R.K. Narayan’s Moral Visions: Special References to The Guide, The Financial Expert and A Tiger for MalgudiAbstract
This paper will present the moral visions that are included in RK Narayan’s novel. R.K Narayan’s novels are based on the conflicts of human interest. His writings are simple but the plots are complex which represents the present society. Narayan’s most of the characters represents the inner conflicts of human nature and his protagonists fall into the ultimate tragedy because of their greed. This renowned novelist uses religious references like, Dharma and Karma to point out the moral visions. This current study will focus on Narayan’s three famous novel The Guide and The Financial Expert. My paper will shed the light on the moral visions and the clashes between traditional and modernity in R.K Narayan’s novels.
Sharma and Kumar’s (2006) article entitled RK Narayan’s Novels: A Mix of Myth and Reality states that the novels of RK Narayan are a mix of myth and reality. Narayan’s fictional setting Malgudi symbolizes India. Malgudi represents the Indian reality covered by customs and traditions, which helps human to shape their identity. The world in Narayan’s novels are the mirror of the real world and shows our psychic awareness and social experiences. This study has also showed how the themes of Narayan’s novels are connecting the Hindu Myths and Indian social reality. Narayan uses mythologies to express his moral point view. RK Narayan creates some social-cultural changes in his novels. Yet Narayan is very well aware of that these changes will create conflicts between tradition and modernity, and also this conflict will be the reason of human’s lack of morality.
Another article entitled The Existentialism in R.K Narayan done by Rani (2013) states that Narayan presents a slice of life in his novels. Narayan did not directly point out the moral visions of his characters but they are incidentally a part of his art of his story telling. She has discussed about existentialism in RK Narayan’s The Guide. Philosophy, moral, ethics, Hindu myth and tradition pervades in his writings. He mentioned an important term Moksha in this novel. The Guide is a story of Raju’s journey through life. In this article Rani presented that Narayan used Life is like a teacher for RK Narayan. He used our everyday materialistic problems in his novels to represents the ethics and moral visions of human life.
Singh (1981) discussed about R.K Narayan’s basic attitude towards his works in his article subtitled as A Note on the World-View of RK Narayan. The purpose of this study is to represent “the relevance and meaning of our past in relation to the present” in R.K Narayan’s work. Narayan’s creation “Malgudi” represents the naturalism of living. Malgudi reflects the physical, intellectual and spiritual qualities of Indian culture. Tales of Malgudi are full of humor and irony His protagonists go through dishonest manipulations and corruption to improve their status. Narayan cleverly presents customs, religion, and hierarchical social structure through his protagonists. Narayan uses religious terms like Moksha or Karma to reveal the “status quo” and a slight of social change.
Bery’s (1997) article subtitled Changing the Script”: RK Narayan and Hinduism states R.K Narayan as a Hindu traditionalist. His works presents the Hindu world-views and identities. Bery argues that Narayan’s work does not simply presents Hinduism but they identify tensions within it. Bery focused on Narayan’s two famous novel named The Man Eater and a Tiger for Malgudi to prove his arguments. There are numbers of crucial concepts of Hinduism like- Karma, Dharma, Moksha and Maya are mentioned in these novels. It’ll be impossible to understand these two novels without religious references like Dharma and Karma.
Cynthia Vanden Drisen’s article entitled From Rogue to Redeemer: R.K Narayan’s The Guide states Narayan’s The Guide is a great example of his talent but it has received a bit attention in Western literary journals. This novel presents the story of a spiritual transformation. The protagonist of this novel named as Raju presents the theme of self-denial in order to find his spiritual peace. Raju is one of a complex character, who does not have any fix personality and his personality seems to change according to his circumstances. His character is related to Indian landscape. It represents Narayan’s success as a novelist.
Christy’s (2015) article entitled The Concept of Indianness in RK Narayan’s The Guide focused on the Indian manners and customs that have been represented in R.K Narayan’s novel The Guide. The changes of modernity over India has represented through the help pf Narayan’s fictional town Malgudi. The busy Malgudi railway station symbolizes the upcoming new culture and tradition. The social and political condition has an influence on Indian culture and tradition.
Another article by Venkatachari (1970) entitled RK Narayan’s Novels: Acceptance of Life states that Narayan’s novel brings out the texture of common experiences in everyday life. His novel The Financial Expert’s Margayya believes that money is the measure of everything but at the end he realized about his real situation and wanted a life that is free from all the distracting illusions. Narayn’s fictional world Malgudi has a moral which is appealing because of his gentle irony.
