Places Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Places)
*India. South Asian nation in which the novel is set during the 1950’s, after it became independent. Because of India’s vastness and its population’s relative stability, the various parts of the country differ dramatically in climate and terrain, customs, languages, architecture, food, and manners. During the country’s long colonial period, southern India was less influenced by the presence of the British Empire than other parts of India. Southern Indian cities and countryside thus tend to be “more Indian” and colorful than such metropolitan centers as Delhi, Bombay, and Calcutta.
During the 1950’s, India’s northern cities and the areas around them still retained vestiges of colonialism. However, there is nothing British about the novel’s Malgudi; it is pure Indian. Its authenticity and its central role in Narayan’s work has been aptly compared to William Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County in Mississippi. Both serve as microcosms for the writers’ explorations of the human condition, which prevents them from evolving into places marked by maudlin regionalism.
Malgudi (mahl-GEW-dee). Fictional city in southern India. During nearly seventy years of writing fiction, Narayan built this memorable city street by street, building by building, and neighborhood by neighborhood. Lying next to a river, Malgudi is a bustling place, full of schools, restaurants, temples, the humble...
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Bibliography (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Holmstrom, Lakshmi. The Novels of R. K. Narayan. Calcutta: Writers Workshop, 1973. Notes the mythic theme of progress toward realizing one’s true nature, in which Raju finds his true role in providing for people’s needs, thus releasing himself from the wheel of existence.
Kirpal, Viney. “Moksha for Raju: The Archetypal Four-Stage Journey.” World Literature Written in English 28 (1988): 356-363. Argues that the novel must be read in the Hindu metaphysical tradition, whereby Raju overcomes the “gross violation of dharma” in his relationship with Rosie to be reborn as a swami. Novel follows the pattern of excessive involvement with the worldly, renunciation of it, and self-realization.
Mukherjee, Meenakshi. The Twice Born Fiction. London: Heinemann, 1971. Argues that Raju’s drift into the role of a guru follows the pattern of his life, because he is not so much a man who does things as one to whom things happen (except the forgery). At the end, he loses the feeling of being an actor, and “the mask becomes the man.”
Walsh, William. R. K. Narayan: A Critical Perspective. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982. The most readily available and accessible study, Walsh sees the novel as a serious comedy in which Raju’s personality is defined by others, so his search for an independent identity is futile. Transformation of the personality by forces outside the relatively passive self is common in Eastern tales.