Write a character sketch of the astrologer in Narayan's story "An Astrologer's Day."  

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The astrologer's predominant characteristic at this stage of his life is being able to ironically laugh at himself. This is revealed in the way the narrator describes him. To make the greatest impression on the crowd of people among whom might be customers, the astrologer carefully selected his attire and the right way of presenting himself, complete with saffron turban, sacred ash, and "dark whiskers that streamed down his cheeks," The power in his expression, which  people took for an astrologer's “eye," was in fact the outcome of "a continual searching look for customers.” As a result of his deliberate appearance and demeanor, customers "were attracted to him like bees are attracted to ... dahlia stocks."

The narrator further reveals that the astrologer never planned or desired to be an astrologer. He knew as little about the stars of astrological predictions as his customers:

He had not the least intended to be an astrologer when he began life ; ... He was as much a stranger to the stars as were his innocent customers.

From these details the narrator provides, we can deduce that the astrologer has a bit of a hearty, though ironic, laugh at himself from time to time. Yet he works honestly and with compassion for his customers since he never says anything until the customer has spoken for at least ten minutes. This accounts for the narrator's explanation that the astrologer “deserved the wages he carried at the end of the day."

Earlier in his life, the astrologer--before he was an astrologer--was reckless and foolish and given to drinking--without restraint of common sense--and wasting his earnings on gambling. This led him to embroil himself in the drunken brawl in which he stabbed a man, then left him for dead down a well. The last lines of the story reveal that he is a moral man who has been trying to absolve his crime all through the years. This is evident when he briefly tells his wife the story, then ends with,

"Why think of it now? ... Time to sleep."

He has given the victim--the customer--a report of a suitable punishment and horrible end to the man who stabbed the customer. Now he can rest quietly in a good night's sleep with a giving life's work behind him, for it is revealed by the narrator that he does say things that help and comfort his customers:

He understood what was wrong ... . and this endeared him to their hearts immediately ....