An article by Kumar ; Rani (2016) entitled Traditional Approach in the Novels of R.K. Narayan: A Critical Study states that Narayan’s fiction focuses on Indian philosophy. Hindu myths, tradition, east-west theme, Gandhian concept, struggle of an individual. Critics states that Narayan’s protagonists go through a series of frustration to gain their need and end up in an isolation. Narayan potrays that tradition dominated and overpowers modernity. This great novelist focused on Dharma and karma to pursue the spiritual quest of his characters.
Traditionalist Narayan uses so many religious terms in his novels. He uses Hindu concepts like Dharma, Karma, Moksha and many more. The reason for using these religious term is to indicate the social realities and moral visions. These concepts have deeper meaning in our life. The Guide’s protagonist, Raju guides himself throughout the whole novel. He presents the growth of the soul and a complex process of a transformation. The ups and downs that happened in Raju, Rosie and Marco’s life, is the result of their actions- Karma. The conflict of tradition and modernity has seen in this novel. Its influence is evident in the characters of this novel.
This novel is a bildungsroman of Raju. The whole novel presents Raju’s life and his spiritual growth. Raju violates his Dharma in many ways. In the novel, Raju was not happy with his job as a shopkeeper. To him that business was just to provide supply to the customer. He wanted to have a different life from his father. Raju then started working as a tourist guide. He wanted to be his own guide and did not wanted to rely on his father’s business and the dharma of caste to guide him (Rothfork 1983). Then he meets Rosie, a married woman and gets into an intimate relationship with her. Here, Raju is going against his tradition and custom just to live with the woman of he loves. Going against his dharma will bring an ultimate tragedy in his life and that will be his Karma.
Dharma is the cosmic norms and rules described our religion.one must have to live according to the dharma to achieve the good karma. At one point in the novel Raju becomes the dance manager of Rosie, now known as Nalini. Raju was so proud of himself because he feels that Nalini became a successful dancer because he helped her. Soon he started to feel superior to everyone. Then out of his greed for more money he forges Rosie’s signature to obtain her ancestral jewelry.
“She was doing her fifth item- a snake dance, unusually enough. I liked to watch it…. She fanned out her fingers slowly, and the yellow spotlight, playing on her white upturned palms, gave them the appearance of a cobra hood … …the music became slower and slower , the refrain urged the snake to dance …. This was a song that elevated the serpent and brought out its mystic quality; the rhythm was hypnotic.” (Guide. 226)
Rosie is introduced to the reader as a snake woman from the beginning of this novel. Her snake dance was Raju’s favorite. Her dance was so hypnotic and Raju initially fell in love with her. He rejected his western identity and tradition for this dance. But, in the end what this snake dance has done to him? He forged Rosie’s signature to get her jewelry and losses all his moral sense. He finally got struck by the snake and was imprisoned in jail for two years (Rothfork-19983). This snake was his Karma that struck him for going against his Dharma and ethical moral senses.
One of the most important religious concept has been introduced in this novel, which is Moksha. It means Mukti or Liberation. Hindu philosophy considers three stages of life. These are: committing sin, repenting and attaining self-realization. Raju goes through all the stages in this novel (Makodia 2010). The first stage Raju goes against his caste and rejected ethical morality and then get imprisoned in jail for forging someone else’s sign. Second stage is in the prison he repents for what he has done. He became a “model prisoner” in the jail and loved to stay there. The last stage, where he attains self-realization in prison. Prison became a self-realization center for Raju. He is now aware of the social illusions and the abstract realities of life. He again successfully attains his lost moral senses.
The railway station brought the outside world and brought the modernity in a traditional village, Malgudi. Raju had his own shop but then he had the urge to learn new things. He had learnt so many things from books. He has always denied the traditional values and wanted to explore more by becoming the “Railway Raju”. He became more and more successful and at point he was totally corrupted by the greed of money. All his moral senses were swallowed by his ego and greed. Raju’s materialistic way of living have brought tragedy upon him.
Rosie have a master’s degree in Economics and yet she is a traditional wife who is so devoted to her husband. Her husband Marco was so involved in his studies and archeological activities. Rosie slowly becomes another person and developed a new identity with the help of Raju. At first, she was too devoted to her husband then Raju came to her life and made her realize what she can do. Her dream was always to be a dancer and she made her dream come true with Raju’s help. She left her husband and went to Raju’s house. Raju’s traditional mother was surprised to see Rosie. “Girls today1 how courageous you are!” -that’s what Raju’s mother have said after seeing Rosie. Raju’s mother as a traditional Hindu woman thinks so many times before going in a public place. So, western influences are clear in Rosie’s behavior. In the end, Rosie became and independent woman. She has successfully become a modern independent woman with her traditional dancing skills.
