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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 382

The Financial Expert is a novel by Indian writer R. K. Narayan. The story is set in a mid-sized town in India and centers on the deeds of one man named Margayya and his son, Balu. The main character, who is an anti-hero, is evidently a flawed person from the start of the story. Margayya is essentially a loan shark who targets poor townspeople with his extremely high interest rates. Margayya only has one goal in life: to become wealthy. He is obsessed with money—as the title suggests—and the social power that comes with it.

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The novel is not necessarily a criticism of the capitalist system or financial institutions, but Narayan highlights the negative aspects of the capitalist economic system. In particular, Narayan shows the inherent negative elements of the global banking system. This is symbolized by the fact that Margayya conducts his business under a tree next to the town's major bank.

Although Margayya is considered a "financial expert" and a lender in the black market, the proximity to the traditional bank makes the reader wonder if the institutional foundations of the two are actually the same. In fact, banks loan to people and businesses just like Margayya, and they, too, have high interest rates. The 2008 economic financial crisis in the United States showed that major brand-named banks conducted illegal and immoral practices (like loaning to the poor), which is exactly what Margayya does in Narayan's novel.

In return for Margayya's wealth—which was actually attained after writing a bestselling financial book—he is fated with having a lazy, inept son. Margayya works hard to gain more wealth so that Balu can live a privileged life. In this light, Margayya seems to have good intentions for his seemingly-greedy mentality. However, Balu grows up not recognizing his privileges and squanders his opportunities.

In the end, it was Balu and a friend of Margayya's who cause Margayya's downfall. Margayya returns to square one after losing his accumulated wealth and becoming a pariah in the town. The story ends with him possibly going back to his old line of work: being a loan shark under the tree. This ending shows that the attainment and desire for money is a never-ending cycle, despite the life lessons and losses the main character just experienced.

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