Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The hallmarks of Narayan’s style are lucidity and humor, both of which are readily apparent in this story. The leisurely pace of a reverie suits the quiet personality of the protagonist, whereas the liveliness of phrase and observation lifts insipid details of everyday routines into sheer delight.

He delineates characters and their relationships obliquely; he does not state them directly, but presents situations from which they can be perceived. Vivid descriptions of the child’s world—how he prays with Uncle, how he eats with him, or plays while Uncle naps on his bench—delightful in themselves, move the story along, for they show the close bond that is later threatened by the revelation of villainy. The enchantingly described market, which initially stands for the outside world that the boy is eager to discover, loses its allure, coming to represent a hostile world from which he flies to the safe sanctuary of the arms of Uncle—ironically, the person responsible for his agony.

His own feelings are more real to the boy than the moral judgments of other people. Narayan shows this superbly by employing the technique of juxtaposition, using contrasts to highlight an idea. Every time the boy learns something negative about Uncle, a scene follows that shows that Uncle is his world. Uncle’s crimes are not real to the boy, for he has experienced only his love. To the boy, the only thing embarrassing about Uncle is his enormous girth. All the consistent testimony against Uncle cannot, therefore, indict him in the protagonist’s mind. The final, tangible evidence of Uncle’s mysterious and questionable past—a Burmese laquered box—is in like manner dismissed as negligible. Uncle and Aunt’s given names are never mentioned. People, places, and events in the story are seen not as they might appear to an objective observer, but as they appear to the protagonist. Everything has import within the psychological realism of the narrative.