Hermit's Wife: Character Analysis - A Tiger for Malgudi

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      The Hermit's wife is a minor character. She appears in the closing part of the novel she makes a sudden appearance one afternoon at the isolated place where the ascetic, with the tiger-hero, is living in the Mempi forest. Through her medium, the reader comes to know about the hermit's past life of having owned a car, a bungalow and always remaining well-dressed in western style. But one night with a silent determination, he gives up all these material comforts of life and slinks out of his house stealthily with a loin-cloth only on his body. His renunciation of the world bears resemblance with that of Siddhartha. He comes to the Mempi Hills, meditates and undergoes a total transformation in his outlook and thinking. His wife gets a clue about him from her neighbour-woman who has gone to the school to enquire about her child when the tiger enters the premises of the school. This woman is directed by the sanyasi sitting on a culvert near the school-gate. He is noticed by this woman rubbing his finger on his brow while thinking. The neighbourhood-woman passes on this information to the ascetic's wife who is convinced that he is her husband as he is habitual of repeating this action.

Hence like a devoted wife, she launches a search for him. She ultimately reaches his place after having been robbed of her jewellery on the way through the jungle. After exchange of some formal words, she requests him to go back with her. She does not mind if he comes back with his loin-cloth and lives with her in the same condition.
Hermit's Wife

      Hence like a devoted wife, she launches a search for him. She ultimately reaches his place after having been robbed of her jewellery on the way through the jungle. After exchange of some formal words, she requests him to go back with her. She does not mind if he comes back with his loin-cloth and lives with her in the same condition. This attitude on her part is typical of a middle-class Indian woman. In this way, she is a traditionally devoted wife who is ready to accept her husband as he is, irrespective of his past mistakes and conduct. She uses the word husband while addressing him. But the hermit strongly objects to the use of this word. Her devotion to him is evident in the persistent protestations she is making to him for the sake of persuading him to come back home. She reminds him of their past association for twenty or thirty years. She tells him that she cannot be deceived about his true identity. She recollects in her presence their past life of togetherness and how assiduously she has undergone all the pains and inconveniences for the purpose of satiating his capricious, inordinate demands of desire. She relates their wedded life in these words:

"I have borne you vagaries patiently for a lifetime; your inordinate demands of food and my perpetual anxiety to see you satisfied, and my total surrender night or day when passion seized you and you displayed the indifference ot a savage never caring for my health or inclination, and with your crude jocularities even before the children. I shudder!"

      She is detailing the memories of their married life in order to influence him so that he may change his mind. The description also gives a clear peep into their past wife-husband relationship. How freely and wilfully, he has enjoyed sexual indulgence with his wife even at the cost of her health or regardless of her reluctance for the act. But all such reminders fail to exercise a changing influence on the hermit's mind.

      The hermit's wife is so simple-minded that she is not able to understand or imagine the sea-change of personality that her past husband has gone through during these last years of long meditation, loneliness, renunciation and self-discipline. The hermit tries to calm her down by persuasive arguments that he has surrendered all wealth, property, house and everything to the family's care. Hence, sacrifice is on his part rather than on theirs. Moreover, his renunciation of the home is not out of anger but because of some inner transformation brought about in him. He tries to make her understand that it is impossible for him to go back as what she sees is his "old shell, inside it's all changed. You can't share my life."

      Still, she importunates before him to come back. She assures him that she will accept him with his beard and loin-cloth. She is, thus, an exponent of the traditional concept of the Hindu society that once a husband is always a husband whatever be his shortcomings or weaknesses. All the abstruse arguments spoken by the hermit-husband pass beyond her comprehension. Her simple, unenlightened mind is incapable of grasping the tall, spiritual talk of the hermit. The ascetic's peroration, "I live for the moment, and that awareness is enough for me", and his past does not exist for him, nor future, goes over her head. He further adds, "I have erased from my mind my name and identity and all that it implies. It would be unthinkable to slide back." Listening to all such incomprehensible and strange talks from him, she starts wailing like a helpless, hysterical woman.

      The conversation that passes between the two points out the hiatus that distinguishes glaringly the inner spiritual being or reality from the temporal, corporeal being or reality. The hermit's wife's awareness is limited to the physical being only. Her offer to the hermit to allow her to live in the nearby village so that she may take due care of him is also turned down by him. His inner compulsions make him do so. She fails to appreciate the inner metamorphosis that the hermit has gone through. She is not to blame for this as her ordinary, worldly thinking hinders her power of perceiving subtle truth. She stands poles apart from the condition to which the Sanyasi has sublimated his wordly being through the course of rigorous self-discipline and meditation. The unbridgeable difference between two planes of perception i.e. 'Sthula' - the solid or the worldly and Sukshma - the subtle or the spiritual is conveyed by the author by bringing about a meeting of the hermit's wife with her husband turned hermit.

      However, the ascetic offers to accompany her out of the jungle to the village nearby. She rejects this offer saying, "I can go alone, as I came. The hermit comments on it that she has started realising a profound truth of life. He says:

"Yes, we have come into the world alone, and are alone while leaving Your understanding is becoming deeper"

      The episodic meeting of the hermit's wife with her husband turned sanyasi reiterates the existentialist consciousness of utter loneliness and aloneness. The same sort of realisation is explicitly stated in The English Teacher by protagonist Krishnan in his words, "A profound, unmitigated loneliness is the only truth of life. All else is false." The inescapable principle of separation in life may be summed up succinctly that we meet to depart. Separation is an inevitable fact of life right from the moment of our detachment fron the mother's womb.

      Narayan, sometimes, mentions shadowy characters. Lyla and Jaggu's wife belong to this class. Lyla is number two in the hierarchy of the trapeze team in the Grand Malgudi Circus. She appears only once when Captain, the owner of circus, orders that Lyla should perform the new item of making two somersaults in air and then a passage through a ring of fire on to the safety net as he is informed about his wife, Rita's disinclination to execute such fanciful idea. But, later on, Rita agrees to it herself as she does not like that a junior artiste should supersede her. Jaggu's wife is a puny woman who also appears only once in the novel. Jaggu is a tall, heavy-built appears wrestler, a mountain of a man, who puts up wrestling shows in village fairs in order to earn his livelihood. His wife acts as his assistant who collects money from the spectators after the show is over. She feels very happy when Madan, the film Poducer cum Director, employs Jaggu to act as hero in his proposed film on a monthly salary of five hundred rupees. Because in this way, they will be assured of a regular, monthly income.

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