In The Guide, R. K. Narayan portrays the society of contemporary India—as of the 1950s, when he wrote it—as torn between materialism and spirituality. Narayan explores the changes in Indian society after independence, as it was affected by the onslaught of tourists who were looking for authentic Indian culture. This increased desire to consume authentic cultural forms, such as dance, both popularized and commercialized traditional arts. The conflicting goals within Indian people are represented respectively by Rosie, who genuinely wants to commit to learning and performing traditional dance, and Raju, who is motivated more by the greater financial success he can achieve by promoting her than he had as a guide. Although Raju’s actions lead to his downfall, they also guide him toward a new path. Narayan implies that it is not the outward manifestation of traditions in shows for tourists, but rather the inner recognition of the ongoing values of Hindu spirituality, that will support the success of the Indian nation.
I think that the picture of society that is offered in Narayan's narrative is seen through Raju's eyes. Raju is driven towards a specific end as he works through being Rosie's manager. That end is financial gain, social acceptance, and the conformist social path of a product based end. This compels him to do some terrible things. Yet, Raju ends up recognizing the folly of his own path and make a conscious choice to change it in fasting for the villagers. It is through this that a picture of society is offered, whereby individuals do possess the power to transform what is into what should be. The pursuit of worldly ends is something that can substituted for a more spiritual notion of the good. Raju represents this, and in doing so, allows for a social statement to be made about how individuals, and society, itself can seek to achieve more spiritually elevated pursuits. In this light, the picture of contemporary society offered is a transformative one.