Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Picture of the Indian Society in R. K. Narayan’s in the Guide

The daily life of the Indians, the traditions of the land and indeed the superstitions and values of India gain a form in the remarkable novel “The Guide”. R.K.Narayan quite consciously in his novel “The Guide” echoes the more and tradition of the Indian society amidst his literal symbolism. R.K.Narayan’s chief concern is to give an artistic expression of Indian life. Though his art form is western, his theme, atmosphere, situations and scenes are truly Indian.


Narayan’s India is symbolized by Malgudi. Malgudi, of course, does not exist. It an imaginary landscape inhabited by the unique characters of his stories. It is an average town with swamis, beggars, postmen, shopkeepers, spongers etc. Narayan creates his fictional world of Malgudi as an essentially Indian society or town. Gradually it grows like any other town and becomes a city of tourists, a centre of attraction for scholars of ancient Indian culture and even Americans who see the future of India in its growth. The Indian ness and Indian sensibility pervaded the whole place. Narayan's Malgudi is also a microcosm of India. It grows and develops and expands and changes, and is full of humanity.

Two Locales

In The Guide there are two locales, namely-Malgudi and Mangala. Though Mangla is the actual setting, Malgudi is a part of recollection and consciousness. The hero is common to both the locales. Like all other heroes of R.K.Narayan, the hero of The Guide has a longer consciousness and involved with bigger concerns of life.

The Village School

Narayan gives a vivid and faithful picture of a village school. The “pyol” school, with its respected but not well paid teachers; the school master sitting on a cushion with classes going on simultaneously, the routine of school- boys shouting and getting caned; the foul-mouthed teacher who abuses instead of including good manners; the co-operative effort of the parents in catering to the needs of the schoolmaster- all these are typically Indian and represent a typical village school.

Religious Beliefs- Swami

The Guide also depicts Indian religious beliefs, superstitions and philosophy. The blind faith of the Indian masses in sadhus and religious men is depicted in their acceptance of Raju as a swami. However, unlike most swamis, Raju is forced into this role due to circumstances and he has a true discipline (Velan) instead of the usual fake accomplices. The blind faith of Indians who worship swamis’s and give offerings to them is depicted very realistically. The drought and their response to it, is authentically Indian-they make offerings and wait for a muscle man to foot and bring rain. The reaction to the fast, too, is characteristic- they are glad and they make use of the opportunity for “party”, make money and make merry.


The sacrifice of life for social and spiritual good, an ideal of Indian philosophy, is portrayed through all this. Selfishness gives way to altruism and sacrifice: Raju, epitomizes this Indian belief he moves from skepticism to idealism, he changes his psyche and from a criminal he becomes as a altruistic swami with true feelings for those who have fed him. Raju spends his days muttering prayers as a result of his indubitable liberation from his ego, and it is revealed by his words-“I am only doing what I have to do; that is all. My likes and dislikes do not count”. Thus, he sacrifices his life for the well being of the villagers.

Traditional Morality

The Guide also portrays other Indian beliefs. The Indian philosophy is that any deviation from tradition creates disorder and unhappiness. Happiness can only be restored by conforming to traditional views, is well illustrated in the novel. Raju, too deviates from traditional morality by seducing Marco’s wife. When Rosie comes to live in the house, she brings disorder in his life and he is ultimately jailed. However, by becoming a sadhu and accepting the traditional belief in sacrifice, self-discipline and purification, he brings harmony and order to his spiritual life. He has a spiritual rebirth because he confirms to traditional belief.

Indian Culture

In all this Narayan’s character like Raju, Marco and Rosie are deeply rooted in Indian culture-Rosie, a “devdasis” daughter stands for traditional Indian culture; Marco embodies modern man appreciating the Indian heritage, Raju’s death and faith stand for man’s faith in Indian tradition. The temple and rural poverty widen his perspective in contrast with his urban life with Rosie and he gains spiritual faith and peace. Indian faith and tradition are ultimately triumphant in spite of modernization.


Family relationships being a part of Indian tradition the main theme of family, too, is characteristically Indian. Narayan gives a graphic description of Raju’s family and inter-family relationships. His relationship with his father and mother is expressed vividly. The theme of family relationship is also depicted with reference to Velan who has the responsibility of marrying off his sister.


Another Indian trait which is depicted is hospitality. Indian’s being extremely hospitable. Raju and his mother look after Rosie. His mother asks no question at first. In the same way Velan and the villagers arrange for the meals of the swami, without asking any question.

Narayan also gives a realistic picture of the plight of Indian villagers.

Indian Scenes and Situations

In fact, at each and every step, we come across Indian scenes and situations. The mother and son’s argument over marriage, the material uncle’s endeavor to bring Raju to the senses, the establishment of Raju as a fake swami, the fascination of tourists for king Cobra’s dance, the renovation of the temple, chanting of holy text,lighting of the lamp at the temple, the “mela” like atmosphere while Raju is fasting-are all typically Indian.

Narayan also gives a realistic picture of the plight of Indian villagers. He authentically portrays the problems of a country dependent on agriculture and monsoons. Drought leads to the inevitable femine, dying cattle, lack of water, hoarding by merchants, riots, penance, pujas, and sacrifices to appease the ran-God. This faith in swamis at the time of drought and the consequent fasting by Raju is typically Indian. The gloomy picture, as usual, only attracts the attention of the government, tourists and journalist but the problem of the villagers remains unattended. The activity which occurs due to the drought is an authentic portrayal of India.

Narayan, in his authentic portrayal of India, uphold the traditional Hindu world-view. By juxtaposing several symbolic elements Narayan represents the religious and philosophical beliefs based on the great Indian epics, legends, folk and tales. It affirms values of Indian traditional life and undeniably confers on the novel its artistic uniqueness.