Short Questions and Answers of R. K. Narayan Novels

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Q. 1. Write a short note on the classification of Narayan’s novels. 

      Ans. The novels of R. K. Narayan may be classified into early novels, domestic novels, novels dealing with Mammon worshippers and political novels. In all he has written twelve novels and about 51 short stories. Among his early novels written on school and college life, are Swami and Friends, The Bachelor of Arts, and The English Teacher. Among his domestic novels are included The Dark Room, and The Vendor of Sweets. Among his best-known novels dealing with money worshipping people of the world are The Financial Expert, Mr. Sampath, The Guide, and The Man-Eater of Malgudi. His political novel is Waiting for the Mahatma. Swami and Friends is a character novel dealing with the life of Swaminathan at the school. The Bachelor of Arts tries to capture the feelings of Chandran, a young boy of twenty-one, and The English Teacher similarly portrays the life, and elaborates the propensities of a teacher. It is his third novel dealing with school and college life of India. The Dark Room is a lament on the disharmony of domestic life. Waiting for Mahatma is a political novel based on Mahatma Gandhiji’s struggle for independence. The Quit Movement of 1942 and ending with the murder of Mahatma Gandhi.

Q. 2. Write a short note on R. K. Narayan as a pure artist.

      Ans. R. K. Narayan is one of the leading figures in Indo-Anglian Fiction. He has been regarded as a pure artist. He remains unruffled by political movements and isms. He is free from Anand’s propaganda as well as Bhabani’s vigour. Like Manohar Malgaonkar he does not disparage the Indian politicians nor does he believe in exalting the importance of Indian spiritual heritage like Raja Rao. He is a class in himself and he is a writer of average emotions. He springs, surprises, and even gives mild shocks but he never indulges in those aspects of life which are morbid. Unsocial activities, pervasion or physical violence do not find any place in his fiction. He does not indulge in sensations. He believes in domestic harmony and peaceful relations. He is the only major writer in Indo-Anglian Fiction who is free from didacticism or propaganda. He has no desire to preach, to advise, to convert. But finally he proves to be a pure artist. All his famous works like Swami and Friends, The Bachelor of Arts, The Guide and The English Teacher have been recognised as wonderful works of a pure artist.

Q. 3. Write a note on R. K. Narayan as a novelist of middle class.

      Ans. Narayan may be described as a novelist of the middle class. His novels present the members of the Indian middle class as engaged in a struggle to “extricate themselves from the automatism of the past.” In the words of Dr. Paul Verghesc “Though not vehicles of mass propaganda, his novels also depict the breakdown of feudal society and express the changed ideas concerning the family as a unit and the conflict between old and now. But Narayan is more concerned with the analysis of the character of the individual in his course through life.”

      Most of Narayan’s characters belong to the middle class, specially to the lower middle classes of South India. Chandran belongs to a middle class family. Editor Srinivas also is bothered with the idea of earning his bread and butter. Mr. Sampath’s whole life is centred round the problem of making money and Raju, the guide, is not always beyond monetary cares. These human beings are the usual sort of human beings, prudish, cunning and prosaic. Finally R. K. Narayan understands the real spirit of the middle class people of India and he depicts their conditions, problems, and ambitions very vividly.

Q. 4. Write a short note on R. K. Narayan’s art of plot construction.

      Ans. R. K. Narayan’s plots do not follow any standardised formula because Narayan starts with an idea of character and situation the plot progresses on the lines he conceives to be the logical development of the idea. It may mean no marriage, no happy ending, and no hero of standardized stature. Accidents, co-incidences, and sudden reversal of torture are used only to a very limited scale; his action mainly develops logically from the acts and actions of his characters. In this respect Narayan is as much a materialist as Henry James, H. G. Wells, and Arnold Bennet.

