The Vendor of Sweets

by R. K. Narayan

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What incidents in The Vendor of Sweets show Mali's desire for independence from his father?

Quick answer:

Mali shows that he wants to be independent and free from his father Jagan's authority when he purchases a passport and a ticket to America with money stolen from his father. Mali again asserts himself when he brings home Grace and when he refuses Jagan's business.

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In R. K. Narayan's The Vendor of Sweets, father Jagan and son Mali have some very different ideas and goals. Jagan owns a sweetshop and tries to follow the teachings of Gandhi. Mali, though, longs to get away from his father's traditional way of life and strike out on his own. He wants to be independent and free from what he views as his father's bothersome authority.

Mali expresses these desires when, without his father's knowledge, he gets a passport and a ticket to America so that he can go there and study creative writing. He even steals money from Jagan in order to get what he needs. By this incident, Mali shows in no uncertain terms that he will be independent although this is greatly ironic, for Mali must depend on his father's money to finance his so-called freedom.

Mali and Jagan correspond some over the three years Mali spends in America, and Jagan forgives his son for his deception and stealing. But then Mali asserts his “independence” again when he comes home with Grace, a Korean-American woman whom Mali introduces as his wife even though they are not legally married. Again, with this act, Mali is scorning his father's beliefs and ways of living. Jagan eventually becomes fond of Grace, but she never truly fits in.

Mali strikes yet another blow for “freedom” when he refuses Jagan's offer of the sweetshop business. He does not want to live as his father does. Instead, Mali ends up arrested for drinking and driving and is sent to prison. For all his apparent devotion to freedom and independence, Mali has lost both by his foolish actions.

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