An Astrologer's Day

by R. K. Narayan

Start Free Trial

What is the irony of the story "An Astrologer's Day"?  

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In "An Astrologer's Day," irony is ever present. Narayan achieved consistency in his ironic tale. Nayak spends so much of his life searching for the man who had attacked him years ago, only to not even recognize the astrologer when he comes face to face with him. At the same time, the astrologer has lived with the guilt of killing a man he did not actually kill. The astrologer has lived his life in hiding for a crime he only thought he committed. Ironically, the astrologer has lived with a guilt of a crime he did not commit. 

Narayan's irony is not satirical. It is accepted by the reader:

Narayan's irony has a quality of acceptance that prevents it from becoming satire or cynicism.

The reader is releived by the ironic ending. The astrologer is innocent of murder. He uses his wit and intelligence to convince Nayak that his assailant is dead. The story ends on a happy note.

Narayan uses instances of irony which operate at the level of structure: 

These instances of irony operate at the level of structure, while the more obvious use of irony becomes evident when characters speak to each other.

Through character interaction, the irony unfolds. Nayak learns that his attacker is dead. The astrologer learns that he did not commit murder. Overall, the irony is never harsh or critical. It simply is a matter-of-fact as the reader learns about the past life of the astrologer. Human weakness is inevitable in this story. Ironically, the astrologer is not guilty of murder. When he learns the truth, he sleeps a peaceful sleep.   

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What is the  irony in "An Astrologer's Day"?

There are many ironic aspects to "An Astrologer's Day." For example, it is ironic that Guru Nayak should end up paying the astrologer to tell him where to find the man he is looking for, when the man he is looking for is the astrologer himself. The main irony is that the protagonist was forced to flee from the village where both he and Guru Nayak lived, because the protagonist had stabbed Guru Nayak and left him for dead. Even if he hadn't killed Guru Nayak but had only wounded him, he would have had to flee anyway, because the ferocious Guru Nayak would have wanted revenge. So the protagonist came to a big city and had to find some way to survive. He was an ignorant peasant. There were hordes of others like him who couldn't find work. Many died of starvation and their corpses were hauled away in carts each morning. Out of sheer desperation the protagonist tried becoming an astrologer. He must have acquired the so-called "professional equipment" for virtually nothing. Perhaps he found it where it had been abandoned by another astrologer who had died of starvation. It is obviously nothing but a lot of old junk. Then the ironic feature is that Guru Nayak comes to him just because he is posing as an astrologer. Guru Nayak has been looking for him for a long time, and in...

This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

that time he has acquired a deep suspicion of astrologers, although he is still sufficiently superstitious to consult them. We see his skepticism in his opening dialogue with the astrologer.

"Yours is a nature . . . " "Oh, stop that," the other said. "Tell me something worth while. . . ." 


"I have some questions to ask. If I prove you are bluffing, you must return that anna to me with interest."


"Stop," said the other. "I don't want all that. Shall I succeed in my present search or not? Answer this and go. Otherwise I will not let you go till you disgorge all your coins."

The astrologer is only saved by the darkness and by the fact that Guru Nayak lights up a cheroot and reveals his face. This gives the astrologer an opportunity to show that he really has uncanny knowledge. At this point even the reader is amazed. The astrologer is able to tell his nemesis his name and what happened to him in his village. Once he has convinced the dangerous man of his supernatural ability, he is also able to convince him that the enemy he is looking for is dead and can persuade Guru Nayak to go back to his village and remain there for the rest of his life. 

The most ironic thing about "An Astrologer's Day" is that the astrologer and Guru Nayak should meet again in this tiny spot beneath a tamarind tree. It is not a mere coincidence. Guru Nayak has been searching all over for the man who stabbed him. He has been consulting many astrologers. It was perhaps inevitable that he would eventually encounter this particular astrologer. We might call it "fate."

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What are examples of irony in An Astrologers Day?  

There are several examples of irony in "An Astrologer's Day." The most striking example of situational irony is the fact that Guru Nayak comes to the astrologer for help in finding the man who nearly killed him--and the astrologer himself is the very man he is looking for. Guru Nayak does not recognize him because the author has established that it is late at night and the lighting is very bad. Most of the vendors have shut down for the night and turned off their lights. Furthermore, the astrologer has changed his appearance considerably since his nemesis last saw him.

His forehead was resplendent with sacred ash and vermilion, and his eyes sparkled with a sharp abnormal gleam which was really an outcome of a continual searching look for customers, but which his simple clients took to be a prophetic light and felt comforted. The power of his eyes was considerably enhanced by their position, placed as they were between the painted forehead and the dark whiskers which streamed down his cheeks....

In addition to the situational irony, there is considerable dramatic irony in the dialogue. The astrologer amazes Guru Nayak by seemed to know all about him through supernatural power, and this enables the astrologer to persuade his client to give up his search for the man who knifed him and threw him into a well. He assures Guru Nayak that the man he has been looking for is dead.

He took out a pinch of sacred ash and held it to him. "Rub it on your forehead and go home, never travel southward again, and you will live to be a hundred."

"Why should I leave home again?" the other said reflectively. "I was only going away now and then to look for him and to choke out his life if I met him." He shook his head regretfully. "He has escaped my hands. I hope at least he died as he deserved."

"Yes," said the astrologer. "He was crushed under a lorry."

There is more situational irony in the fact that the astrologer is able to bring home a relatively large number of coins because he collected so much from the grateful and happy Guru Nayak. The man who had been striving for so long to find and kill the astrologer ends up paying him generously for his advice to give up his searching and go back to his native village. The astrologer's wife is happy because she will be able to buy some extra treats for their little girl. In a sense, the astrologer deserves the coins he has received from Guru Nayak because he has given his nemesis exactly what he wanted. Guru Nayak wanted satisfaction and closure. He wanted to put an end to his exhausting searching and stay at home for the rest of his life. The astrologer knows nothing about the stars, as the author explains at the beginning, but he is still able to give most of his clients the assurance and satisfaction they really want.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on