– Stories From Many Cultures Essay, Research Paper
Compare and contrast the two stories by R.K. Narayan. Which story do you prefer and why?
In all the stories and authors featured in "Global Tales", R.K. Narayan is the most respected and well-known author. From the short description of him at the end of the book, he created a space for himself called "Malgudi" and developed his own characters, like a puppet master making his own puppets from cloth and giving them life when he does the show. His stories are universal, probably because the themes and characters of the stories are easy to identify with. He should be ninety-seven this year (year 2000). From what I know, his other books include " Malgudi Days", where " An Astrologer?s Day" is taken from.
Narayan is a very observant man, sharp and sarcastic at the same time. His sarcasm become humour and it is not very obvious sometimes. We have to read between the lines to catch the joke. He is very descriptive in his writing and his world comes alive with the mood through the informative and colourful description, the characteristics and the internal thinkings of the characters, the suspense and the dialogues used. I especially admire the way he brings the story to a close, not too dramatic, yet satisfactory. Some writers often leave an unfinished ending where it is up to the reader to decide, treating this as their style and adding a sense of mystery to the story. However, these are sometimes the most horrible kind of ending, not only irritating, but also annoying. The ending is the element that wraps up the whole story, yet the writer left it out, like a jigsaw piece went missing. It is not a complete piece of writing. Lastly, I find R.K. Narayan to be naughty at times, from the way he phrased his sentence, and the sarcasm, but we like it.
In " An Astrologer?s Day", an astrologer meets a stranger and tells his fortune. Surprisingly, the "fake" astrologer managed to tell what was true for the stranger. Then, it is only when the astrologer reveals his secret, did we know how his "magic" worked.
We are brought into the world of the streets of India where there is little lighting but "a bewildering cris-cross of light rays and moving shadows". The in-depth description gives us the setting, which can be seen in our minds. Not only using the sense of sight and sound, Narayan also gives us the face of the astrologer with a forehead "resplendent with sacred ash and vermilion", having eyes that " sparkled with a sharp abnormal gleam" and a "painted forehead" and "dark whiskers", topping it off with a "saffron-coloured turban". The ?colourful? astrologer contrasts with its semi-dark surroundings, attracting the customers like "bees are attracted to cosmos or dahlia stalks". We should not only focus on plot, we should also focus on the setting too.
On the other hand, the introduction to "Crime and Punishment" did not have the variety of colours as seen in "An Astrologer?s Day". "Crime and Punishment", a story about an impatient teacher who slapped his student on impulse, then was exploited by the child, resulting in an unexpected ending later.
In "Crime and Punishment", we do not get a detailed description, only a brief description about the boy as " all dimples, smiles and sweetness—-only wings lacking". The nursery is mentioned but not in detail as compared to "An Astrologer?s Day". "Crime and Punishment" focus more on character, in contrast to the focus on setting in "An Astrologer?s Day".
The moods are different in these two stories. In " An Astrologer?s Day", it is ?heavy? with mystery and amazement while in "Crime and Punishment"; it is more relaxing and light. On similarities, humour and language of the two are evident.
For style, R.K. Narayan used humour and old language to bring out the unique element of the story. The story is mostly sarcastic and subtle, sometimes added with a pinch of irony, like "when he told the person before him, ? In many ways, you are not getting the fullest results of your efforts,? nine out of ten were disposed to agree with him. Or he gave an analysis of character: ?Most of your troubles are due to your nature. How can you be otherwise with Saturn where he is? You have an impetuous nature and a rough exterior. This endeared him to their hearts immediately, for even the mildest of us loves to think that he has a forbidding exterior". Narayan is mocking at people?s naivety and stupidity, especially the fortune about Saturn, as it is nothing but rubbish. In " Crime and Punishment", the boy is described to be "a little angel, all dimples, smiles and sweetness—only wings lacking", which is very sarcastic as the boy is not a little angel but a boy who blackmailed his teacher.
The old language that Narayan used sometimes makes the readers confused. Words like "contrariness", "wholesome (slap)" and "dull desperation" are not commonly used in modern stories. This can be quite difficult, as we are not used to the language.
Despite its similarities and differences, they are two stories which readers will enjoy. The plot, climax and the role reversal are important elements of the stories. Role reversal is an interesting element as one character becomes another, their actions are different from their usual selves, giving the readers a good laugh and add on to the irony of the story. Most of the characters have no names, thus it can be any teacher or boy, making Narayan?s stories universal and popular. Another special element is that we pick up clues along the way, like how the astrologer came to know of Guru Nayak?s past and why the boy is not a little angel or a healthy citizen as thought by the parents. In all, both are unique in their own way and its endings are memorable.
Choosing between the two, I prefer "An Astrologer?s Day" due to its exciting plot, building up climax and the clues along the story. The plot is like a jigsaw puzzle, giving us pieces of ?jigsaws? (clues) like the astrologer "had left his village without any previous thought or plan" and "caught a glimpse of his face (stranger) by the match light". They all seemed to refer to the astrologer?s past and his looking at the stranger, all so normal and not so obvious. This adds to the excitement of deciphering and reading between the lines. I especially admire the astrologer?s intelligence and sharpness for his "working analysis of mankind?s troubles" and his "matter of study, practice and shrewd guess work" as he was not only calm in hiding his initial panic when seeing the person he killed years ago to be alive, he managed to use his wits to con Guru Nayak of his money using the advantage that Guru Nayak does not recognize him due to the lack of lighting and the astrologer?s ?make-up?. This is the irony: Guru Nayak is paying money to the enemy he is looking for when he is supposed to take revenge by beating him to a pulp.
By picking up clues along the way, it builds up the curiosity and climax of the story. This element is not easily found in "Crime and Punishment". This, thus, keeps us in suspense and excitement.
There is also an elaborate description of the place and the astrologer to give us the picture of the setting in our mind. This is not easy as not every story/writer is capable of, yet the details made us feel as if we are looking and following the story at the astrologer?s stall, like watching a movie.
The author skillfully ?misleads? us to ?believe? that the astrologer?s action of killing the man to be justified calling the astrologer "our friend" and describing the stranger to be grumpy ("grumbled some vague reply), rude ("you call yourself an astrologer?") and violent ("Answer this and go. Otherwise I will not let you go till you disgorge all your coins"), making the astrologer look like the good guy and the stranger to be the big bad wolf. However, the astrologer?s action of murder cannot be justified or taken lightly as he nearly killed a man, it is only natural for the victim to seek revenge as he was left for dead. Murder is murder, committing murder when drunk is still a crime, thus I detest the astrologer for being a coward, running away and ?killing? the man. However, I believe the astrologer had been regretful and guilty for ?killing? the man ("Do you know a great load is gone from me today?"), thus I sympathesized and pitied the astrologer for this.
Using the clues, I did some guess-work and was not surprised by the astrologer?s revelation, but what surprised me is the irony that the man had cheated the astrologer by giving less annas while the astrologer cheated Guru Nayak by telling him that his enemy "was crushed under a lorry" and to "never travel southward again". Both of them resorted to cheating, a common characteristic, probably the reason why both had a bad quarrel while gambling.