A Horse and Two Goats

by R. K. Narayan

Start Free Trial

How does the conversation between Muni and the foreigner highlight their contrasting lives?

Expert Answers

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

The American tourist tells Muni about what seems to have been something of a spiritual crisis in his life. After experiencing a major power cut at his place of work—the fortieth floor of the Empire State Building, no less—the man told his wife that they would go visit India to get a look at another civilization. Contrast these first world problems with Muni's desperate struggle to keep body and soul together in the midst of extreme poverty.

There's a huge culture clash here between a relatively wealthy American needing to find himself and a poverty-stricken Indian whose spirituality does nothing to keep the wolves from the door or put food on the table. Each has something the other wants; each has a gaping void at the heart of their respective lives which desperately needs to be filled. Yet their mutual need doesn't unite the two men as it should, due to the enormous cultural chasm that divides them.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Muni and the foreigner are very different, but they manage to strike a bargain that works for both of them.

One point of contrast between Muni and the American tourist is in their attitudes toward the goats. For Muni, now that he is elderly, the goats are companions for whom he feels affection. He spends his days with them and sees them as valuable assets. As the American apparently does not even notice the goats, it is clear that he has no any interest in buying them.

Another place where the two characters differ is in their appreciation of the horse statue. Muni understands the mythological significance of the figure within his Hindu religion. He also associates the myth behind the statue with the oral tradition that his father passed down to him, as he had received it from his father. The statue marks his favored location, where he can rest comfortably with his goats. He consider the statue as something permanent, like his cultural traditions; he does not see it as a portable item that could be removed. To the American tourist, the statue is a valuable object, something for a collection or museum. It is a commodity that has an owner and is for sale. The American also has considerable resources that Muni does not have, and he has enough money to buy the statue and can hire a truck to take it away.

The “conversation” between them does not at first proceed well because they do not share a common language. Muni does know the words “yes” and “no” in English. He continues to converse because he wants to be accommodating to the foreigner. Without understanding what the foreigner wants to buy, Muni accepts the money. Although he had not contemplated making a sale or changing his home life, both things result from their meeting that day.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial