(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.

Trust me, I follow you.

“This was the first time he was going to do a piece of acting before a patient, simulate a feeling and conceal his judgement.” (25)

Narayan, R.K. “The Doctor’s Word.” Malgudi Days. New York: Penguin Classics, 2006. Print.

While I really enjoyed this great story that brings attention to the difficulties inherent in intermingling professional and personal relationships, I’ve found that overall, I think Narayan relies too heavily on exposition and telling, at times when subtlety might be more poignant. I was already gathering from the previous paragraphs that the doctor was hiding his true feelings, and the previous paragraphs do a good job of showing you why, without actually coming out and saying it. Unfortunately, this quote made me feel like Narayan doesn’t trust my ability to read and interpret.

Narayan and Language

“What a pity, Rama Rao! I am awfully sorry, there is nothing at present. If there is an opportunity I will certainly remember you” (92).

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

Much like Anand, Narayan uses expressions that would be said in native Indian language but is then translated into English. Unlike Anand, Narayan does not use non-English terms in the novel, allowing the novel to be more easily accessed by the world.

The Truth Of The Doctor

“Next morning he was back at Lawley Extension at ten. From his car he made a dash for the sick bed. The patient was awake and looked very well. The assistant reported satisfactory pulse. The doctor put his tube to his heart, listened for a while and told the sick man’s wife, ‘Don’t look so unhappy, lady. Your husband will live to be ninety.’ When they were going back to the hospital, the assistant sitting beside him in the car asked, ‘Is he going to live, sir?'”

“‘I will bet on it. He will live to be ninety. He has turned the corner. How he has survived this attack will be a puzzle to me all my life,’ replied the doctor.”

N. K Narayan. The Doctor’s Word in Malgudi Days. Penguins Classic, 2006. 25

This passage was interesting because in the start of the story it was mentioned that the Doctor only spoke the “truth;” therefore, it made me wonder if the word of the Doctor is the truth. Whatever comes out of his mouth ends up being true even though he does not believe it himself. This makes me wonder if the Doctor has the power in allowing one to live or die. It felt weird that the Doctor was surprised himself that his friend ended up surviving when the Doctor was unsure of his own words. However, once the words that his friend would survive came out of his mouth, his friend spontaneously became better.

K.R Narayan mocks human’s resignation

“Venkat Roa watched the child for a moment. “I don’t know if it’s going to be possible for me to take her out at all-you see, they are giving me an increment-” he wailed.”

N. K Narayan. Forty-Five a Month in Malgudi Days. Penguins Classic, 2006. 90

I had a hard time choosing a passage because there are a lot of moments that are funny in this book where Narayan brilliantly mocks his characters’s resignation in a simple but very efficient way. Here, the father who was ready to quit his job, gives out for a pay rise and giving this justification to his wife, he starts wailing. I think Narayan shows in a very simple but cynic way, that human’s will can be wiped out easily and it’s very comic to me.

Man and Wife

“This violent alternating between hope and despair soon wrecked his nerves and balance. At home he hardly spoke to anyone. His head was always bowed in thought. He quarrelled with his wife if she refused to give him his rupee a week for the puzzles. She was of a mild disposition and was incapable of a sustained quarrel, with the result that he always got what he wanted, though it meant a slight sacrifice in household expenses” (93-93)

Narayan, R.T. Malgudi Days. New York: Penguin Group. 2006. Print. pp.93-94.

This passage was interesting because it shows the difference between man and wife. It depicted how the wife always had to give up something of her own so that Rama Rao could be satisfied. It shows how the wife has to go out of her way to provide him with rupees so he can do the puzzle to win a prize. It depicts how addiction and selfishness brings discomfort to the family other than himself.

Specificity of Setting

The four novels Heart of Darkness (1899), Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916), Whose Body? (1923), and Untouchable (1935) are all very specifically set in a particular place, time, and society.  Through abundance of detail, the authors  make the specific setting of each integral.  It would be nearly impossible to give one of these books a different setting without destroying them.  Imagine trying to set Heart of Darkness in France or Untouchable in modern day.  It could never work.


An interesting continuity which lends itself to this trait is that they are all set at or near the time they were written.  The authors were writing about the world around them, and could draw detail from real-life observation and experience.


In Their Eyes Were Watching God, men and women have very different roles. The role of women is defined by men. Women are left with stereotypical positions in society and marriage is important because women are defined by their relationship to men. Intelligence and authority are considered masculine qualities. If a woman were to display these characteristics, she would be considered too manly. Women are also treated as the lesser gender in As I Lay Dying. They are expected only to reproduce and care for the child. Cora believes that “A woman’s place is wither her husband and children…” Also important to note, female sexuality is not to be discussed. Again in Heart of Darkness, women are ignored. Marlow seems to believe that women exist separately from men. The men have a dark world and they must protect the women from it. Marlow works to protect The Intended’s idealism and her opinion of Kurtz. Finally, in Melanctha, we see a woman’s rebellion against the expected. She does not desire to be a mother or housewife. She wants to be an individual, which is not what is expected of women in these works. These authors address the problem of gender roles. In these works women are treated as the lesser gender and expected to perform defined roles. If they do not conform they are often shamed or considered too masculine.

Historical Line: Personal Growth

The personal growth of the individual.


The Jolly Corner: Brydon is forced to grow up with his return to America by overcoming his fears as well as falling in love. He learned to let go of his past insecurities and come face to face with himself, something he feared doing because he was not entirely proud of who he was. He also learned to trust another person and allow her into the deepest corners of his heart where is the most susceptible to be hurt. However he allows her there anyway, which is a testament of his growth (James 1908).


A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man: Stephen grows as an individual through his growing opinions of different yet very influential institutions in his life. His ability to form an opinion on his own based on the personal experiences he had is a sign of maturity and growth. Furthermore, his decision to leave and pursue his desire to express himself in other lands also shows his growth as he is gaining the courage to try new things in new places.


Untouchable: Bakha’s growth is related to his view of his personal situation. He wants to grow in status to be higher than an untouchable. He also wants to be given the respect he does not get in his home or community and so he worships the British and their ability to take power. The novel looks at various solutions to his problems, which include the acceptance of a new religion (something he dismisses), a voice on behalf of the Untouchables (something he is interested in) and the introduction of a flushing toilet (which he believes will solve his problems). The novel does not give a definite answer as to whether he will continue to be engrossed with the British or if he will listen to Gandhi’s words and fight for his respect. However we do get to see that a spark has been lit, and perhaps as time goes on it can be assumed that the spark turns into a full-fledged fire. Bakha must grow as an individual to truly understand Gandhi’s words in his situation however the reader can see that he has come a long way from where he was in the beginning (Anand 1935).


Their Eyes Were Watching God: Janie’s relationship with the three men gave her experiences she would not have otherwise seen. She grows by learning to become an independent individual and how to become a woman, rather than just a girl. With each new significant relationship she enters and leaves, she learns something from it, growing as a person (Hurston 1937).


Granted, many of these examples of personal growth can also be argued as a sign of lack of growth. However it is all perspective. To some, making the decision to leave one’s homeland to explore and discover is a sign of growth but to others, it may be a sign of immaturity and lack of dedication or responsibility. However it can also arguably be a sign of growth or the desire to grow. It is all about perspective. I think this is apparent and recurring in all of the above examples.