      Narayan’s craftsmanship in plot construction does not reveal a consistent quality. He began in a tentative and episodic manner in Swami and Friends, but developed an architectonic sense in his second novel The Bachelor of Arts, and his third novel The Dark Room reveals definite signs of technical maturity. Generally his plots split into two parts — The realistic and the fantastic — ‘the realistic vein being carried along side the fantastic and then dropped altogether.’

Q. 5. Write a short note on the art of characterization presented by R. K. Narayan in his novels.

      Ans. Narayan’s novels are mainly the novels of characters. His characterization may not be as great as that of Shakespeare or Charles Dickens, but it is only next to the greatest artiste. His range of characters, like that of Jane Austen, is limited. He chooses his people from the middle class of South India. But they are drawn with a convincing psychological consistency. These characters are full of life and vitality. They are thoroughly human in their likes and dislikes, and are neither saints nor sinners, but being as ordinary or extraordinary as we are. Narayan is able to draw complex characters too. Krishnan, Ramani, Savitri, Sampath, Raju, Rosie, Marco, Shanta Bai are some of his remarkable characters. Narayan excels as ‘an artful delineator of character.’ He says, “My focus is all on character. If his personality conics alive, the rest is easy for me.” According to Shiv K Gilra, “His most memorable character creations are his great comic eccentrics, Sampath, Raju, Margayya, and Jagan. They are ordinary men caught in a web of illusions-money, success, love, and happiness each one of them working art his personal salvation in his own characteristic

Q. 6. Write a short note on the limited range of R. K. Narayan.

      Ans. R. K. Narayan in an article on ‘The Fiction Writer in India’ contributed to ‘Atlantic monthly’ supplement on India says that after independence the writer in India “hopes to express through his novels and stories the way of life of the group of people with whose psychology and background he is most familiar, and he hopes that this picture will not only appeal to his own circle but also to a larger audience outside. “This is to a great extent applicable to Narayan’s own novels.” Srinivas Iyengar points out, “Speaking generally Narayan’s is the art of resolved limitation and conscientious exploration’, he is content like Jane Austen, with his little bit of irony, just so many inches wide, he would like to be a detached observer, to concentrate on a narrow scene, to sense the atmosphere of the place, to snap a small group of characters in their oddities and angularities; he would, if he could, explore the inner countries of the mind, heart, and soul, catch the uniqueness in the ordinary, the tragic and the prosaic. Malgudi is never casterbridge, but the inhabitants of Malgudi — although they may have their recognizable local trappings — are essentially human, and hence have their kinship with all humanity. In this sense Malgudi is everywhere.”

Q. 7. Write a short note on Indianness in R. K. Narayan’s novels.

      Ans. One of the axioms of Narayan criticism is his Indianness. Narayan’s India is symbolised by Malgudi, an imaginary town and locale of his novels. His characters are typically Indian — Swami, Chandran, Krishnan, Sampath, Margayya, Raju and Mali are Indians not only in name but also in character and spirit. They have the notions and feelings, taboos and morals of India with them. They suffer due to Indian traditions and morals. Narayan represents Indianness through his symbols too. He uses symbols which represent typical Indian culture or temperament. Temple, charkha, river, excessive credulity, and faith symbolise the cultural past of India that not only survives but also shapes the new culture. Certain other Indian traits are also reflected in his novels. For example Indian habit of hospitality has been highlighted. He also reflects Indian outlook of spirituality. Not only this but Indian poverty and squalor, the ignorance of its people, and their illiteracy are also reflected in his novels again and again. The picture of a village teacher portrayed in ‘the Guide’ is typically Indian, Narayan captures not only East West theme but also the peculiarities of India - her fauna and flora, her caste system, her social and political conditions.

