The Vendor of Sweets

by R. K. Narayan
Start Free Trial

Who says "conquer taste, and you will have conquered the self" in The Vendor of Sweets?

Jagan says "conquer taste, and you will have conquered the self," hinting at his approach to both business and life.

Expert Answers

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

In The Vendor of Sweets, the protagonist Jagan is a strong advocate of moderation in one’s appetites. He applies this philosophy literally to his diet. "Conquer taste, and you will have conquered the self” is a maxim that he says guides his life. Jagan associates restraint in what one...

See
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

In The Vendor of Sweets, the protagonist Jagan is a strong advocate of moderation in one’s appetites. He applies this philosophy literally to his diet. "Conquer taste, and you will have conquered the self” is a maxim that he says guides his life. Jagan associates restraint in what one eats with the ability to maintain a detached attitude. If one does not exercise self-restraint, one may be unduly swayed by physical desires and thus become unable to resist related temptations. His ideas draw on Hindu teachings, including adherence to a vegetarian diet, especially those associated with the practices that Mohandas Gandhi advocated during the struggle for Indian independence from Britain.

Jagan’s ideas about taste go beyond food, however. As he nears retirement, he also anticipates withdrawing from the practical responsibilities of running a business. His stated preferences are for a simple life, away from even minor luxuries associated with middle-class lifestyle. A contemplative approach that allows him to further pursue his religious studies is what he envisions for his senior years. The problem with Jagan’s philosophy is that he believes he can apply it to himself even as he promotes the opposite attitude and behaviors in others. As he operates a confectionary, his entire livelihood depends on cultivating a sweet tooth in others.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on