The Vendor of Sweets

by R. K. Narayan

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Student Question

Describe the white-bearded man in chapter 7 of The Vendor of Sweets.

Quick answer:

The white-bearded man is a friend of Jagan's acquaintances who initially questions Jagan about lowering his sweets' prices, suggesting it harms their businesses. A seller of hair dye, he shares his background of working for his master since age five. Despite his old-fashioned ways and success, he seems anachronistic to Jagan, yet his lifestyle inspires Jagan to seek inner peace.

Expert Answers

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The man with the white beard is a friend of men that Jagan knows. At first, he thinks the man is someone's brother.

The white-bearded man appears with his friends to ask why Jagan has lowered the prices of his sweets. They feel that he is hurting their businesses. The man tells him that union is strength; he tries to use a quote from the Panchatantra to make his point; they're trying to convince Jagan to raise his prices again.

The man later tells Jagan that he's a seller of hair dye and that he went to work for his master when he was five years old. His master never married, and the bearded man grew up without worrying about those things. Jagan finds it strange that the man with such a white beard would sell black dyes.

The man says his business is doing well and that he hasn't had a visit from the tax people. He's an old-fashioned man who feels like someone from the past to Jagan. He learned from his master to be in touch with the natural world and in sync with things around him. The way that the white-bearded man lives gives Jagan ideas about how he might find a measure of inner peace.

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