour.

Madol Doova contains a sequence of touching, lively and beautifully woven episodes depicting the common lifestyle of the village boys and the narrow mental attitudes of matured folk at that time. In every episode there's a deft balance of the unusual and the typical.

The story

The story opens with the touching scene of a little boy, Upali Giniwella, recalling his mother's death and the changes that took place after his father's arrival with a stepmother and the consequences affecting his normal lifestyle as a child. Every episode, carries the typical life pattern of the southerners in Sri Lanka during the author's time.

The vicissitudes of the life of rural folk and their views and fancies are given a clear, direct and warm welcome. The difference of the rural middle class and the lower class thus showing the extreme anxiety of the middle class to shine amidst the poor.

The hero of the story, Upali Giniwella is a very intelligent and efficient boy. Unfortunately his elders never try to understand his mentality, his desires or his outlook. Neither Upali's father nor the headmaster understood Upali. Their only motive is to use severe punishment in order to direct the mischievous boys on the correct path.

In this story, Upali is an exception. He turns out to be more and more mischievous resulting in his leaving home to stake a new life. Upali fends for himself with his sincere friend Jinna standing by him like his shadow. He achieves success and comes to the rescue of his stepmother and stepbrother, after his father's death.

Tolerant, dutiful dynamic and enter prising Upali stood on his own feet. He lacked a mother's love, affection and care which he longed to have and this paved the way for his stubborn and harsh qualities. Having overcome all obstacles he is able to shine in life.


Character sketches of Upali and Jinna

The character of Upali brings to light the capricious qualities of his childhood, bereft of a mother's love, care and affection. But his sole ambition being to stand on his own feet with courage and enthusiasm paves the way for a really bright future.

The spirit of childhood and youthful mischief outshines the silly and short-sighted behaviour patterns of the matured folk.

Unlike in modern society, keeping children occupied during Upali's days was different. The most significant event in Upali's life is that of his father bringing a stepmother to replace the loss of his own mother. This is a significant incident that is also the turning point in Upali's life. "I soon realised that my stepmother was not like my own mother." This incident changes Upali's attitude towards his own life. "I didn't like studying and going to school. I wanted to be out, all the time". He beccomes stubborn and revengeful.

"But I wasn't a boy who could be kept down by beating". He feels the loss of his mother, and the different attitudes of his stepmother. "I don't know whether she likes to see me beaten..." Jinna, a distant relation of Upali's father stands by him like his own shadow. Upali admits that he was rather stubborn. "I had more of my father in me. He never listened to anyone". Upali as a child demanded leadership. "I'm going to be the chief. Everyone must do as I say". The spirit of his youthful mischief is clearly reflected in the 'Veddah Game'.

Though not mature in age, he is capable of studying people and he can gauge their attitudes. The behaviour pattern of Mr. Dharmasinghe and his wife towards children annoye him. Their narrow outlook and how they expect children to behave like adults and to be serious creates unpleasant situations between Upali and the elders.

Upali hates injustice. He appreciates heroism and the confidence trickster, Suranchiya and his acts amuse him. Upali loved adventure. He explores the difficult part of Madol Doova with his friend Jinna. With the greatest difficulty and hard work Jinna and Upali make Madol Doova, once a thick jungle, a flourishing plantation. Upali is conscious of his duties. When he hears about his father's illness he hurries home to be by his side and performs all his duties as a son. He does this towards his stepmother and step-brother too. With joint effort, Upali and Jinna succeeds in reforming the prodigal, Punchimahattaya to work hard and maintain a balanced character.

Jinna, the enthusiastic, courageous and faithful friend of Upali gives the inspiration, backing and courage, standing by Upali like his shadow. "You wouldn't have been able to do all that if you hadn't Jinna", says Ranadeeva. "Of course, I could never have managed alone." Jinna is a true friend and Upali has absolute faith in him. "I'm with you, whatever happens to us".

Not only Upali Giniwella's profile but his whole character shines above all his companions in his village. Madol Doova, brings Upali to the 'threshold' of maturity. The experiences of boyhood are distinctively enriched by the 'mature artiste', Martin Wickramasinghe.

Mrs. C. Ekanayake, Retd. Specialist Teacher Eng. Lit., St. Anne's College, Kurunegala.

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