R. K. Narayan

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In R. K. Narayan's story "Another Community," the narrator does not reveal the identity of the protagonist in terms of name, community, place, etc. Why does he make this choice, and how does it affect the story?  

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In R. K. Narayan’s short story “Another Community,” the narrator deliberately does not mention any revealing details about the main character, including his personal identity or even the particular ethnic or religious community to which he belongs. By refraining from providing this kind of information, the narrator suggests that such information is ultimately unimportant. What matters is not the precise identity of this particular person but rather the general traits of human nature that cause people – and communities – to inflict violence on one another. The main character of this story is less important as a representative of any particular group than simply as a human being – a husband, a father, a coworker, a person. By presenting the major character as a kind of “Everyman” figure, the narrator allows us to identify with that character and to imagine how easily any one of us might have found ourselves in his position.

If the narrator had in fact specified the identity of the main character, we might have been distracted by that identity. We might have assumed that this story was about this particular person rather than about the kind of fate that might befall any person of any group at any place and at any time in human history. After all, the kind of violence between communities that is the subject of the story has been going on since as long as history has been recorded, and unfortunately it will probably continue far into the foreseeable future. By treating the main character as an “Everyman” figure, the narrator broadens and deepens the implications of the story.  This is not simply a story about conflict, say, between Hindus and Muslims in India (although that conflict seems to be the inspiration for this story); it is a story about conflict and violence between any groups of any sort.

The narrator of the story is so adamant about the unimportance of the main character’s precise identity that he makes a point of stressing this insignificance immediately:

. . . I am giving the hero of this story no name. I want you to find out, if you like,  to what community or section he belonged: I’m sure you will not be able to guess it any more than you will be able to say what make of vest he wore under his shirt; and it will be just as immaterial to our purpose.

By refusing to reveal the precise identity of the main speaker, the narrator contributes greatly to the story’s breadth of resonance, and he also prevents the story from seeming dated or geographically confined.



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