The Guide : A Socio-Economic Discourse by R K Narayan

The Guide  A Socio-Economic Discours
From the book

The article examines the socio-economic problem of the novel The Guide by R.K.Narayan. The characters are situated against the backdrop of Post-Independence economic theories of India and analysed in the light of those theories. There is also a discussion of the impact of westernization and modernization and how the new culture, new ideologies, new trends, gradually transform the idyllic mindset of the protagonist, Raju. The article tries to extol human relationship, one of the essential characteristics of the novels of R.K.Narayan. Since the article deals with socio-economic discourse, it, therefore, critically analyses the text and the characters against the background of societal changes.
The Guide which won for Narayan huge accolades shows the novelist’s skill in placing the orient into focus for occidental eyes. In this novel Narayan depicts a comprehensive picture of human activities, the comic and the tragic, the silly and the serious, the ridiculous and the sublime. Here we witness the spectacular representations of an ordinary man who eventually becomes a Mahatma as he begins to identify himself with the world and takes the terrible decision of sacrificing his life for a noble cause. K.R.S. Iyengar rightly holds the view:
Speaking generally, Narayan’s is the art of resolved limitation and conscientious exploration; he is content, like Jane Austen, with a ‘little bit of ivory’, just so many inches wide: he would like to be a detached observer, to concentrate on a narrow scene, to sense the atmosphere of the place, to snap a small group of characters in their oddities and angularities: he would, if he could, explore the inner countries of the mind, heart and soul, catch the uniqueness in the ordinary, the tragic in the prosaic.(360)
So a critical study of this novel gives a complete vision of free India with all its varied economic, social and spiritual problems.
Narayan’s novels represent a section of Indian society where life is steeped in middleclass consciousness. His characters portray certain characteristic features - either they are docile, timid, adhering to traditional values and pacifist by nature or they appreciate vulnerability, violence and excessive greed for money. In this context we can expound the fact that Narayan studies economic problem minutely and exquisitely and thereby frames several economic groups. While Marco and Rosie represent the well-to-do class, Gaffur and Joseph denote the low wage earner. In the character of Sait, the money-lender, we find a wealthy person one who amasses and hoards wealth thriving upon the troubles of other persons. Then there are the rich lawyers, who make huge amount of money at the expense of the clients. This class is shown through the character of the star lawyer of Raju in the case instituted by Marco against him. Further, the whole episode in which Raju is taken to be the saint is set on the axis of economic life. In the words of Prof. Krishna Sen,
At first sight, the world of The Guide seems to be structured along simple binaries- Malgudi and Mangal, the town and the village, urban
sophistication versus rural simplicity, modernity versus tradition, and cynicism versus faith. On closer inspection, each of these components reveals itself to be highly problematic, full of hybridities, fissures and contradictions. As with the binary that Shakespeare created in As You Like It, settings off the court against the Forest of Arden, but with positive and negative elements existing within each ideological space so here too Malgudi and Mangal stand for cultural locations that appear to be simple only from a distant view. (17)
At the beginning of the novel we observe a clash between the ideologies of the father and son. Raju wants to study in a fashionable school whereas his father thrusts him to a pyol The Criterion: An International Journal in English ISSN (0976-8165)
Vol. II. Issue. III 1 September 2011
school. Raju says, “I don’t know on whose advice my father chose to send me here for my education, while the fashionable Albert Mission School was quite close by. I’d have felt proud to call myself an Albert Mission boy. But I often heard my father declare, I don’t want to send my boy there; it seems they try to convert our boys into Christians and are all the time insulting our gods” (86).The entire passage clearly indicates how westernization seeped into the sap of the society. Raju’s father prefers to send him to the traditional school where as Raju wants to enjoy the ambience and glamour of Christian School. The change in Raju’s attitude towards education advocates the impact of westernization on society. Raju’s father adheres to traditional method of education because it is his conviction that Raju would be able to build his career under the supervision of the ancient master. His father says, “Many students who have passed through the hands of this ancient master are now big officials at Madras, collectors and men like that…” (25). From the quotation we can deduce the fact that Raju’s father envisages his son to be financially independent with a social nomenclature. Here Narayan seems to be influenced by The Second Five Year Plan, Nehru-Mahalanobis Model, as it intended to foster a self-generating path of development with an assurance to common man that poverty, unemployment, disease and ignorance would be removed so that individuals could realize their potential with the extension of social and economic opportunities. Nehru in his economic thought advocates for modern Indian society having international economic and fiscal cooperation.

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