Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

From the very outset, when Narayan sketches the “abrupt turns” and “network of crazy lanes” that make the way to Srinivas’ workplace so difficult to follow, it is evident that one of the main themes is Srinivas’ problem in finding a clear path to truth and harmony. The Banner is self-professedly “the home of truth and vision,” although Srinivas knows that the struggle between man’s inner and outer worlds is unresolved. Srinivas’ small carving of Nataraja (Shiva), the god of equilibrium who balances destruction and creation, becomes an early emblem of the theme of balance.

Srinivas lacks a balance between his professional and domestic duties, and between his contemplative side and his practical one. He who can identify the ills of the cosmos cannot at first solve his own immediate difficulties: He runs into problems with his printer and finds that he is a deficient husband and father.

In one of his ruminations, he perceives a balance of power in human relationships, but events in his life—his crazy friendship with Sampath and Ravi, his involvement in the absurd business of film-production—show him just how off-balance he is. His Hinduism supplies him with clues to a resolution of some of his major problems; from it he learns that a passive acceptance of the cosmic scheme of things is a wise attitude. From Gandhi, one of its exemplary practitioners, he learns that an unagitated calm in personality can be mirrored...

(The entire section is 450 words.)