Raju: Character Analysis in The Novel The Guide

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His Early Life

      Raju born and brought up in a lower middle class family, in a neglected corner of Malgudi, he had learnt everything from life. His education had been irregular and desultory. All his knowledge had come from life, and from scraps of newspapers and magazines and old books which were brought to him for sale. He was quite ordinary; his father had condemned him in early childhood as ‘clay-headed’ and his mother used to call him even after his success with Rosie an ‘unmitigated loafer’. Yet he was quite skilled in understanding human nature. The moment he saw Marco and Rosie alighting from the train, he knew that they were his life-long customers.

Successful as a Worldly Man

      Raju was successful in the worldly sense of the term. Though he went to jail for a brief period because of his excessive greed and possessiveness and jealousy, on the whole he was a practically wise and successful man. As a guide and a manager of stage he was quite successful.

      He knew his customers by their faces, showed them places of their interest as a tourist guide; knew all places where exactly a particular thing could be obtained or what suited most at a particular moment whether closeted with ‘monster’ like Marco, or the ‘divine creature’ Rosie, or the ignorant villagers of Mangala. He was always ready with the answer that would suit the occasion or the person. He was filled with self-confidence coupled with a delightful nature.

As a Passive Hero

      His first role as the owner of the sweetmeat stall on the Railway platform is not so impressive as his second one as a full-fledged guide. His third role as an entrepreneur also came upon him, like his other roles, quite by accident. He would have got over his disappointment with Rosie affair after his first attempt, had Rosie not appeared of her own in his life after abandoning her husband. He found himself acting as Rosie’s business manager and publicity agent without making any conscious plans about it. Rosie more or less willed him into accepting this role. Once cast in a particular part, it was Raju’s habit to perform it with relish and perfection, excelled as an impresario and manager. Thus Raju is a passive hero. Things happen to him.

      In the fourth stage of his career he happened to become a convict, and even that role he performed with enthusiasm, becoming, an ideal prisoner. He was taken into jail because of a voluntary act of forgery, this is the only act which does not happen to him but is the result of his own actions. Otherwise most of the things happen to him. He never does anything; things always happen to him. His illustrious career as a tourist guide also began very casually, almost as an accident. He himself does not want to be a holy man, but circumstances force him to adopt the path of a sadhu. He wants to tell the villagers of his shady past, of his stay in the jail, but he cannot. ‘It looked as though he would be hurting the other’s deepest sentiment if he so much as whispered the word’. Once he is accepted as a sadhu, Raju, who was in the habit of doing everything thoroughly well, pays attention to details like his appearance, his beard, his fluency in uttering mystifying statements. As in his earlier roles, he learns his trade while practising it.

      In his role as an impresario and manager, Raju picks up enough jargon about dancing to pass for a connoisseur of Bharat Natyam when actually his knowledge is of the relics around Malgudi. His usual ready wit helps him in his new role too. He soon learns, the essence of sainthood seems to lie in one’s ability to utter mystifying statements. In the words of Meenakshi Mukherjee, ‘Raju’s entire life is a series of improvisations. His quick adjustment to the part of sadhu falls in line with similar improvisations done throughout his life. Living for the moment and postponing the crisis indefinitely, these seem to be the principles that guide his action, and the five-rupee adjournment lawyer merely projects an aspect of Raju’s own personality. During the court case between Raju and the Sait, the businessman whom Raju has not paid for months, there are moments when Raju finds the whole business very tiresome, and refuses to think about it. “By not talking about money, I felt, I had dismissed the subject.” This hints at his habitual refusal to look beyond the present moment.

A Materialist

      Raju is a materialist and a man of surface emotions. His craving for the riches through the performances of Rosie is the natural reaction of the low economic life of a low middle class in which he gets nurtured. His sense of humour is almost negligible. Like anybody he is a creator of circumstances. He is a symbol of tradition in transition. Social responsibility is none of his concern. He is a rogue and a loafer. He symbolises the new culture. His conscience is dead, his passions are live. He suffers because of the consequences of his passions mainly. He acts rather than lives. He lives in falsehood and hypocrisy.

As a Lover

      At the same time his spontaneous love for all, his gay temperament and readiness to help people made him an admirable companion. He seldom expressed bitterness or indulged in violence. He avoided direct clashes with his uncle, with the railway authorities and with others. He was emotional, even sentimental. Marco did not care for Rosie’s sentiments or even physical comforts. On the contrary, Raju was every bit careful about Rosie’s whims, vagaries, sentiments, tastes and temperament. He was surprised to see Marco’s neglect of a beautiful creature of flesh and blood and his fondness for the caves and acrobatics. This genuine sympathy for Rosie developed into physical relationship and soon a time came when Raju’s interest in Rosie was reduced to carnal pleasures and material comforts. About his relationship with Rosie, one time he says: “The only reality in my life and consciousness was Rosie. All my mental powers were now turned to keep her within my reach, and keep her smiling all the time neither of which was at all easy. I would willingly have kept at her side all the time, as a sort of parasite, but in that it was not easy.”