Q. 8. Write a short note on the comic vision of R. K. Narayan.

      Ans. Though R. K. Narayan has written tragedies, yet the tone of his novels is comic. Indeed he is neither a spiritualist nor a social reformer nor a pure writer of comedies. He is an observer of life and records life as it appears to him. It is neither purely tragic nor purely comic. It is the mixture of the two. Not only in the situations and events but also in the characters and their manners and their dialogues there is a touch of humour and comedy. In his novels, pathos is limited. He is essentially a comic writer from whose eyes nothing incongruous escapes. He believes that man is the actor and that he should perform his role well. That is why in The Guide Raju does everything very sincerely and he proves to be a successful guide. There is recurrence of the role of fate in his novels. His sense of humour and ability to put himself at a distance for review and analysis makes his story a delineation of his comic vision. S. C. Harrex points out —

      “Narayan’s comic vision illuminates numerous weighty things; the place of woman in a traditional society”

Q. 9. Write a short note on the importance of Malgudi in the novels of R. K. Narayan.

      Ans. R. K. Narayan has been recognised as a regional novelist and Malgudi is Narayan’s only locale. Like the Wessex of Hardy, Narayan’s Malgudi has its own distinct individuality. It occurs and reoccurs in Narayan’s novels and short stories. A critic comments in this respect, “Malgudi is Narayan’s casterbridge, but the inhabitants of Malgudi — although they may have their recognizable local trappings — are essentially human, and hence, have their kinship with all humanity. In this sense Malgudi is everywhere.” Malgudi is a symbol of the transitional Indian shedding the age old traditions and accepting the modern Western civilization. It is thus a bridge between the East and the West, the ancient and the modern. The extension towns with their cross roads and trim houses are also referred to in Narayan’s novels. We come across the Extensions such as Lawley Extension, named after Sir Frederick Lawley. From the novels we come to know that Malgudi has a municipality, a Town Hall, a club and two schools. Modern life of Malgudi is hinted by references to cars. There are also references to tea—estates on Memphi Hills. Narayan loves its people, and portrays in his novels not only the men and their manners but also the spirit, and inner essence of its people.

Q. 10. Write a short note on Narayan’s symbolism.

      Ans. R. K. Narayan is happy with the ivory inch on which he works. His range is limited like that of Jane Austen. The extraordinary changes in the life of his characters are symbolic of the sudden interference of Fate in human life. Most of his symbolism centres round Malgudi which is a microcosm of India. That is why in each novel a different section of Malgudi is portrayed. The last lesson of a novel of Narayan is that man, is ordinary. His symbolism centres round the concept that man in this universe is punny and insignificant creature. Fast means indifference to food which is a symbol of material and mundane things. Therefore in The Guide Raju decides to go on fast thoroughly convinced of its need and sanctity, he becomes a Mahatma. Indian life is symbolised through different ways. In The Vendor of Sweets the clash between the father and the son symbolises the cultural clash between the East and the West and is presented through Charakha and type writer. Malgudi is a symbol of the transitional India shedding the age old traditions and accepting the modern Western civilization. In The Guide the Memphi hills and the Sarayu symbolize the continuity of the universe and definiteness of fate. Being a true Indian novelist, Narayan has used the symbols like temple, river, village, cars, snakes and dance to present and authentic picture of Indian life.

Q. 11. Write a short note on the prose style of R. K. Narayan.

      Ans. When compared to the language of other Indo-Anglian novelists like Mulk Raj Anand, Kamala Markanday, Raja Rao, the language of R. K. Narayan is watery and unmetaphorical. His language has very little ornamentation and it is suitable to the purpose and occasion. Suitability and adaptability, flexibility and aptness are the hall mark of his language. Other main features of Narayan’s English are simplicity, straight-forwardness, brevity and propriety. Although impact of journalism is there on his English, yet it is not journalistic. It has a different colour altogether. For the communication of Indian sensibility, Narayan’s language is most suited. He is not interested in politics, or socio — economic 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. He uses a language fit for his characters. Many of his heroes and heroines are common men and women and he uses a language appropriate to their standard. Indeed R. K. Narayan shows a particular prose style which has its own characteristics.

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