In the Guide Narayan presents the whole Indian society, customs, culture, religious concepts and the incidents that happens because of tradition and modernity. The end of novel is so different. Finally, Raju realized what he has done was wrong. Accidental swami finally acts like a real swami.
The Financial Expert
The famous South Indian writer R.K Narayan have shown the impact of western industrialization and modernity in his sixth novel The Financial Expert. The protagonist of this novel is Margayya works as a middle man. He helps poor people to get loans from the Central Co-operative Land Mortgage Bank of Malgudi. He even gets paid by those clients. This novel illustrates his quest to be successful in society.
John Thieme (2010) states in his book that Margayya comes from a less respectable background. He lives in Vinayak Mudali Street which is a far less prestigious than Kabir street aristocracy. He also says that Narayan creates a “tension between a local South Indian version of capitalist modernity and more traditional Hindu attitudes to money”. Margayya is Narayan’s one of the most complex character who assimilate ancient and modern values.
Margayaa goes through in a modern man crisis. Modern man is all about getting more money and power to be successful in life. He supports traditional and modern values equally but he is “driven by the western materialistic wave of mammon worship” (Sarkar 2013). Central Co-operative Land Mortgage Bank of Malgudi plays a big role in this novel. Co-Operative banks are an important part of the Indian Economy. Leena Sarkar (2013) mentions in her article subtitled R.K Narayan’s The Financial Expert: The Conflict between Tradition and Modernity that, Mahatma Gandhi supported the idea of Central Co-operative banks because according to him it will create a socialistic society. Margayya was following Gandhi’s principle and helping out the people to get their loan from the bank. But right after getting into an argument with Arul Doss his vision got totally changed. He felt more aggressive than before. He said to his wife that, “its money which gives people all this. Money alone is important in this world. Everything else will come to us naturally if we have money in our purse” (The Financial Expert- 29) He started thinking that money is more important than anything else in this world.
R.K Narayan suggests a differentiation between old and new culture that develops after the western influence (Sarkar 2013). Margayya’s son Balu is represents the idea of modernism. Balu is Margayya’s one and only child. He pampers Balu a lot. Margayya wanted to earn more money for his son’s sake, so that his son can better education, clothes and all the luxury in life. Narayan portrayed Balu as a typical modern spoiled child, who lacks the ethical moral values. At one point in the novel Balu failed in his S.S.L.C exam and Margyya started shouting at him, “How am I hold my head in public? What will they think of me?” (The Financial Expert 161). In a reply Balu said, “Don’t talk nonsense father……. If you don’t like me send me out of the house (The Financial Expert 161)”. Margayya was so surprised to hear his son talking back to him. Nowadays most of the children talk back to their parents. In old days it was almost forbidden for children to go against their parent’s decision. Later Balu wanted to get married to the girl that he likes and ends up marrying her. Balu didn’t change after his marriage. He became an irresponsible father and husband. Dr. Pal is one who provoked Balu to go against his father and to ask for his father’s share. In the end, Balu brings the ultimate tragedy in Margayya’s life.
