An Astrologer's Day Style and Technique

R. K. Narayan

Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“An Astrologer’s Day” is the title story of a collection by Narayan published in 1947 (in Great Britain but not in the United States); it is also the first story in Malgudi Days (1982), a retrospective volume that includes stories from several decades. It is typical of Narayan’s work not only in its themes but also in its style and structure.

The distinctive appeal of Narayan’s stories derives in part from tension between their strong emphasis on plot and their extreme brevity. “An Astrologer’s Day,” like most of Narayan’s stories, is very short, less than five pages long. Most modern short stories of its length are sketches, tending toward the plotless; in contrast, Narayan’s stories almost always have a clear dramatic action in which (in Narayan’s words) “the central character faces some kind of crisis and either resolves it or lives with it.”

“An Astrologer’s Day” features a plot twist worthy of O. Henry, but the brevity and conciseness of the tale and its low-key ending save it from the air of contrivance to which O. Henry was prone. Also notable is the irony that can be appreciated only in reading—particularly the exchange in which the astrologer assures Guru Nayak that his enemy met the fate he desired.