Characters

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 296

Vasu is a fascinating creature — not only brutal, self-centered, unpredictable, and indifferent to tradition, religion, or the claims of everyday morality — but also spontaneous, good-humored, and endearingly no-nonsensical in his way of looking at others. If one side of him suggests the demonic, another represents the doer, the...

(The entire section contains 296 words.)

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Vasu is a fascinating creature — not only brutal, self-centered, unpredictable, and indifferent to tradition, religion, or the claims of everyday morality — but also spontaneous, good-humored, and endearingly no-nonsensical in his way of looking at others. If one side of him suggests the demonic, another represents the doer, the man of action who hates small talk and petty-mindedness. Significantly, he is a patriot; he joined the civil disobedience movement aimed at ending British rule in India and was jailed for his nationalistic activities. Clearly, he is a man to be admired as well as hated.

The narrator, Nataraj, may appear to be easygoing, friendly, and meek, and in most ways a model citizen, but he, too, can be aggressive, cunning, and motivated by self-interest. He can be inwardly skeptical, resentful, or impatient with his fellow citizens while outwardly demonstrating inoffensive and altruistic behavior. And as the narrative progresses and he is provoked by Vasu to take a stand, he becomes increasingly petulant, irrational, and obsessive. A measure of his complexity is the way in which he responds to Vasu: he alternates between admiration and indignation in viewing the taxidermist's actions.

Narayan concentrates in this novel on tracing the involutions of the Vasu-Nataraj relationship, but he also peoples his narrative with a captivating cast of minor characters. Nataraj's friends and neighbors, Vasu's mistress, Rangi, and a host of other citizens of Malgudi make the novel memorable through their beliefs, eccentricities, and reactions to Vasu's impact on their settled mode of life. Taken together, they testify to Narayan's joy in the variety of creation and the comedy of life. Fantastic and yet very human, these minor characters constitute solid evidence of Narayan's skills as a chronicler of a corner of India that has become representative of the whole world.

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