Does the story "A Snake in the Grass" by R. K. Narayan end on a conclusive note?

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vangoghfan | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Does R. K. Narayan’s story “A Snake In the Grass” end on a conclusive note?  The simple (and probably accurate) answer to this question is “no,” for some of the following reasons:

  • The story can be read as a simple “slice of life” tale, which offers no grand lessons and which teaches no lofty morals.  Since life itself is often inconclusive, it is appropriate to the tale that its own ending seems fairly inconclusive.
  • The story ends by emphasizing what might have been rather than what really happened:

The college boy murmured: “I wish I had taken the risk and knocked the water-pot from Dasa’s hand; we might have known what it contained.”

  • This final sentence is inconclusive in a number of senses besides the one just mentioned. Had the college boy really, truly suspected earlier that Dasa was tricking them, or did this idea occur to him only after the appearance of the second snake? The narrator doesn’t make an answer to this question clear, and so the story ends on an inconclusive note.
  • Why didn’t the college boy at least move the stone slab above the pot open just slightly enough to see if the pot really contained a snake?  The narrator provides no clear answer to such a question, and thus the story ends inconclusively in yet another way.
  • What would the family have done if they had indeed checked the pot? The narrator provides no clear answer to this question, and thus the story seems inconclusive in one more way.
  • What will the family do when Dasa returns?  The narrator doesn’t say.
  • Will the family check with the snake charmer to test Dasa’s veracity?  The narrator doesn’t say.
  • Does the fact that Dasa claimed he would take the supposedly captured snake to the snake charmer imply that he really does have a snake in the pot? The narrator leaves this potential question open.
  • Is the snake spotted by the family the snake they had been looking for, or is this indeed possibly a real second snake? The narrator leaves the question open.
  • How are we meant to assess the meaning of this story and the nature of the characters? The narrator, by merely reporting rather than openly commenting and assessing, leaves the conclusion of the story open-ended in yet one more way.

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