      At heart Raju is a half-puritan. He says, “My knowledge of woman being poor and restricted to one, I could not decide, how to view her statements. I could not understand whether she was pretending, whether her present pose was pretence or whether her account of all her husband’s shortcomings was false, just to entice me. It was complex and obscure.” He was respectful towards women and was shy of his poor conditions.

A Kind-hearted Man

      Raju is a kind-hearted man. It is his kindness for Rosie that makes him her lover. It is his kindness for the villagers that makes him a forced Sadhu. He acts as a teacher or prisoner and helps the authorities to maintain discipline. His attitude is constructive. He is without malice and feeling of revenge. He himself did not snatch Rosie away from Marco; she herself came to him, and it was out of his good nature that he did not reject her. After his release from jail he has no feeling of revenge against Marco. To quote Meenakshi again, “In the story of Raju, what we have is the created object transcending its creator. The sainthood that Raju had created out of his deception ultimately transcends his control and obliterates his former self. The theme gains its strength through repetition, because earlier, in the Rosie episode, the same pattern has been established. Raju more or less created Nalini the dancer, and his motivation was not exactly an artistic passion for Bharat Natyam. But Nalini does not remain a doll in Raju’s hands. For her the dance is not a profession, a means of making money, but a cause, a devotion, and as Raju gets more deeply involved in the forgery case Nalini begins to lead an independent life of her own. Finally she goes out of Raju’s influence altogether to become an illustrious artist on her own strength and lead a fuller life devoted to her art.”

As an Ascetic

      Furthermore, as mentioned by Meenakshi Mukherjee, “The ideal of asceticism runs through Indo-Anglian fiction as a recurrent and compulsive motif. Even writers who are seemingly indifferent to the spiritual aspects of life have not been able to ignore it altogether because this is a pervasive cultural ideal in India. We have seen how sometimes a saint who figures in the novel is made to embody this difficult ideal. The ascetic however rarely becomes the central characters of a narrative. Usually he remains in the background, influencing the other characters and shaping the events. This influence can be either positive as in The Cat and Shakespeare or Possession or The Flames of the Forest, or destructive and negative as in the novels of Mulk Raj Anand where the hypocrisy of pseudo-spiritual men is presented in a spirit of righteous indignation. In some other novels the man in the saffron, robe is seen obviously as a charlatan in disguise, and writers like Desani and Nagarajan have in their different ways exploited the comic possibilities of the situation. Occasionally the role of the holy man appears complex and ambiguous as in A Silence of Desire where a guru is seen not only as a spiritual force, but also a person who satisfies certain social needs. There are at least two novels in which the study of the significance of the saffron robe is extended even further to include the psychological changes it brings about in the wearer. The Guide and He Who Rides a Tiger both deal with men whose holiness is only a convenient disguise, but in both these novels the men undergo such transformation that the fraud ceases to be a fraud. Narayan and Bhattacharya deal with this apparent theme in totally different ways. The ascetic in a saffron robe is ready-made symbol in Indian literature, and in their several uses of this symbol the novelists reveal a great deal of themselves and of their art.”

A Rogue wearing a Masque of a Sadhu

      Raju, the rogue is one of the most interesting characters in Indo-Anglian fiction. He invites obvious comparisons with the hero of Bhabani Bhattacharya’s He Who Rides a Tiger. Both deceive society by passing for a spiritual man, both are carried away by their deception until a point comes when it is difficult to undo the enormous lies. Though both wear a mask, one at the end throws away the mask and goes back where he began. The other finds it more and more difficult to tear off the mask until he finds that the mask has become his face. “In Bhattacharya’s book Kalo’s oi time the supporters and this realm reborn doll no mom be able get the is a deliberate act of revenge against society. Raju in The Guide, on the other hand, drifts into the role of a sadhu willy-nily, and once he finds himself cast in the role of an ascetic he attempts to perform the act with gusto, partly for the sake of self-preservation, and, partly because it suits his personality wonderfully.” (Meenakshi Mukherjee)


      Raju is in turn a railroad-station food vendor, a tourists’ guide, a sentimental adulterer, a dancing girl’s manager, a swindler, a jailbird and a martyred mystic.

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