The Vendor of Sweets

by R. K. Narayan

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Chapters 10–11 Summary and Analysis

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Last Updated on September 14, 2021, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 986

Chapter 10

Jagan wants to speak with Grace, but she has been avoiding him for ten days. At the shop, the customers behave as if they are entitled to the sweets, causing Jagan to doubt the wisdom of his reducing the prices.

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The cousin tells Jagan that the other businessmen are assuming that Jagan will soon return to pricing his sweets at their original cost. Jagan doesn’t think he agreed to this.

The cousin saw Mali the night before, and Mali told him that Grace is returning to America. He has also persuaded several people in town to promise to buy shares in his company. Jagan asks the cousin to help him find a way to speak to Grace without Mali’s being present. The cousin tells him that he has promised to go with Mali that afternoon to look at a plot of land for building his factory and that Grace will therefore be home alone.

Jagan goes home to speak with Grace. He asks her why she has been avoiding him and if she wishes to go back to America. She tells him that Mali wants her to go back because he can no longer afford to keep her in Malgudi; the savings she brought with her to India are all gone, and she is no longer useful to Mali. Jagan answers that a wife’s place is beside her husband, and Grace responds that she and Mali are not married. Jagan is aghast; his son and Grace have been living in sin under his own roof.

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Jagan returns to his shop to speak with the cousin. He reveals to the cousin that Mali is not married. The cousin reminds Jagan that the young men of their country live in a different world from their own and that he should simply let Grace go back to America to resolve the crisis. Though this is a sensible answer to Jagan, he is still reeling from the scandal of the unwed couple living in his house.

The cousin helps Jagan remember that all of his readings from the Bhagavad Gita preach nonattachment to objects and circumstance, and that Jagan should rise above concerning himself with the marital status of his son. However, Jagan cannot let go of the feeling that his house has been sullied and that people will gossip.

The cousin suggests that Jagan arrange a quick marriage for Mali and Grace. Jagan decides this is the only solution and expresses his gratitude to the cousin for his advice.

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Latest answer posted January 28, 2016, 6:41 pm (UTC)

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Chapter 11

Jagan cloisters himself in his portion of the house in order to avoid being tainted by the “evil radiations of an unmarried couple living together.” He exits the house through the back door, traversing a lane that he last walked fifty years ago. He and his brother used to hunt for grasshoppers together there when they were children. Jagan begins thinking about his siblings: his sister married a rich village idiot, and the brother cut off contact with his family after the division of their father’s estate. His sister has now also turned her back on him for having a “beef-eating Christian girl for a daughter-in-law.” Jagan feels grateful that he is an outcast; now he doesn’t have to worry about what his family thinks about him.

Mali and Grace drive past Jagan in their car. Grace offers him a ride, but Jagan refuses. Mali says nothing to his father.

Two weeks later, Jagan notices that Grace is no longer around. He peers into the parts of the house that she and Mali usually occupy, only to be met with silence. Finally Mali confronts him, and Jagan asks to speak with both Mali and Grace, for he wants them to be married quickly. Mali announces that Grace is not at home; she has been having “funny notions,” and he thinks she needs to see a psychiatrist. Mali turns away, leaving Jagan in complete bewilderment.

Analysis

Jagan’s deteriorating condition continues to unravel in these chapters as Jagan is thrust into yet another complication in his relationship with his son: the fact that Mali has been living in Jagan’s house out of wedlock. When Grace explains to Jagan that she came to Malgudi with Mali to help with his business, and to be a business partner, Jagan cannot comprehend that their relationship is not one of husband and wife. Just as Mali wants to use Jagan for his money, he uses Grace in the same way, depleting her savings in an effort to bankroll his story-writing machine business. Mali’s relationships are always transactional; he looks to gain something from every interaction he has with another person. However, rather than being angry at his son, Jagan concentrates his anger on Grace, for she is not technically his daughter-in-law. Despite all of the ways that Mali has harmed his father, Jagan cannot overcome his soft spot for his son and thus misdirects his unhappiness, which in turn compounds his own frustration and confusion.

The cousin continues to serve as the logical, practical guide for Jagan, bridging the gap between Jagan and Mali and helping temper Jagan’s wildly fluctuating emotions. He calmly points out that Grace can return to America, or he can arrange for Mali and Grace to be wed quickly, both courses of action which would solve the crisis of the unwed couple. Jagan calls the cousin his “savior,” emphasizing Jagan’s need for guidance, a need that he satiates in a variety of ways: through reading the Bhagavad Gita, through his experience with Chinna Dorai, and through his daily afternoon conversations with his cousin.

The disciplined, principled Jagan of the first chapters is now completely undone; a frantic, confused Jagan has taken his place. The elements of his crisis—the running of his business, the accumulation of his wealth, and the failing relationship with his son—are all approaching an apex.

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Chapters 8–9 Summary and Analysis

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Chapters 12–13 Summary and Analysis