Category Archives: Commonplace entry

Ocean flowing

He had left his village without any previous thought or plan. If he had continued there he would have carried on the work of his forefathers – namely, tilling the land, living, marrying and ripening in his cornfield and ancestral home. But that was not to be. He had to leave home without telling anyone, and he could not rest till he left it behind a couple hundred miles. To a villager it is a great deal, as if an ocean flowed between.

Narayan, R. K. Malgudi Days. New York: Penguin, 1984. Print.

This paragraph, although it may not seem it, gives a lot of cultural background to the story. It shows how his life was pretty much decided for him when he was born and that he no longer wanted these restraining forces on him. The biggest insight is the reference of how “it is a great deal as if ocean flowed between” them as if saying they are not only physically distant from each other they are also emotionally detached from each other as well.

Thematic Humor

“The compartment built to seat ‘8 passengers; 4 British Troops, or 6 Indian Troops’ now carried only nine.”

I laughed when I read this.  It’s humorous, and it also succinctly demonstrates an aspect of social inequality right in the opening paragraphs.  It really sets up a major theme of the story, which deals with different perceptions of societal inequality and bullying.

Narayan, R.K. “Fellow-Feeling.” Malgudi Days. New York: Penguin Classics, 2006. Print. p.40

Delayed Specification in Malgudi Days

“And one day, it was a bolt from the blue, the crash came.  A series of circumstances in the world of trade, commerce, banking and politics was responsible for it . . . The financier was driving downhill when his car flew off sideways and came to rest three hundred feet below the road.  It was thought that he had committed suicide because the previous night his wife eloped with his cashier.

Rama Rao suddenly found himself in the streets.”

Narayan, R.K. “Out of Business.” Malgudi Days. New York: Penguin Classics, 2006. Print.

 

We see delayed specification in the first sentence of this passage, and in the passage as a whole.  The narrative leaves Rama Rao long enough that the start of the next paragraph is confusing, and the reader has to go back to make sense of the sentence.

A Father Investigates

“Swami help up the envelope and said, ‘I will give this to the headmaster as soon as he is back…’ Father snatched it from his hand, tore it up and thrust it into the wastepaper basket under his table. He muttered, ‘Don’t come to me for help even if Samuel throttles you. You deserve your Samuel.’” (72)

Narayan, R.K. “Father’s Help.” Malgudi Days. New York: Penguin Classics, 2006. Print.

The most interesting part about this passage is understanding what Swami truly deserves. When Swami speaks the truth towards Samuel, he receives no punishment. However, when Swami intentionally disobeys Samuel for the sake of getting rid of him, Swami receives strong a beating for it. In addition, his father probably knew that Swami was not stating the whole truth. Father might have suspected that because Swami arrived home with the letter, he was disobeying him. Given that, the only reason why Swami would even think of disobeying his father is if Samuel was not as bad as he was told, which the case was. As a result, Father gets rid of the letter to prevent Samuel from being punished without reason. So, in the end, no matter how Samuel is, Father perceives him as the best teacher for Swami.

Film as escapism

“Some lights went out and the show started–a Tamil film with all known gods in it. He soon lost himself in the politics and struggles of gods and goddesses; he sat rapt in the vision of a heavenly world which some film director had chosen to present. This felicity of forgetfulness lasted but half an hour. Soon the heroine of the story sat on a low branch of a tree in paradise and wouldn’t move out of the place. This portion tired Iswaran and now there returned all the old pains and gloom. ‘Oh, lady,’ Iswaran appealed, ‘don’t add to my troubles, please move on.'”

Narayan, R.K. Malgudi Days. New York: Penguin, 2006. 55.

Attila, the humanized dog

“But as time passed our Attila exhibited a love of humanity which was sometimes disconcerting. The Scourge of Europe—could he ever have been like this? They put it down to his age. What child could help loving all creatures? In their zeal to establish this fact, they went to the extent of delving into the ancient history to find out what the Scourge of Europe was like when he was a child.”

Narayan, R.K. “Attila.” Malgudi Days. New York: Penguin Classics, 2006. Print. pp 98.

It is both interesting and ironic that Narayan personifies the dog so much in this chapter as though he were human, yet at the same time he also never forgets to remind you that it is just a dog, and is incapable to actually communicate with humans or to be understood completely by them; as though their was some sort of gap between consciousness that cannot be breached as they try to figure out Attila. However, complicating things further, the reader is given access to Attila’s mind/thoughts.

Narayan’s Short and Simple Narration

“Swami stood at the entrance to his class. Samuel was teaching arithmetic. He looked at Swami for a moment. Swami stood hoping that Samuel would fall on him and tear his skin off. But Samuel merely asked, ‘Are you just coming to the class?”

Narayan, R.K. New York: Penguin Group, 1984. Print. 69.

The writing style veers more towards the “tell” versus “show,” which works in the context of this short, tale-like chapter. Swami appears to be a young(er) boy, so it makes sense that his point of view is simplistic, without much detail. It’s not that he can’t exhibit or process emotions (he does so well enough), but perhaps it is easier to speak of his situation from a stand-point that prefers to let story speak for itself.

Fellow feeling

Shall I take the dust from your feet, O Holy Brahmin ? Oh, Brahmin, Brahmin.” He continued in a sing-song fashion : ” Your days are over, my dear sir, learn that. I should like to see you trying a bit of bossing on us.” (54).

Narayan R.K. “Malgudi Days: Fellow Feeling” . Internet Archive. https://archive.org/stream/astrologersday035473mbp/astrologersday035473mbp_djvu.txt

Narayan is making a statement to the Brahmins who are the upper class within the Indian caste system. He makes the language seem song like especially the message when he state that their days are over. The lower class are finally standing up to the upper class and they are saying that times are changing- it is time for a change to stop bossing them around. Shall I take the dust from your feet O Holy Brahmin is clearly sarcastic since the untouchables are the ones who clean up the dirty work such as latrines etc.

Father’s Help

“As he felt the bulge of the letter in his pocket, he felt like an executioner. For a moment he was angry with his father and wondered why he should not fling into the gutter the letter of a man so unreasonable and stubborn.”

Narayan, R.K. “Father’s Help.” Malgudi Days. New York: Penguin Classics, 2006. Print.

I found the father and the son’s relationship very interesting. Swami seems very obedient to his father, either out of fear or out of the discipline he has been taught. Even though Swami has the power to discard of the letter, he tries his very best (coming up with the tactic of doing something to justify the letter) to obey his father’s command to deliver the letter. His obedience to his father overrides the guilt that he feels inside of him his as he goes as far to ask the peon where the headmaster is. If the headmaster had not been on leave, Swami would probably have obeyed his father and given him the letter, despite his strong guilt against it.

(Not) Father’s Help

“As he entered the school gate an idea occurred to him, a sort of solution. He wouldn’t deliver the letter to the headmaster immediately, but at the end of the day—to that extent he would disobey his father and exercise his independence. There was nothing wrong in it, and Father would not know it anyway. If the letter was given at the end of the day there was a chance that Samuel might do something to justify the letter” (69)

Narayan, R.K. “Father’s Help.” Malgudi Days. New York: Penguin Classics, 2006. Print.

This passage stood out because it shows the way that children want independence from their parents. Swami’s thoughts as he tries to decide what he was going to do shows what goes through the mind of a person who wants to do the right thing, but is unclear the way to go about it. Here, the reader wants to root for Swami and understand his reasoning, but by the end of ‘Father’s Help’ I wanted him to have listened to his Father and just given the note to the headmaster.