Research Article

'Controlled by' and 'Controlling with' Sex: Comparing Portrayal of 'Nooran' and 'Haseena Begum' - Two Female Characters of Khushwant Singh's Modern Classic: Train to Pakistan


  • Md Shazed Ul Hoq Khan Abir Senior Lecturer, Department of English, East West University, Dhaka, Bangladesh


Khushwant Singh's Train to Pakistan (1956), a quintessential post-colonial novel and a lucid modern classic - is based on the societal conditions and upheavals of during and post-liberation Pak - Indo subcontinent in 1947. Having set the plot of his novel in a fictional Punjabi village 'Mano Majra' - located near to the India - Pakistan border, Singh attempted to analyze how human relationships change in a tormented - apocalyptic society. However, this paper aims at studying how in an overtly masculine society as portrayed in the novel, amidst the fright of religious persecution, sexualized violence, the fallaciousness of mob rule, and formation of new identities via displacement - two of the novel's main female characters - Nooran, who is sexually subjugated within the text, and Haseena Begum, who uses her bodily charm to meet her days ends, stand out differently due to the disparity in their social orientations, and life choices. To explore the posed query, this paper will use Virginia Woolf's ideas from -"Professions for Women" (1942) an article apparently archaic today, but the ideas posited in it were very much contemporary to the novel's setting,  as well as Julia Kristeva's apparently contemporary ideas in - "Woman Can Never Be Defined" (1974), where these critics talked about women's sexuality, their professions, their privileged relationship with father/paternal figure of their family, and how all these lead them to abidance towards prejudiced masculine norms set by the society.

Article information


International Journal of Literature Studies

Volume (Issue)

1 (1)





How to Cite

Abir, M. S. U. H. K. (2021). ’Controlled by’ and ’Controlling with’ Sex: Comparing Portrayal of ’Nooran’ and ’Haseena Begum’ - Two Female Characters of Khushwant Singh’s Modern Classic: Train to Pakistan. International Journal of Literature Studies, 1(1), 70–77.



South Asian Literature, India Partition, Masculinity, Sexuality, Sexualized Violence, identity formation