Describe the astrologer's life in "An Astrologer's Day." How does this differ from the life he expected to live?

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William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The astrologer is married and has one small child. Their dwelling is not described in detail, but it may consist of a single room in a poor neighborhood. The astrologer must work hard just to earn enough money to provide the bare necessities of life for himself and his little family. He sets up his operation in a public park right on the ground where it costs nothing for rent. He does not even have his own lighting but depends on the lights of neighboring enterprises for illumination when it gets dark. He starts early and works late. When the neighboring entrepreneurs turn out their lights, the astrologer is forced to roll up his "professional equipment" and go home.

Punctually at midday he opened his bag and spread out his professional equipment, which consisted of a dozen cowrie shells, a square piece of cloth with obscure mystic charts on it, a notebook, and a bundle of palmyra writing.

On the day covered in the story he does not get home until midnight. This is unusually late because of the problem he had with Guru Nayak, but the astrologer is probably accustomed to working as late as necessary until he collects enough coins to cover expenses for another day. We can assume there must be days when torrential rains make it impossible to do business. He and his wife and child may have to go hungry. They lead a precarious existence, like many of the other poor people in this overcrowded city. There are large numbers of people walking in the park most of the time, but these people, like the astrologer himself, have very little money. They like to stand around and watch him read other people's horoscopes and make his predictions, but most of them are only spectators and not real customers.

The astrologer is only living and working in this city because he had to flee from his place of birth. He thought he had killed a man with a knife and fled to avoid arrest.

He had left his village without any previous thought or plan. If he had continued there he would have carried on the work of his forefathers namely, tilling the land, living, marrying, and ripening in his cornfield.

The narrator does not explain how the protagonist became an astrologer. He found himself in a strange city and had to earn money in order to keep from starving to death on the streets. No doubt he salvaged the so-called "professional equipment" from some junk heap and started pretending to be a an experienced astrologer. He was good at it.

...he had not in the least intended to be an astrologer when he began life; and he knew no more of what was going to happen to others than he knew what was going to happen to himself next minute. He was as much a stranger to the stars as were his innocent customers. Yet he said things which pleased and astonished everyone; that was more a matter of study, practice, and shrewd guesswork.

The story ends with a glimpse of the astrologer's home life. His wife is delighted with the amount of money he is able to bring home that night, although it will only mean some simple extra treats for their little girl. The astrologer tells his wife a little about his encounter with Guru Nayak on that unusual day. He is worn out and goes to sleep on the one piece of furniture which apparently serves as couch and bed. Tomorrow will be another day. 

This man is a sort of trickster, but we have to admire him because of his wit, his courage, and his adaptability. He has not only managed to find a little niche in the world where he can survive, but he is able to support a wife and a child.

   
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