R. K. Narayan

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Explain the irony at the end of the story "A Snake in the Grass" by R. K. Narayan.

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R.K. Narayan writes about real experiences found in his native India.  His stories are filled with humorous anecdotes and irony.  The story “A Snake in the Grass” is example of this type of writing.


Dasa, the old but clever servant, tricks his employers-a mother and her four sons- into thinking that he has caught a cobra for which the family has been searching in the garden all day.  Earlier in the day, the family had accused the servant of being lazy and not cutting the grass.  They had spent the entire afternoon frantically searching for the snake.

The irony comes from the servant, who is probably very lazy, amusingly tricking the family into thinking that he has done what they spent all afternoon trying to doIn addition, he saves his job because the family had threatened  to fire him if the snake was not found. Shrewdly, he has outwitted them all with his pretense of the snake in the jar. The irony at the end of the story is that the family is planning to reward Dasa when he has in fact lied and endangered them, thus deserving no reward and thus making himself the "snake in the grass" who turns on them.


Dasa has supposedly caught the snake in a water pot, which is sealed with a slab of stone. Dasa claims that he caught the cobra in the pot and is taking it to the snake charmer.  The old servant claims that he saw the cobra peering out of the pot, and he sealed up the pot before the snake could get out. 

The family believes that they have misjudged the old servant, and now, they have to compliment and reward him for finding the snake and trapping it. Quite proud of himself, he tells the family “Don’t call me an idler hereafter.” The mother is satisfied, and Dasa, the old servant, becomes the hero of the day.  As he leaves to take the snake to the charmer, the family decides to give him a reward. 

Dasa is gone for about five minutes when the family notices another huge cobra slithering out of a hole in the garden wall.  The snake goes toward the gate, and just as it goes under it, the snake turns to look at the family with its hood half open.  It seems to be telling the family that “the old servant tricked you because here I am.” 

In shock, one of the sons says: “Does this mean there are two snakes?” Another son realizes that they have been duped by the old man. 

“I wish I had taken the risk and knocked the water-pot from Dasa’s hand; we might have known what it contained.”

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