R. K. Narayan

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What conclusion can be drawn about Swami's character at the end of "Swami and the Sum"?

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At the end of the story, "Swami and the Sum," Swami's character is revealed to be quite typical of a child. While his father is concerned about Swami's ability to correctly solve a math problem, Swami is imaginative and thoughtful, attempting to take into consideration everything that he knows about the characters, mangoes, and fairness. His father's treatment of him will likely compel him to become like his father and like many adults who have lost their own imaginations.

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Swami's father has presented him with a word problem about two popular avatars of the Hindu god, Vishnu: Rama, who is known for his purity, and Krishna, who is known for his compassion and tenderness. Swami's father is really only concerned with whether or not his son can do the math problem presented by the textbook, but Swami himself is concerned with whether or not the mangoes are ripe and with whether or not the price of fifteen annas is appropriate for these ten mangoes. If the mangoes are unripe, Swami feels, then the price Rama sets is too high.

Furthermore, since Rama is associated with purity and fidelity, it would seem to go against his character to try to cheat Krishna. On the other hand, he thinks, it is impossible for Swami to know what the "fool Krishna" might pay for four mangoes. It is telling, I think, that the avatar associated with compassion is thought of as a "fool" by Swami, a young boy.

Swami is concerned about what is fair, even perhaps considering what he knows to be true of the Hindu deities, rather than the simple math problem. His father, however, berates him for not just answering the question. In other words, then, Swami clearly values justice and empathy, and he considers what he knows about the characters in the story before he is willing to make an answer. His father, however, does not value these qualities—he just wants the math problem solved—and it seems even that Swami has been taught that Krishna, with his tenderness and love, is foolish and could, perhaps, be taken advantage of.

Swami, then, is innocent and thoughtful, unwilling to reduce an interaction so seemingly complex to something as simple as a problem requiring division and addition. I'm not sure he is terribly unusual, though. Children are often like this—imaginative and questioning, thoughtful and, at times, frustrating—and often adults just want the answer. Most adults are far less imaginative and thoughtful than children are. Children are often encouraged to grow up and be more "logical" or less emotional, and so they learn to be adults through processes and interactions like the one Swami has with his father.

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In the story "Swami and the Sum" by R. K. Narayan, the young boy Swaminathan is attempting to solve a problem from an arithmetic book. His father reads to him that someone named Rama wants to earn 15 annas by selling 10 mangoes. Someone named Krishna wants to buy four of the mangoes, and the question is how much Krishna will have to pay to Rama.

To Swami's father, the answer is simple and straightforward. He sees the plain mathematical equation and nothing more. However, Swami cannot separate the mathematical equation from its story. Beyond the simple arithmetic involved, Swami intuits motivations, subjective values, and the personalities of Krishna and Rama. He wants to know if the story—not just the equation—makes sense.

Swami's father becomes impatient with him and even calls him an "extraordinary idiot." He has a more logical mindset, while Swami's is more intuitive. It takes Swami half an hour to separate the equation from its adornments and come up with the right answer.

The conclusion about Swami's character that the reader comes to at the end of the story is that Swami has an unusually vivid imagination. He is intelligent, insightful, and sensitive, but not practical. Swami might have some trouble adjusting to a society in which most people consider things in the way his father does. Some people might even infer that Swami has less than average intelligence when he approaches problems like this.

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Swami is a young man who finds it difficult to learn anything unless it's related to the real world around him. This means that instead of just trying to work out a simple sum, as he's supposed to, he wastes his time asking irrelevant questions about whether the mangoes are ripe or whether it's fair to ask someone to pay fifteen annas for ten unripe ones. What Swami seeks most of all is practical demonstration, not theoretical knowledge.

It's because of this practical bent that Swami struggles for what seems like an eternity to come up with the right answer to the sum. It also explains why he bursts into tears at the end of the story. Though he may have finally worked out the sum, he's still upset at the thought that Krishna has been ripped off in buying the mangoes at the market. As well as being practical, then, Swami is also a deeply sensitive boy, who empathizes with others' misfortunes, even if they're purely hypothetical.

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From the story, we can conclude that Swami is a highly sensitive and perceptive child. He is exceptionally responsive to various stimuli and also has an unusually active imagination. In short, Swami sees the world differently from the average child.

In the beginning of the story, we learn that Swami has to solve a math problem. Swami's father reads the math problem aloud. The math problem centers on Rama, who supposedly wants to earn fifteen annas for ten mangoes. Another boy, Krishna, will buy mangoes from Rama. However, Krishna only wants four mangoes.

For his part, Swami must calculate how much Krishna will pay for 4 mangoes. During the exercise, Swami becomes distracted by several thoughts. First, he wonders whether Rama is selling ripe or unripe mangoes. Swami is convinced that fifteen annas is an unreasonable price to ask for ten unripe mangoes. He finds himself sympathizing with the fictional Krishna for his predicament.

Swami also hates the fact that Rama is asking for so much money. He concludes that Rama is avaricious and, perhaps, even overbearing in nature.

At this point, we must remember that Swami has come to some very decided conclusions about fictional characters in a math problem. At the end of the story, Swami manages to solve the math problem: poor Krishna must pay six annas for four mangoes. At the thought of such injustice, Swami bursts into tears.

So, from the story, we can conclude that Swami is an extraordinarily sensitive and perceptive child who also happens to have a very active imagination.

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