Please provide a critical appreciation of the short story, "A Horse and Two Goats," by R.K. Narayan.

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The story of R.K. Narayan called, "A Horse and Two Goats," is about a poor Indian man who is very poor who meets a wealthy American as he drives by the village where Muni lives in India. The men are not only separated by language, but by where they exist within society. Muni and his wife have known prosperity in the past, but a string of bad luck and weather have reduced the older couple to living in one of many shacks in their village, having great debt, and owning only two goats. Muni is of an old caste and cannot improve his lot in life.

The food that Muni and his wife share is meager fare: they cannot afford anything else. However, one day Muni is able to shake "drumsticks" (a kind of radish) from a tree and asks his wife to prepare them for him. She sends him to the store for ingredients, but he has no money and the shopkeeper sends a deeply mortified Muni away. When Muni gets home, his wife tells him to forget eating until the end of the day—fasting will be good for him. So Muni walks away and finds himself by the side of a road, next to a statue of a warrior on his horse, that has been there for the seventy years that Muni has lived his life in the village.

Soon a large station wagon arrives, carrying an American. Neither man can speak to the other, but they carry on conversation. Each man speaks about what is important to him: the American wants to buy the statue, believing Muni owns it. As he speaks, we realize this man has a great deal of money: he has a house where the horse will rest as guests sip cocktails (alcoholic drinks) around it. Muni understands none of this, but neither does the American understand Muni's story of his life (including a childhood of poverty) and the history of the statue.

The story shows a clash of two very different cultures. By the end of the tale, the American believes he has bought the statue from Muni, and he presses a hundred and twenty rupees into Muni's hand. It is humorous to note that Muni has no thought of the statue, but believes that he has sold the American his old scraggly goats—that are too worthless to be sold or eaten. Muni takes the money and runs to tell his wife. She refuses to believe the story, even though this money is so much more than Muni owes the shopkeepers and will make their lives a great deal easier. It becomes even more difficult when the goats finally find their way home, making the story seem even less credible. The story ends with Muni being verbally beaten down by his wife. They have money, but now Muni has no peace.