Train to Pakistan

Train to Pakistan Literary Elements


Historical Fiction

Setting and Context

The novel is set in the fictional town of Mano Majra, at the border of Pakistan and India in the summer of 1947. The political context of the novel is the 1947 Partition of India.

Narrator and Point of View

The book is told in the third person omniscient point of view by a narrator who is external to the story.

Tone and Mood

Khushwant Singh’s tone throughout the novel is satirically comedic and informative. Even as he describes horrific events and actions in the novel, he points out the ironic humor of those events and actions. As a result, the mood of the novel oscillates between light and funny, and heavy and anxious. The reader knows that something terrible is brewing in Mano Majra, and waits in anxious anticipation for the storm to hit.

Protagonist and Antagonist

The protagonist of Train to Pakistan is Jugga, who begins the novel as the town bad boy but ends as an unsung hero. There are several antagonists, including Malli and his gang who murder Lala Ram Lal and try to frame Jugga. Another villain is the subinspector, who falsely imprisons Jugga and Iqbal for the murder, even though he knows neither man is guilty. Finally, at the end of the novel another antagonist appears, a young man who devises a plot to murder the Mano Majra Muslims who are on a train to Pakistan.

Major Conflict

The major conflict of the novel is the struggle amongst India’s Sikh, Muslim, and Hindu populations in the aftermath of the 1947 Partition of India.


The climax of the novel is when Jugga saves Mano Majra’s Muslim population by cutting the rope designed to stop the train.


“Then life in Mano Majra is stilled, save for the dogs barking at the trains that pass in the night. It had always been so, until the summer of 1947” (Singh 16).

The above quote is an example of foreshadowing because it describes how life was peaceful and quiet until the summer of 1947. This foreshadows that change is coming in Mano Majra, and that life in the small village won’t be the same.


"'You will find big changes in Mano Majra!'" (Singh 222)

This quote from the subinspector is a great example of understatement, as he hints at what has happened in Mano Majra while Jugga and Iqbal were in prison. The removal of half of the village’s population is more than just a “big change,” and is a solid example of understatement.


There are multiple allusions in the novel to several real-life political figures, including Mahatma Gandhi, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, and Jawaharlal Nehru. There are also several allusions to various religious texts, particularly the Sikh Granth.


See the separate “Imagery” section of this ClassicNote.


“What bothered Meet Singh, a priest, was not that Jugga had committed murder but that his hands were soiled with the blood of a fellow villager. If Jugga had done the same thing in the neighbouring village, Meet Singh would gladly have appeared in his defence and sworn on the holy Granth that Jugga had been praying in the gurdwara at the time of the murder” (Singh 64).

So strong is the sense of community in Mano Majra, that if Jugga had been accused of murdering someone from a different village and not a fellow villager, Meet Singh, a religious authority in Mano Majra, would have provided an alibi for Jugga. This is paradoxical, as religious figures typically condemn murder and death no matter who the perpetrator and victim are.


In grammar, parallelism is the repetition within one or more sentences of similar phrases or clauses that have the same grammatical structure. Below is an example of this from the text:

“The fact is, both sides killed. Both shot and stabbed and speared and clubbed. Both tortured. Both raped.” (Singh 10)

Metonymy and Synecdoche