The Characters

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Sampath is among Narayan’s most colorful creations. Although he is introduced late—more than a quarter of the way through the novel—and is not the real protagonist, he is vivid. His rich baritone voice of command is what attracts Srinivas’ attention, and his egotistical authority takes over in a crowd. Claiming to be an optimist with a doctrine of service and spiritual merit, he proves to be a materialist of moral confusion. He is full of false promises and invents alibis for all of his delays and failures. He neglects his long-suffering wife and five children during his affair with Shanti, and although his sangfroid is remarkable, and his deceptions roguishly humorous, he is really a foil to Srinivas, the man of would-be virtue.

Narayan’s comedies are always of moral import, and their protagonists are examples of “innocents” caught in flux and confusion, struggling to deliver themselves from existential bondage to absurdity. Srinivas’ moral character is what holds the novel together. He has very real faults. He has temporarily abandoned his wife and son, while selecting a profession that has vain pretensions all of its own. Unable to solve many of his own personal problems, he nevertheless offers solutions for cosmic crises. Close to middle age, he still wastes time on trivia, and he finds that his goal of harmony in life is continually mocked by his absurd actions. He is basically kind—showing compassion for the old landlord and Ravi—but he is also gullible and easily misled by Sampath. Srinivas never...

(The entire section is 628 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)


Srinivas, the protagonist, the editor of a weekly paper and later a frustrated screenwriter. Nearly forty years old, graying, and somewhat cynical, he spent years trying to fit in but found that the domestic duties with his wife and son became an extra burden. Leaving home, he ends up in the town of Malgudi, where, with his keen, questioning mind, he establishes The Banner, a paper in which he idealistically attacks the pigheadedness of humankind and attempts to prod humanity into pursuing some sort of perfection. When Sampath’s Truth Printing Works closes, Srinivas is forced to cease publication. Without his paper, he finds himself even more lost and confused. He becomes a screenwriter for Sampath’s new venture, Sunrise Pictures, but quickly becomes frustrated and disillusioned with the film industry. Attempting to search for some underlying meaning and value, he acts as a spectator of life and ends up questioning his knowledge of the self and of his own true identity. After the collapse of his friend, Ravi, and of the film company, he sets off to reestablish The Banner with a much more realistic concept of life and of business. He also realizes that he cannot fight the passage of time and that he must live his life as well as he can.


Sampath, the printer of the novel’s title. An effusive, flamboyant, unpredictable, and eloquent man, he is the owner of Truth Printing Works and later the director of productions for Sunrise Pictures. A take-charge sort of man with a commanding presence, he is an invaluable help to Srinivas and The Banner. He is also very manipulative,...

(The entire section is 684 words.)