Structure and Narrative Technique of The Novel The Guide

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1. A Masterly Structure

      The Guide has a masterly technical structure. The novel is divided into two parts: the first half narrates Raju’s childhood and his affair with Rosie till he landed in jail and the latter half depicts Raju’s growth into a Swami after his release from the jail and his eventual death. Both the sections are presented simultaneously. Raju narrates the first part and the novelist, R.K. Narayan narrates the second part. Raju is seen narrating his story without any questioning and disturbances. The novel is divided into eleven sections or chapters. The first chapter is very effective as it sets the mood of the novel and suggests the immensity of Raju’s involvement in Rosie-Marco affairs. Raju’s life-long customers became his life-long obsessions.

2. Narration Made Interesting with Humour and Wit

      The novelist has made his narrative technique and structure more powerful by his sense of humour and wit in the novel The Guide. The protagonist every time starts from just an ordinary level but through a simple contact with some other person he launches on a glorious career, or if already on the peak of success he rolls back to the original status. In The Financial Expert it is Margayya’s accidental contact with Dr. Lal, in Mr. Sampath it is the meeting of Sampath with the heroine and in The Guide it is Raju’s contact with Rosie that is responsible for the rise and fall of main figure.

3. Integration of Two Time Schemes: the Past and the Present

      The Guide is structurally more complex for integrating two time schemes. These two time-schemes alternate sharp intervals to clear Raju’s inner confusion and to heighten the irony of his fate. In one narrative with increasing involvement and gusto paints him as a criminal, the other depicts the gradual deepening of his saintly aura.

4. Raju’s Story of Life, Symbolic of Common Man’s

      Journey from Ignorance to Knowledge
The novel moves from Raju’s childhood to his death. This symbolises the journey of a common man from ignorance to knowledge, from selfish love to altruism, from materialistic involvement to spiritual detachment, and from vanity to modesty. The story of the hero’s life in the novel moves in time and space, but it also completes the circle of life from childhood to youth and death. The novelist tries to show a moment! reedom from rare in childhood, a moment’s experience of physical love soul with the oversoul. The novelist tries to show an ordinary man becoming an extraordinary man, a saviour, a martyr who sacrifices himself for the sake of humanity.

5. Cinematic Technique

      “The narratives of Raju and Narayan do not cut through each other nor is there any definite plan about the shifting of the scenes of one narrative or the other. With the help of snapshots taken in time, the novelist has created the impression of continuity of the narrative and the continuity of life. This cinematic or photographic technique has made the novel compact and provided the readers with juxtaposed parallel scenes to highlight the irony of life; like the deft fingers of a puppet show-master, Narayan’s pen also moves with a definiteness of purpose and confidence of creating impact. The story of Raju’s life is told from double perspective; one of Raju and the other of the novelist although the style of Raju is not much, different from the novelist’s. The narrative while shifting back and forth to creative illusion of depth sharply divides the two selves of Raju, the average and the extraordinary. The simultaneity of multiple states consciousness accentuates the friction between the two selves of Raju. Probably any other technique would have proved inadequate to depict the predicament of the average who had to play the role of an extraordinary creature also, who knew fully well and was unable to forget that he was essentially ‘just ordinary’.

6. Use of Stylistic Devices

      The novelist has used other structural devices too. There are stylistic devices. He does not reveal the sexual affairs of Raju and Rosie threadbare. It is by mere suggestive and evocative devices that he conveys the whole happening. For example, Raju says that he had returned nearly at midnight and despite. Rosie’s feeble goodnight he had ‘gently pushed her out of the way and stepped in and locked the door on the world’. The selection of the facts, the intensity of the dramatic situations, the romantic set of characters are a few ingredients that make the structure of the novel strong.

