Plot Construction of The Novel The Guide

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1. Secondary Place to Plot-Construction

      Narayan’s novels are primarily the novels of character, but secondarily they are also the novels of plot. He gives up interesting stories and startling episodes. But his art of plot-construction as well as of characterization is a product of realism. Almost all novels of Narayan are slender and straightforward. He avoids complicated contrivances and intricate manoeuvrings. The interest and motives of his characters are so simple and limited that there is hardly any need for thematic or structural complication. Some of the novels are so watery that many people doubt if Narayan is a serious artist.

2. Simple and Straightforward Plots Blending the Comic and the Serious

      In Narayan’s plot there is a mixture of the comic and the serious, the real and the fantastic. So is the case with The Guide. Raju the poor becomes the rich, the convict gets the reputation and regard of the saint, the holy man and the Swami. There is squalor, poverty and misery in the life of Raju on the one side, but at the same time on the other side there is in his life as a comic relief, that is beautiful and charming Rosie.

3. “The Guide”, a Story of Raju as well as of Everyman

      The Guide is story of Raju’s romance, his greed for money, his sin and repentance. It is also the story of everyman’s growth from the ordinary to the extraordinary, from the Railway guide to the spiritual guide. The story is divided into two parts. Part one traces the growth of Raju as a child and a young man who fell in love with an unhappy woman, who had insatiable hunger to be a dancer. This part of the story closes with Raju’s imprisonment. The second part shows Raju’s growth into a Swami after his release from the jail. The strings of the narrative of the first part of the story are in Raju’s hands, but the novelist himself controls the narrative of the second part.

4. The Story

      Raju was born in a small house just opposite the Malgudi station. His father was a small shop-keeper. Raju as a child saw Malgudi station taking shape. He enjoyed moving with railway workers and was removed from the school for learning their foul language. His father admitted Raju to another school where the teacher was extremely poor, abusive and tortured his wife; that was not a school in any sense. But opening of another shop by his father stopped Raju’s schooling as he was engaged looking after his father’s old shop.

      Raju’s father died. Raju closed the old shop and began to sit at his father’s new shop at the Railway Station. There he was known as Railway Raju. Now and then he used to help the pilgrims by guiding them towards certain visitable places of his vicinity, and soon he came to be known as Railway Raju, people from far and near came to him seeking his guidance, and he adopted himself the career of a guide, and left his shop in charge of a Railway porter’s son.

      It was at the Malgudi station he met one day Marco and his wife Rosie. Rosie was interested in seeing a cobra. While imitating the cobra dance, she was praised by Raju. This praise brought her nearer to Raju. In fact she wanted to be a distinguished dancer whereas her husband was opposed to her plans and wishes. In course of time Raju’s sympathy for Rosie developed into love for her. Marco came to know of his wife’s romance with the tourist guide. He completed his work with perfect calm and control but did not allow his wife to join him while leaving for Madras. Marco was a scholar, honest and straightforward. He was a little too proud to care for people like Raju and Rosie. He was a man of few words, of definite intentions.

      Discarded by her husband Rosie went to Raju’s house. Raju’s mother did not like her son’s involvement with Rosie. But she could not oust her from her house. Meanwhile Rosie got more training in dancing, and became a well-known public dancer. Raju’s mother called her brother who took her to his village after a brief confrontation with Raju.

      Rosie got very much busy with her dancing. She was known as Nalini. She had forgotten her past sexual infatuation. She behaved with Raju in a cold manner. Raju thought as if he was being neglected. Raju also got fond of gambling and drinking. He was of the opinion that Rosie had forgotten Marco. But he was surprised to know at the publication of Marco’s book, the review of which was read by Rosie that Rosie had a great deal of admiration and love for her husband.

      After a few days he received documents on which the solicitor of Marco had wanted Rosie’s signature so that her jewellery could be returned to her. Since Marco was an honest man he deemed it fit to return Rosie’s jewellery to her. Raju thought that this act of kindness of Marco would make Rosie run away to her husband. In jealousy he forged her signature on the document. This could not remain hidden. Raju was arrested for forgery and condemned to two years’ rigorous imprisonment.

      Rosie tried to save Raju from the clutches of the law although she had lost all interest in Raju but in vain. She went back to Madras. Raju spent his time in jail in human activities. For his good behaviour, he was given remission by six months. After coming out of the jail he felt so aggrieved and ashamed of himself that he decided not to go back to his mother. Instead, he went out of the city of Malgudi and found shelter in an ancient shrine on the bank of the Sarayu. It was here that he met Velon. There was really a change in the heart of Raju. He began to read the Gita to the villagers, began to preach and teach and give sermons to them. Though unwillingly he had to go on a fast for rains for the villagers. The news of his fast reached distant corners of the country and people came in pouring to cast a glance at the great soul. Even the government sent its doctors to persuade the Swami to end his fast. The drought-affected area became the centre of hectic activity for the last time. Shops sprang up all round the place where the Swami was fasting. The government made elaborate arrangement of transportation and sanitation and supply. Even an American journalist came with camera, loudspeaker and tape-recorder. He took photographs of the Swami and people and recorded the answers of the Swami to his questions. On the twelfth day of his fast, Raju’s condition got critical. He sagged down in a pit leaning on the shoulders of Velan. However, before tottering he told Velan that it was raining in the hills, he could feel it coming up under, his feet, and with that the novelist has shut his mouth for ever.

5. Main Features of the Plot

      (1) Biographical touch. The plot has been designed in the manner of a biography. The present and the past have been culled together. The method of narration lends enchantment to it.

      (2) Dramatic Element. At times dramatic element is also introduced gradually, one by one. The number of episodes as well as of characters is limited, The dramatic element does not supersede the fictional element. On the contrary, it heightens the effect of the story.

      (3) Unity of Design. The plot has a unity of design. The plot has a beginning, a middle and an end. The hero is the spinal cord of the plot. There is a logical order in the development of plot. One dramatic sequence follows another There are no irrelevant and unnecessary details in the plot. The epic quality to be seen in some novels such as Tom Jones is not seen here. Psychological conflicts too have been given a little place. Panoramic view of the Indian scenes has been given admission.

      (4) Excellent Knitting of Events. The novelist has done excellent knitting of the events in forming a pattern. No loose ends are seen in the novel. The plot has been built on the principles of poetic justice and karma. Have your due and buzz off is the spirit of the plot.

      (5) The Technique of Double Narration. The novelist follows the technique of the double narration, a sort of past-present technique. It is with the presence of the hero that the novelist attains the unity of design. Hence the presence of the hero is indispensable on all spots. Three individuals are important for three important episodes. Raju, Rosie and Velan are the centres of these episodes. In Velan lies the seed of holy man episode in the novel. In Rosie lies the foundations of romantic and tragic events of the hero and herself. In the maternal uncle of Raju lies the social disorder of the life of the hero. The single foundation of the various episodes is missing. Yet the canvas of the plot is not very large.

      (6) Sights and Scenes Make Episodes Interesting & Entertaining. Backgrounds and moods and scenes are different. From the Railway Station of Malgudi to the forests of Memphi and the source of Sarayu and natural scenery, caves and antiques on to the public stages of large south Indian cities, Madras and the jail and then again the river near Malgudi and the temple are such scenes and sights which make the episodes interesting and entertaining. The reality of the place has been preserved with great faculty of verisimilitude on the part of the novelist.

      (7) Time Factor: Different from the Stream of Consciousness Technique. The time factor in the plot is a long one. In this respect it is quite different from that of the stream of consciousness novels. In the stream of consciousness novels the novelist consumes the action within a limited span of time.

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