Rita: Captain's Wife - Character in A Tiger for Malgudi

Also Read

      Wife of Captain, Rita and Captain sharply differ in their attitude towards circus life. The humdrum routine of circus has bored Rita to the extent that she wants to change her way to camp life and asks her husband to leave all this show business and live at Madras in a different style of life. That is why, she has persuaded him to admit their children to a school at Lovedale so that they may get the benefit of proper education and adopt a different way of life. She, time and again, expresses her charging to her husband for his undying attachment to the tiger and other animals kept in the circus. She bursts out into an uncontrollable rage at the mention of her husband's remark that all the animals right from the mongoose to the tusker are in good performing condition when he comes to take his breakfast after the completion of his daily round starting early in the morning at 5 O'clock for taking a comprehensive survey of his performing animals. Captain, in retaliation to her sudden angry out-burst, retorts that he has agreed to send the children at Lovedale school as desired by her "swallowing my own ideas at such a cost." Rita shoots back a cryptic reply, "Good thing too - otherwise you would have made lion tamers of them all as well."74 This exchange of sarcastic words between the two reveals the incongruity of their mutual tastes and desires. Captain's anger is aroused to the extent that he gives vent to his venomous feeling through making a dig at the parasitic dependence of his wife's kinsmen on the earning he ekes out of the circus show. He chastises her for her distaste for circus life despite her knowing well that this is the only source of their earning money which is so much needed for her and her "damned family at Madras - all hangers-on, none of them will do anything except sit back and wait for my cheque every month...." Thereupon he disappears from there hurriedly, gulping a cup of coffee and speaking provocatively in distemper that women are impossible to be handled. They are worse than "twenty untamed Jungle creatures on one's hand at a time." Such quarrelsome, ill-tempered utterances between the wife and the husband take place very frequently.

Thus, Rita-captain association as wife and husband is replete with oft-repeated instances of bickerings that occur and recur in their day-to-day life. One such incident is related to the celebration of the Silver Jubilee years of the circus. Captain is making a grand bandobast of show about the celebration of the Silver Jubilee event of the circus.

      Thus, Rita-captain association as wife and husband is replete with oft-repeated instances of bickerings that occur and recur in their day-to-day life. One such incident is related to the celebration of the Silver Jubilee years of the circus. Captain is making a grand bandobast of show about the celebration of the Silver Jubilee event of the circus. All the hullabaloo about this special occasion is planned by Captain by giving it wide-ranging publicity through posters and illustrious bold writings on the walls of houses and public buildings in Malgudi and in villages around. It seems very disproportionate, exaggerated and exasperating to Rita. Her disapproval of her husband's extra-ordinary enthusiasm about the Silver Jubilee celebrations is manifested in her curt denial to the execution in action by the trapeze team of Captain's innovative idea in performing a hitherto unknown feat of first making two somersaults in air followed by a passage through a ring of fire on to the safety net. She relents later on to perform it when her husband orders that in case of his wife's disagreement, Lyla - next to Rita in trapeze team hierarchy - should be entrusted with this responsibility. Captain plans to put up this dangerous acrobatic act as a special item of marvel on this occasion. Rita, ultimately, consents to the performance of this marvellous feat as she cannot tolerate hat her junior should supersede her. This incident also divulges a streak of jealousy in her temperament which is proverbial of a woman's heart.

      The oft-repeated quarrelsomeness in Rita-Captain relationship is mentioned by Raja, the tiger-hero of this novel to his Master, the ascetic, thus:

"They were a peculiar couple, devoted to each other but not betraying their feeling in speech."

      To the bewildering query of the tiger-hero, whether, to call this couple friendly or inimical to each other, the ascetic replies in a tone of profound wisdom. He tells the tiger-hero that judgement of human association simply on the basis of their conversation or outward behaviour is erroneous. He comments:

"There can be no such thing as unmitigated hatred or unmitigated love. Those who are deeply attached, sometime deliberately present a rough exterior to each other and that is only one way of enjoying the married state. Some wives in this world show their deepest love only by nagging, and the husbands also enjoy putting on an air of being victims."

     The hermit, therefore, advises him not to commit the mistake of judging that Rita and Captain are not properly matched. It is God only who knows the inner secret and ecstacies of their companionship. The ascetic's observations lend an element of mystery to the complex syndrome of wife-husband relationship which can be properly understood by a divine insight only. This assertion, made by the hermit, proves prophetically true in the context of Rita-Captain association despite their external behaviour of troublesomeness and intolerance towards each other.

      How deeply-embedded is the feeling of love and attachment between Rita and Captain for each other is very well illustrated in the tragic mishap of unexpected death of Captain and the subsequent event of Rita's committing suicide in sequel to her husband's sudden end. The news of Captain's death is too shocking for her to survive alone. His tragic end occurs instantaneously when the tiger rips off his neck with a thud of, his fore-paws on his shoulders. The circumstances of this tragedy are connected with the shooting of a film-snap in which the tiger has to balance his body on his hind legs by heaving his fore-paws up to imitate a position of launching an assult on the film-hero - Jaggu who is a big, burly wrestler looking like a 'mountain of a man'. Captain doggedly pursues his effort to make the tiger perform this action by causing excruciating pain to him with continuous lashing on his nose and persistent persecution with the help of an electric gadget. This mad action of Captain makes the tiger flare up into untrammelled fury. Hence, the latter assaults him and kills him on the spot. A stampede ensues this shocking turn of events. The tiger gets released and roams about on the Market Road. Captain, in the last flicker of his consciousness, worries about his wife Rita how she will manage to live without him. On knowing about her husband's sudden, stunning death, Rita reaches the gory scene and looks at the dead body, standing there speechless and without shedding a tear. When others try to console her, she says to them to leave her alone. The blow inflicted upon her by her husband's sudden death is too hard for her to bear. She goes back to the circus tent, climbs to the top where the swings are clamped, takes out one and takes a full swing up and down. When the swing touches the ceiling, she lets go her hold and thus puts an end to her own life. This eventuality wrought by an unexpected quirk of fate ultimately proves the intimacy and profundity of nuptial bond that exists between Rita and her husband.

