Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Part of the fairy-tale element in this story is the result of the author’s use of coincidence. From a Western point of view, the story’s big coincidence—Muni’s opportune meeting with a rich American—may seem a fault: It undercuts the Western sense of probability, of order. However, that is apparently R. K. Narayan’s purpose. From a Hindu point of view, which sees the universe in flux, the coincidence is quite logical. In the Hindu view, anything can happen, though contingencies (or actions of the gods) usually balance out over time: Muni is wiped out by the pestilence but reinstated by the American. Just as Muni sells the American an avatar of a Hindu god, so Narayan slyly introduces the Hindu context into this story, complete with a lesson in theology, a reference to the great Hindu epics, and a wild conversation that mirrors the Hindu universe.

Narayan’s ability to present Hindu culture to the West is aided by one of the smoothest English styles in the world. Narayan has developed his style over a long career, and “A Horse and Two Goats” shows the style at its best—simple, supple, subtle, able to encompass the Hindu worldview and the demands of The New Yorker at the same time. The style entertains without calling attention to itself.

Historical Context

(Short Stories for Students)

Colonial India
Indian culture is more than five thousand years old. Its great epics were composed before the year A.D. 200, and...

(The entire section is 538 words.)

Literary Style

(Short Stories for Students)

Point of View and Narration
‘‘A Horse and Two Goats’’ is narrated in the third person by an omniscient narrator...

(The entire section is 577 words.)

Compare and Contrast

(Short Stories for Students)

1947: One of the goals of the new Constitution in India is to provide free and compulsory education for Indian children. In 1951,...

(The entire section is 201 words.)

Topics for Further Study

(Short Stories for Students)

Muni and his wife live a simple life, probably without running water or electricity in their home. How has life changed for poor villagers in...

(The entire section is 236 words.)

What Do I Read Next?

(Short Stories for Students)

Under the Banyan Tree and Other Stories (1985) is one of Narayan’s best-known collections of short stories and includes many brief...

(The entire section is 415 words.)

Bibliography and Further Reading

(Short Stories for Students)

Ramana, P. S. Message in Design: A Study of R. K. Narayan’s Fiction, New Delhi: Harman Publishing House, 1993,...

(The entire section is 308 words.)