7. The Novel has a Beginning, a Middle and an End

      The novel has an exposition, a middle and an end. The technique of the narration is unique. The novel begins with the present event and after a while it switches over to the past, the background life of the hero. The current is in the flux of the present event, and the past tends to pave the background building of the personality of the hero. Partly the novelist makes the novel a kind of fictional biography. The theme has been romanticised by the novelist but the span of romance is of a short duration. The suffering of the hero commences from his coming into contact with the heroine. The present event with which the novelist is concerned in the beginning of the exposition is just a prelude to the tragedy, mild of course, of the second big event of the life of the hero. The past and the present do not fuse with each other, they remain separate; they are responsible for two types of tragedies in the life of Raju. The novel begins with the holy man’s phase of the life of the hero and also ends with it. The middle is packed up with the life of Raju and Rosie and their sailing on the ocean of society. The hero gets wrecked by his own fault, the over commercialisation as well as the tainted motive in the act of forgery. The technique of the novelist tends to shift the present properly after the past has exhausted itself. Then it comes to settle finally and lasts till the rams fall on the hills as announced by the hero at the end of the novel.

      The exposition of the novel serves to mix the present with the past. It is very brief and inadequate. It only touches upon Marco and Rosie. It is without much action but has more of description. It covers only the worshipping trend of the villagers and the background life of the hero.

      The middle of the novel is compact. It starts from the point when Rosie descends on the platform with the husband and enquires about the King Cobra from the hero as a railway guide. The middle runs, thus, from Rosie’s arrival to Malgudi station to Raju’s imprisonment. It ends on the point when the hero, an ex-convict is thought to be a holy man by Velan. It is in the middle of the novel that the fissures are created between the affectionate tie of son and mother. The relations like the maternal uncle of Raju get severed due to the presence of the dancing girl in the house. The end of the novel is gradual and well thought of. The rains fall, but the hero is put into the mysterious condition. Nobody knows if he dies or not. He perhaps becomes a martyr. It is in the last portion of the novel that the novelist has tried to conclude two threads of the story. On the one hand it is the death of trust in love between the hero and the heroine due to the hero’s jealousy with Marco (it is the moral tragedy). On the other side the hero becomes covetous so much so that he does not hesitate in forging the document. This is the tragedy of a social character. The novel ends on the note: “It was difficult to hold Raju on his feet, as he had a tendency to flop down”. The misery of the hero has been caused in the fact of moral aberration.

8. A Drama in Three Acts

      The whole novel can be viewed as drama in three acts: Raju’s love for Rosie, his jail-life, and eventual reward for his qualities. His death was not punishment of the villain; it was a death of a martyr.

9. Rosie as a Narrator

      As the protagonist, Raju is the narrator of the part of the story of his life, Rosie also is a narrator of her own experience with Marco from the time Raju left her with Marco in the cave to the time she came to stay with Raju. While narrating this part of the story Raju allowed Rosie to speak for herself in the same way as Narayan had allowed Raju to narrate the first part of his life that ended with his lock-up.

10. Role of Fate

      Fat also plays an important role in the development of the novel. The hero is the puppet in the hands of fate. He is fated to be lost because he deviates from the morals. First he grabs the wife of another person, and then he grabs the money. The first misdeed unsettles him socially, and the second forces him into imprisonment. Fate acts through the misdeeds of the hero. His predicament as a Swami is also a wonder of Fate.

11. Structural Lapses

      The novel is not free from structural lapses. For example, there are no characters to comment upon or question the propriety or correctness of the narrator’s views or attitudes. Raju is as credulous and all-too-eager to believe Rosie’s story as Velan was to disregard completely what Raju had said. Total narration aims at arousing pity. What is incredible in the whole story (first phase) is that it assumes that Raju’s narrative was over in one night. Another important lapse is that Raju is shown as narrating the whole story ‘without a single omission from his birth to his emergence from the gates of the prison’ when he had been already on fast for four days and was frustrated and broken down. Except these minor lapses, the structure of the novel is well planned to suit its theme. From the structure and technique point of view, however, The Guide, is a mediocre novel.

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