Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The story turns on a most important human weakness: the desire to know the future. This weakness is greater among the sick, the suffering, and the poverty-stricken. In a poor country such as India, astrologers, palmists, and numerologists, as well as others who claim to know the future (for example, fortune-tellers assisted by birds in drawing cards), assume a great significance in society. Fortune-tellers offer hope to those leading tragic lives, giving them reason to continue their existence, and offer solace where it otherwise does not exist. They also find a means of survival in taking advantage of the misfortunes of millions, by listening to their tales of woe (particularly significant in a culture where psychiatrists are not common and would not command confidence even if they were). Astrology, in particular, has played a crucial role in the lives of many, and has long been an integral part of Indian life (so much so that, tradition has it, the horoscopes not only of Buddha—who lived five hundred years before the birth of Christ—but even of epic heroes dating back at least a thousand years before Christ have been maintained). In “An Astrologer’s Day,” Narayan not only touches on a tradition that has existed since antiquity but also comments on its debased modern version. Emphasizing a social reality, Narayan exploits, with a comic eye, a common foible of Indians and writes a happy-ending story with a double twist and double surprise. The astrologer in...

(The entire section is 401 words.)

An Astrologer's Day Themes

Fate
Narayan's world is predominantly a Hindu one in which fate plays an important role. Nothing happens by accident and all...

(The entire section is 659 words.)