R. K. Narayan's novel The Guide uses the literary technique of a frame narrative—that is, it is a story within a story, as Narayan tells the readers the story of Raju's life and Raju narrates the story of his past life to Velan. This technique of double narrative is full of flashbacks and time shifts. The narrator continuously switches between first-person and third-person narration. The novel can be understood in two parts: one part is set in Malgudi and the other in Mangal, and these parts move simultaneously in the novel.
Narayan narrates the story as a detached observer; therefore, the story is more descriptive and less analytical.
Simplicity of language, a hallmark of Narayan's writings, is seen in this novel as well. The language used is unpretentious and natural.
The author employs the use of imagery to bring out some vivid images. The town of Magudi is described in such a way that the author paints the picture of a small, peaceful town. The town reflects the image of an ordered and self-sufficient place. Raju's childhood home and his father's shop are other images of simple rural households. The image of Rosy dancing is yet another wonderful image. The image of Raju standing in the knee-deep river water is an important concluding image.
Narayan uses irony to satirize the villagers' system of beliefs, superstitions, and worship, but he does so in a very subtle manner.
Both the town of Malgudi and the village of Mangal are symbols of native strength and collectiveness. The coming of the railways to Malgudi is symbolic of transformation. The temple is a symbol of the people's faith in religion. Raju's fasting is a symbol of the beliefs of this rural Indian community. Raju's penance is symbolic of atonement. And finally, the water of the river is a symbol of purification.