A Horse and Two Goats

by R. K. Narayan

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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 India since 1960 when this story was written? Throughout the world, do more people live like Muni and his wife, or like you and the others in your class?

Find the stories Muni mentions, from the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. (Perhaps you can find Narayan’s own translations.) How would this uneducated man know stories from two-thousand-year-old poems? Why might Muni be remembering them at this point in his life? What stories do most people in the United States know, whatever their level of education or sophistication?

Investigate the role that Great Britain has played in Indian politics during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, especially before 1947. Also, find out what you can about the origin of the word khaki. Does your new information help explain Muni’s warning to himself, ‘‘Beware of Khaki’’?

Most critics find Muni’s wife cold and unsympathetic. Do you agree? Compare the lives of the two wives in this story, and what can be guessed about their personalities. How important are their wives to these two men?

Find the meanings for these terms from the story: dhall, drumsticks, swarga, betel leaves, dhoti. Then look closely at an American short story you have read recently. Which terms would a person from Muni’s village need to have explained?

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