The English Teacher

by R. K. Narayan

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How does Narayan make Susilla's illness and death moving in "The English Teacher"?

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In The English Teacher, a novel by author R.K. Narayan, a portion of the main character's life is based on Narayan's. Narayan's own wife succumbed to typhoid in 1939, and he injected much of the grief and pain he felt as a result of this loss into Krishna's character. The fact that the author had actually experienced the loss he wrote about with Susila's death made the event even more moving and relatable. The emotions present in the last scenes between Krishna and Susila are thought-provoking, genuine and heartwarming. He shows his devotion as a husband by caring for her when she can no longer see to her own needs.

The majority of the novel focuses on Krishna's experience after his wife's death. The author also gives an honest look into the events leading up to Susila's death, and this realism is part of what makes the story so moving. The novel is divided into three distinct stages: Susila's illness, Susila's death, and Krishna's attempts to reach her in the afterlife.

After Susila's Death

While the realism of the events leading up to Susila's death are moving, the reader truly experiences Krishna's pain when he reaches out to his wife in the spiritual realm. This comes as a result of his philosophical musings and the burning question of how success in life relates to success in spiritual things, if at all. Krishna's interactions with his wife's ghost begin through a medium. Eventually, he is able to contact her on his own. What makes these experiences particularly moving is the unusual way in which the author paints them. Krishna's contact with Susila's ghost is treated as a normal part of life rather than anything supernatural or extraordinary. Eventually, the story reaches a moving emotional climax in which Krishna accepts that his wife is still with him spiritually even if she no longer has a physical presence in this world.

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