In the first chapter Margayya gets so intoxicated by money and went to priest to consult with him for finding a way of getting more money. He said to the priest: “A man with whom the Goddess of Wealth favours need not worry much he can buy all the knowledge he requires” (F.N 62). According to Margayya money have more importance than knowledge. The illusion of money has already swallowed all of his moral visions. The priest suggests him to perform a ritual for the goddess Lakshmi for forty days. Margayaa devotes himself to the goddess for forty days to become more success and wealthier in life. Before that, Margayya asked the priest about the ultimate result of preforming rites and in a reply Priest said, “It’s our duty to perform a Pooja; the result cannot be our concern. It’s Karma (F.N 42)”. An article entitled Moral Implications in R.K Narayan’s The financial Expert done by Dr. Umesh Patil states that, Margayya neglects his Karma. He was following his Karma very well in the beginning of the novel. He was helping poor peasants to get loan. Though it was for his self-interest but still he was helping them “from the harassment, corruption and time-consuming formalities of the bank clerks”. Later, his passion for wealth turns into the greed. He finds out the immoral ways to get more wealth. To gain for success to change his social identity he involves in Dr. Pal’s business of selling an obscene book named “Domestic Harmony”. Vipul Makodia (2010) states in his article that, Margayya is typical Indian who sails in two boats. His Indian mindset uphold the superiority and spirituality to materialism. One cannot put his feet in two boats, if he does he will fall in deep water. That is exactly what Margayya has done. Denies his caste and class and running behind money. Because of karma, he didn’t get any happiness by gaining more wealth. “Such wealth become a Pandora’s box” (Sarkar 2013)
The protagonist was once known as a “Financial Wizard” to the peasants and now, Margayya starts a new business as a money lender. What he has done both as a money lender and as an obscene book seller threatens the morality in Malgudi society. To retrieve Margayya’s moral senses, the evil inside him needs to be punished. Ironically his son Balu, whom he treasured so much punishes him and makes him penniless. Balu seeks his share of property from Margayya. After that Dr. Pal and Margayya get into a fight in front of Balu’s house. Dr. Pal went to police to make report and took Balu as a witness. Dr. Pal went to the people who gave their money to Margayya as a deposit and filled their ears with lies that Margayya doesn’t have any money and they should out their deposits as soon as possible. Balu knew everything that Dr. Pal was saying was nothing but lie still he didn’t say a word. Balu is another result of Margayya’s bad Karma. His child becomes his enemy at end. According to the Hindu belief, our past karma determines the present and the present Karma determines our future and all these things are determined by the almighty God.
At the end Margayya realizes what he has done was wrong. He worked like a machine to earn money for his family but he forgot that money is not the only thing that bring happiness in one’s life. Narayan shows Margayya to retrieve his faith in his caste, history, religion after facing the shock of a modern culture. Margayya decides to start a new life under the Banyan tree like before with his grey colored tin box.
A Tiger for Malgudi A Tiger for Malgudi is different from R.K Narayan’s other novels. This novel has deeper and philosophical meaning and presents that man is not God’s only creation. There are other beautiful creatures and plants in this universe, which are made by God. The narrator of this novel is a tiger named Raja. Narayan presented the Hindu philosophical perspectives towards life also presents materialistic view in a traditional society. Narayan has portrayed the Gandhian morality and conveys the message of non-violence and karma through Raja and his master.
The swami who have succeeded to calm Raja with love and changed him was once involved in Gandhi’s “Quit India” movement. He was involved in every kind of protest when he was young. Quit India movement was launched at the Bombay session of the All India Congress Committee by Mahatma Gandhi. This movement began to demand an end to the British rule in India. Narayan did not mention anything about Gandhi’s philosophy in this novel but the way swami talks about philosophy of life in this novel, it actually indicates to the Gandhian morality.
Ahimsa or Non-violence is one the term used by famous Indian activist Mahatma Gandhi. This term is originated from ancient India and mostly practiced in Hindu religion. Non-Violence means the code of conduct that bans on hunting, butcher and use of animals provided by any violent means. According to Gandhi non-violence is love and a moral approach that can be a reason to minimalize the conflicts. In A Tiger for Malgudi, the protagonist Raja first met with the swami in headmaster’s room. Raja ran away after killing his master by chance he goes into the school and went to headmaster’s room to get some sleep. The swami opened the door and entered in the room to tame Raja. Raja had about hit him but there was something mystical in swami’s eyes that he could not hit him them the swami said, “Every creature is born with a potential store of violence…. But violence cannot be everlasting. Sooner or later it has to go, if not through wisdom, definitely through decrepitude…whether one wants it or not…. You cannot continue your ferocity forever. You have to change.” (A Tiger for Malgudi 127,128) Swami was taming Raja with love and explaining to him about the significance of non-violence in life. Narayan have successfully portrayed Gandhian characteristics in the Swami. Raja accepts the Gandhian way of life under the guidance of his Master.
According to John Thieme mentioned in his book R.K Narayan Contemporary World Writers that, the sadhu, who appeared in Raja’s life, “have entered the fourth asrama and in effecting a transformation in Raja’s tiger identity is initiating him into a similar state” (155). He progresses toward the spiritual ideals of the sannyasa with his master’s help. Raju gains so much knowledge under guidance of the swami. Man, and animal both needs a guru to attain the liberation from samsara. Raja’s going to the zoo symbolizes the Reincarnation as punarjanma. Raju, after his transformation in the zoo said that “Nowadays, I went into the jungle and stalked the littlest game, just sufficient enough to satisfy my hunger of the moment and not my gluttony. And then I didn’t go into the forest again for several days…. I suffered hunger for consecutive days before seeking food again, but felt nobler for it”