      Rita disapproves of her husband's special inclination towards the tiger as she uncannily perceives a potential danger to Captain's life some-day from the beast. The instantaneous killing of Captain by the tiger bears out the correctness of Rita's lurking apprehension gnawing at her heart whenever her husband mentions to her anything about this beast. She feels uneasy in her heart of hearts about Raja. She grows more apprehensive about the beast's unpredictable ways after, the event in the circus-show one night when the tiger slices off the goat's neck in one go in the scene in which both of these two animals, otherwise antagonistic to each other in normal life, have to lick or sip milk together from the same saucer. The special manner in which her husband announces this scene majestically named as Four-in-one act arouses in her a feeling of jealousy. The cause of her jealousy is her husband's over-powering weakness for the beast. She fears intuitively that it may result in a menace to his life itself. She makes a clear confession of her fears about the tiger when both she and her husband are discussing the film Producer Madan's proposal about making use of the tiger in his proposed film. After remaining in deep thought for a while, she reacts to Madan's intention of the tiger to the handled by Captain in these words:

"I don't know I have always hated that brute ... seems unde pendable ... I feel uneasy whenever you are out with him."

      But Captain laughs away her fears saying that the tiger is more docile than a Siamese Cat. To this, she says, it will be a good riddance if the film Producer buys this 'Siamese Cat'. Her advice to her husband to retain lions only and to let go the tiger falls flat on deaf ears. Thus, Captain invites his own doom by showing his over-attachment with the tiger. These episodic details, undoubtedly, reveal Rita's sincerity, sense of concern and a wife's true devotion to her husband's personal safety and well-being.

      Rita's boredom and disenchantment with circus life has intolerably overpowered her. The feeling of sickness that has grown in her against the nerve-breaking, monotonous and joker-like foolhardiness of circus existence is explicitly given vent to by her, especially, on two occasions. First, when Captain tells her one day at the breakfast table that they should close down the Silver Jubilee celebrations for a few days. She is in ecstatic joy. She remarks to him. "The first wise act in your life.. We are all at breaking point, I'm sure." He does not dispute her remark this time as he normally does. Secondly, film Producer cum Director Madan's proposal to Captain to spare the tiger, Raja, for some days in order to shoot a film displaying the beast assaulting the hero, Jaggu, with his forepaws gets her ready acceptance because this will provide her relief and freedom from circus shows. She advises her husband not to discourage Madan if he wants to engage the beast for more days for shooting. She candidly expresses her feeling of disillusionment with circus life to him saying

"Anyhow, I'm tired and bored with the circus. Let us try something new for a change. We lose nothing. We may be free from all this dust and noise and ticket selling for some time."

      Rita possesses a woman's heart filled with tenderness, kindness and an instinctive love for all forms of life. She has strong repulsion against violence or bloodshed. The incident of sudden ripping off of the neck of the innocent goat by the tiger, Raja, in a circus scene upsets her emotionally. This brutish behaviour of Raja leaves an indelible impression on her mind about the potential danger in keeping him in the circus. Madan is full of admiration for the remarkably ot the tiger-goat scene which he plans to insert in his film serial. Captain speaks to the film Producer-cum-Director about his wife's repulsive feeling induced in her by that bloody scene. He says to Madan:

"You found the goat scene inspiring, but my wife Rita, although accustomed to circus life, felt sickened by the spectacle and retired; even now when she recollects the scene, she is in tears.."

      Rita's arrival at Malgudi with the Grand Malgudi Circus is an addition of its awn type to the variegated spectrum of women characters delineated by Narayan in his various novels. Despite its resilience and tenacity of adherence to the age-long inherited burden of customs, traditions and rituals, Malgudi always remains an ever-growing, changing and evolving town which comes in contact with modern modes of life, thought and ambitions. Rita's expertise in performing acrobatic trapeze martial skills involving masculine physical prowess and sturdiness reminds one of the modern concept of equality of woman with man in all walks of life. The peculiar trait of her personality lies in achieving in her a harmonious synchronisation of the modern skill and technical excellence of a circus artiste with the characteristics of a loving, tender-hearted homely woman who is dutifully devoted to her children and husband. She is endowed with a kind, sensitive heart that considers an innocent animal life as sacred and lovable as human life. There exists in her heart an undercurrent of dissatisfaction and disenchantment with the noisy and exposure-to-public way of circus life. She is attracted by a craving for a settled, domestic and private style of life. Such an idea is not acceptable to her husband who is inseparably attached with animals and the adventurous way of circus life. This divergence of opinion between the duo, at times, leads to short-lived, small quarrels. She does not allow these occasional bickerings to reach the point of no return. Rather she bows to her husband's belligerent moods, though reluctantly. She adopts a middle course and avoids the point of irreconcilable confrontation with her wily husband. Her shrewdness is instrumental in steering clear of critical situations in relationship with Captain.

Previous Post Next Post

Search Your Questions