R. K. Narayan's Narrative Technique in The Novel The Guide

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      R.K Narayan uses the interesting technique of a varied narrative perspective. At a time it is Raju the main character speaking and at other times the story is told from the point of view of an omniscient narrator. The author also utilizes cinematic element such as flash back and jump cuts.

R.K Narayan uses the interesting technique of a varied narrative perspective. At a time it is Raju the main character speaking and at other times the story is told from the point of view of an omniscient narrator. The author also utilizes cinematic element such as flash back and jump cuts.
The Guide by R.K Narayan

      When we first encounter Raju, he is about to meet Velan, and he is seen at this point from the perspective of an omniscient narrator. Then Raju who takes over the narrator chores and relatives his progress from sweetmeat seller to jailbird to Velan. In between the omniscient narrator punctuates Raju's narrative by showing him dealing with the villagers as a holy man.

      The Guide divided into two parts narratives Raju childhood, love affair, imprisonment, (first part) and growth into a Swami (second part). Though the streams move simultaneously the first part is sat in Mangla, Raju's present while Raju's past in Malgudi is narrated by Raju himself his present in Mangla is narrated by the author.

      R.K Narayan is a novelist of common people and common situations of English literature in India. His plot of The Guide is built of material and incidents that are neither extraordinary nor heroic. The Guide is a story of Raju's romance, his greed for money, his sin and repentance. It is also the story of every man's growth from the ordinary to extraordinary, from the railway guide to the spiritual guide.

      For most of his life Raju had managed to manipulate other people's emotion need for his own advantage, but the novel shows him going beyond himself to do a genuinely disinterested act at the cost of his life.

      Raju begins his professional life as the owner of a sweetmeat stall at the railway station in the region of India, that has become a popular tourist attraction. He soon discovers that he had a knack for telling people what they like to hear and become a full-time guide. the profession leads him into an affair with one of his clients, Rosie the neglected wife of an anthropologist Marco. Rosie has a passion for dancing which Marco doesn't approve of, Rosie encouraged by Raju decided to follow her dreams and walk out on her husband. Raju become her stage manager and soon with the help of Raju's marketing tactics, Rosie become a successful dancer. Raju however develops and inflated sense of self importance and tries to control Rosie. Gradually the relationship between Raju and Rosie becomes strained. Marco reappears and Raju get involved in a case of forgery and get two year sentence.

      After he completing the sentence, Raju is passing through a village when and he is mistake in as a 'Sadhu' (spiritual guide). He is not interested having to return in disguise to Malgudi, he stays in an abundant Temple. Raju satisfies the demand of villagers of Mangla. Slowly and gradually he becomes the spiritual guide of the villagers who comes to get all sorts of issues resolved by him. They start to trust and listen to him and soon he earns their respect and turns into a Guru or god like person for them.

      Everything was running smoothly till the time the village is affected by a major draught, and one of the villager mistaken Raju comments to be a vow to keep a fast for 12 days in order to please the rain gods. Raju has no other option but to comply by his vow. The role that he took unhappily and forcibly in the beginning becomes very dear to him as time passes. He starts believing in his role and feels that for the first time in his life he is doing something for the people, selflessly, out of his humanity and not lust for money or other material goods. The news of his fasting spreads throughout the country like wildfire and a huge crowd of curious onlookers from other places start gathering around him. As he can no longer take the fasting, his legs gives away he collapses dreaming and visualising the raindrops somewhere in the hill. The novel ends with a question still unanswered whether he dies or whether the rain actually comes.

      In Narayan's plot there is a mixture of comic and serious, the real and the fantastic so in the case with The Guide. Raju the poor become the rich, the convict gets the reputation and regard of the saint the holy man and the Swami.

      Another technique Narayan uses is imagery and symbolism which is rooted in Indian culture but has universal appeal. At the end of the story sunrise with the suicide sense Narayan effectively communicates Raju's death as an image of of hope consistent with the Indian belief in death and rebirth.

      Narayan has a gift of sketching pen pictures that bring scenes and characters. Thus the use of flashback, common lifestyle, comedy, language and the double perspective Raju and the novelist makes the novel fresh, stimulating, provocative and interesting.

      R. K. Narayan follows the traditional, chronological method of narration in The Guide. There is no looking backward or forward, no probing of the sub-conscious or the unconscious as in the case with novelists like Virginia Woolf, James Joyce or Mulk Raj Anand; Narayan only records a succession of events and knits the character and plot together. There is a cause and effect relationship between the events and the characters. His story has a beginning, a middle and an end, with a well-worked out climax. The end of the novel achieves the completeness of action. Furthermore, Narayan follows the third person method of narration. But the part of the story is narrated by the author himself. Thus Narayan deviates from conventional story-telling. Whatever happens to Raju after his release is told by the narrator—the novelist. But whatever had happened to Raju before he was imprisoned is told in a series of flashbacks in Raju’s own words, in the form of a confession to Velan who has come to think of him as a saint.

      The effect of this technique is to make the figure of the hero more sharp and real than the other characters. Also, Raju in making the confession characterises himself by what he reports and how he reports it. The impression that the reader gets is that Raju’s character develops because of certain events and the events in turn change his character till he finds himself a saint, fasting to induce rain for the drought-affected village in response to the expectations of a crowd of admirers and worshippers. In other words, character and action develop simultaneously and both influence each other. It is in this way that the complex personality of Raju is built up and made convincing and credible.

      The interesting technique of narration Narayan has used in this novel keeps the curiosity of the readers alive, regarding both the past and the present of Raju. It makes the narrative fresh, vigorous and interesting. As the past and present are cunningly jumbled, there is a constant impression of suspense and anticipation. The zig-zag narration gives a piquancy to the novel without in any way confusing the reader. In this way Raju becomes his own critic and we are enabled to see the action as Raju sees it, and as the reader; and as the later Raju sober sees the earlier Raju drunk. In this way, the past and present are juxtaposed, and each illuminates the other.

      In short, the technique of narration the novelist has followed in The Guide is complex and original and unique in many ways. The whole novel can be viewed as a drama in three acts: Raju’s love for Rosie, his jail life, and eventual reward for his qualities. As the protagonist, Raju is the narrator of the part of the story of his life. Raju is narrator of her own experience with Marco from the time Raju left her with Marco in the cave to the time she came to stay with Raju.

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