Language Uses in R. K. Narayan Novels

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1. Watery and Unmetaphorical Language

      When compared to the language or other Indo-Anglian novelists such as Mulk Raj Anand, Raj Rao, Bhabani Bhattacharya, B. Rajan and Manohar Malgaonkar the language of R.K. Narayan is watery and unmetaphorical. His language has very little ornamentation; it is suitable to the purpose and occasion. Suitability and adaptability, flexibility and aptness are the hall-mark of his language.

      According to William Wagh, “Narayan uses a pure and limpid English, easy and natural in its run and tone but always an evolved conscious medium, without the exciting, physical energy sometimes adventurously injected that marks the writing of the West Indians. Narayan’s English, in its structure and address, is a moderate, traditional instrument but one abstracted from the content in which it was generated — the history, the social condition, the weather, the racial memory and transferred to a wholly different setting — the brutal heat and hovering vultures, flocks of brilliant glittering parrots, jackals rippling over the rubbish dumps, an utter shining of clarity of light and the deadly grey of an appalling poverty. It is clear of the palpable suggestiveness, the foggy taste, the complex tang, running through every phase of our own English. What it has instead is a strange degree of translucence Narayan’s language is beautifully adapted to communicate a different, an Indian sensibility.”

2. Simplicity, Brevity and Straightforwardness

      Other main features of Narayan’s English are simplicity, straight-forwardness, brevity and propriety. Although impact of journalism is there on Narayan’s English, yet it is not journalistic. It has a different colour altogether.

3. Propriety

      For the communication of Indian sensibility, Narayan’s language is most suited. It is extracted from context: history, social conditions, weather, racial memory, etc. He is not interested in politics or socioeconomic problems of the country, but as an artist to communicate his experience of reality. He is away from the naturalistic mode of expression and photographic representation of reality. He creates fantasies and uses his language to depict his understanding of the fundamentals of life.

4. Suitable According to Characters

      Narayan uses a language fit for his characters. Many of his heroes and heroines are common men and women. He uses a language appropriate to their standard. Unlike Mulk Raj Anand, he uses a straightforward language. He does not use slang or terms of abuse. His language is free from the mannerisms of Mulk Raj Anand. His language does not differ from character to character. It is almost uniform. It, however, differs when a character speaks in emotion or sentiment. On meeting Rosie for the first time, Raju started feeling excited and spoke a few sentences to Velan in appreciation of beauty romantically, but immediately Raju said, “Forgive me if you find me waxing poetic.” This explains Narayan’s awareness of the problem of language.

5. Descriptions of Nature in Simple Language

      The descriptions of nature in Narayan’s language are given in a very simple language. For example, see the following:

(1) “The sun was setting. Its tint touched the wall with pink. The tops of the coconut tree around were aflame. The birds’ cries went up in a crescendo before dying down for the night. Darkness fell. Still there was no sign of Velan or anyone.

(2) “The river dripping away in minute driblets made no noise. The dry leaves of the Peepal tree rustled. Somewhere a jackal howled. And Raju’s voice filled the night.”

      Narayan’s language has austerity. It pretends no sophistication: it does not have any literary qualities. It has a tendency to cliche and stale poeticism. Yet it has beauty too. It lacks intensity; it is incapable of participating in the subtler function of imaginative life.

6. Journalistic Touch

      Narayan’s journalistic touch can be seen in the passage such as “In spite of protestations to the contrary”; “to will whom it may concern”; “inside the bars or outside”; “she was a sorry sight in every way”; “Now I had made a mess,”; “go from strength to strength”; “It does not matter.”

7. Use of Hyperboles

      Narayan also uses hyperboles, e.g.:

(i) Here he was in the presence of experience.
(ii) This man will finish me.
(iii) Here was a lifelong customer for me.
(iv) He was of the stuff disciples are made of.
(v) She swayed her whole body to the rhythm for just a second, but that was sufficient to tell me what she was, the greatest dancer of the century.
(vi) Rosie-like she soared. Her name became public property.

8. Occasional Poetic Touches

      Narayan’s language is neither sensuous nor poetic. Yet occasionally there are poetic touches which are very transitory:

“Oh monster, what do you do to her that makes her sulk like this on rising? What a treasure you have in your hand without realizing its worth like a monkey picking up a rose garland.”

9. Neologisms

      Narayan’s neologisms are also suitable, and suggestive. “Freeze-gazing”, “gold mine” (for Rosie), “dance practice”, “art business” are the examples of Indian English. His language is like a one-stringed instrument.

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