Attila

“It was all well that Attila had no powers of speech. Otherwise he would have burst into a lamentation which would have shattered the pedestal under his feet” (101).

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

Narayan seems to use Attila to criticize his owners: they immediately assume that Attila was acting on their behalf, when actually Attila was trying to ensure that his new friend would not desert him. In this particularly ironic passage, it seems that Narayan is trying to highlight Attila’s owners as self-involved and ignorant: they assume that Attila is acting for them and does not take into consideration Attila’s own desires (even if he is just a dog).

Attila as the hero?

The ending of the short story “Attila,” in R.K. Narayan’s collection Malgudi Days, does not seen to “fit” with the rest of the story. In the last scene, when the young man (original dog owner) sees Attila walking on the street with the thief, his and his family’s feelings for the dog instantly shift. Previously, the family was disappointed by and ashamed of their dog’s passive and friendly temperament. An individual even suggested that they should “change his name to Blind Worm” (99). The mother of the household remarked, “Please lock him up in a room at night, otherwise he may call in a burglar and show him round” (99). I am not sure if Narayan intended for this comment to be sarcastic, or was a literal suggestion, because the dog did in fact welcome the burglar when he licked Ranga’s hand. Later, on page 101, Attila marked the identity of the thief. The family was grateful for Attila: “Attila was the hero of the day. Even the lady of the house softened towards him. She said, ‘Whatever one might say of Attila, one has to admit that he is a very cunning detective. He is too deep for words’” (101). The lady’s praise of Attila surprised me because ultimately the dog did not fulfill the role he was intended for. Essentially, the burglar still intruded the family’s home and was successful in retrieving items of value. It was only by chance that the young man saw the dog on the street accompanied by the burglar. Although the family was thankful to regain their belongings, I expected them to be ashamed of Attila’s stupidity in taking to the burglar as his new trustee owner. I am also confused if the lady’s description of Attila as a “cunning detective” and being “too deep for words” is stated in a sarcastic or appreciative tone.

Narayan, R.K. “Attila.” Malgudi Days. New York: Penguin Classics, 2006. Print. pp 97-101.

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.

Free Heart

“‘Death alone can help that dog,’ cried the ribbon-seller, looking after it with a sigh. ‘What can we do with a creature who returns to his doom with such a free heart?'”

 

Narayan, R.K. “The Blond Dog.” Malgudi Days. New York: Penguin Classics, 2006. Print. pp 39

 

I find this passage extremely interesting where the ribbon-seller wants the dog so badly to live freely just as the dog’s heart as. It reminds us that all people return to “their doom” or their death at the end and not everyone deserves to do so so early. Why do those who do so many great things and are so free suffer the most?

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.

Not so helpful?

“As he felt the bulge of the letter in his pocket, he felt like an executioner”

“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”

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

I loved this because I can slightly relate to Swami’s struggle. After wishing his school to dust via earthquake and lying about a headache, he is forced to go to school and it is worse due to the letter from his father. Narayan provides vivid details of Swami’s inner struggle and thoughts with his lack of desire to go to school and his imaginative stories.

Class in Fellow Feeling

“Bah!’ exclaimed the newcomer. As if I didn’t know what these police were.”

This comment made by the newcomer shows a far separation between classes, through the Indian Caste system. The newcomer’s familiarity with the police suggests that he has been arrested before or is used to seeing them around. This shows a serious disparity faced by the poor where the newcomer is of the lower class and is portrayed as a brute who is uneducated, has a possible criminal background and hates the upper class.

Narayan, R.K. “Father’s Help.” Malgudi Days. New York: Penguin Classics, 2006. Print. p.43

 

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.