How is this title suitable for Narayan's "An Astrologer's Day"?

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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One of the characteristics of R. K. Narayan's writing style is subtle and ironic humor. As we follow the astrologer through what he believes is just another day as an astrologer, we find, along with him, that this day is anything but just another day. The title "An Astrologer's Day" reflects both his expectation and the later reality in subtle irony while a "ho hum" day turns into a profound day: an ordinary day becomes his most liberating day. The title also marks him as just "an astrologer," one of no particular significance or import, which is a characterization of him that is critical to how the encounter with his customer works out: the astrologer's anonymity is what allows him to give and gain liberation.

Years earlier, the astrologer--before he adopted the identity of an astrologer--stabbed a man and threw him down a well while leaving him for dead. On this astrologer's day, the victim, who survived, approaches near the astrologer's booth and is recognized by the astrologer, who can't be recognized himself under his long whiskers and astrologers garments and religious markings: he is just an astrologer--just another astrologer. Protected by his anonymity, he tells the customer all the details of his misfortune, then reveals that the criminal who stabbed him is in fact dead himself. He urges the customer to return to his village and remain there to gain long life. Satisfied with word of the death of his assailant, the customer says he has no reason to leave: he is liberated from his desire for revenge and the astrologer is liberated from his guilt and his life-long need to hide.

These points are subtly and ironically foreshadowed in the title. First, the title indicates this is no particular astrologer; ironically, he is a very particular astrologer since he is hiding from the consequences of a murderous crime. Second, his ordinary day turns out to be the second most momentous day of his life: it is the day upon which he is freed from having "the blood of a man" on his hands. Third, this ordinary day is also the day on which he faces his victim and liberates him from his anger and revenge by telling the falsehood that his assailant died a punishing death by being "crushed by a lorry." "An Astrologer's Day" provides the umbrella of irony and subtle humor with which Narayan looks at the human condition in life making it a most suitable title for the story.

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