The Guide Questions and Answers
by R. K. Narayan

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Can R.K.Narayan's The Guide be called a picaresque novel? The Guide presents Raju's character in a serio-comic manner. He is a rogue who takes life with  a broad-mindedness reminding us of Tom Jones of Fielding. Gradually, he  changes not from  a rogue to  a saint. But there is a transformation taking place surely. What kind of change is this? Do you feel any similarity of Raju with that of Tom Jones?

In the strictest sense, The Guide, unike The History of Tom Jones, cannot be labelled a picaresque novel because Raju experiences spiritual growth. The hallmark of a picaresque novel is for the main character to remain the same character he has been. But this does not mean all picaresque novels follow that exact formula, as Mark Twain’s novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is also regarded as something of a picaresque novel, and Huck undergoes radical changes.

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The Guide is a modern picaresque novel because the protagonists exhibits all the characteristics of the pícaro and engages in multiple adventures that showcase his roguish nature. Throughout the novel, the character of Raju schemes to take advantage of others, and ultimately he demonstrates his endorsement of dominant social values. Author R. K. Narayan leaves ambiguity in the ending ambiguous so that the reader cannot be sure if Raju sincerely embraces his sacrificial mission and thus achieves its goal, or if he is delirious from hunger and hallucinates the deluge.

The novel’s focus on the picaro as hero is the main reason for locating it within the genre. The classic picaresque novel, which originated in Spain at the turn of the 17th century, features a hero who displays unabated self-interest. While this low-born hero, regardless of gender, may settle into a socially respectable role later in life, their desire to do so is associated with love of creature comforts. Later permutations...

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R.K.Narayan's The Guide is neither a rogue novel or picaresque novel proper. It is a novel of character transformation. No , there are certain shades of similarity between the characters of Tom Jones and Raju. But their situations are totally different. There are mythical  and scriptural allusions in the novel and the sadhus are satirised in the novel. We may call it a social satire, but not exactly a rogue    novel. Typical gurus of India follow this kind of life style. In spite of their reluctance they are compelled under circumstances to pose as sadhus and they really become. Their mask become their faces. Narayan has beautifully exposed the hypocrisy and shams of Indian social life through the character of Raju. His turning from a social guide to a spiritual guide has nothing to do with the change in Tom Jone's character. Both in motif and viewpoints as well as in ambience, the two novels one of Fieldings's and the other of R.K.Narayan hava gulf of difference between them.