“Out of Business” and Language

“He felt disturbed for a moment; but he had only to turn his attention to speculate whether HOPE or DOPE or ROPE made most sense (for ‘Some people prefer this to despair’) and his mind was at once at rest” (94).

“If one had the misfortune to be born in the world, the best remedy was to end matters on a railway line or with a rope (‘Dope? Hope?’ his mind asked involuntarily)” (95).

“Wife, children… nothing seemed to matter.  The only important thing now was total extinction” (95).


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

“Out of Business” chronicles the struggles of a man who loses his business and struggles to support his family financially after the loss.  Yet the short story also appears to be conscious of its own power as a text, demonstrating the influence that words often have in our lives.  This occurs both literally and metaphorically, as Rama Rao literally searches for words within the crossword puzzles, but they in turn affect his own thoughts and consciousness.  As he gets more and more desperate, he contemplates ending his life, reflecting on a puzzle clue that may have initially put the idea in his mind.  However, the delayed train is the ultimate “clue” or sign in the story of his life, urging him to keep living for his family.