If, as has been suggested by some distinguished critics, The Financial Expert is the quintessential Narayan novel, then its characters are fully representative of the entire range of the writer’s invention and thus of India itself, for Malgudi is as representative of urban life on the subcontinent as is any other town or city in modern literature, and it is drawn in greater detail and with greater fidelity and sympathy. That is to say, the characters are both individuals and representatives of the types to be found in their multifarious modifications throughout South India.
Margayya, aware that his grandfather and his grand-uncles were corpse-bearers (and hence of one of the lowest castes), has nevertheless managed to rise above his origins through providing a service of sorts to illiterate and intimidated villagers; he is hardworking, frugal to the point of penuriousness, and—aware that knowledge is power—ever careful to become acquainted with others’ finances while remaining secretive about his own. His relationships reveal his character in all of its complexity. First, in typical fashion, he treats his wife, Meenakshi, as unworthy of being apprised of his business dealings and unworthy of love, or even of respect. (There is no word for love, as it is defined in English, in Indian languages.) Second, he regards Balu as a projection of himself and tries to force him into a mold quite unsuited to him; he shows him neither paternal affection nor true understanding but wants him to achieve academic success so that he might become a government official or a business success. By indulging him after his return from Madras, he merely ensures Balu’s future failure though his last act is to...
(The entire section is 702 words.)