Portrayal of Life in India in Malgudi Days by R.K. Narayan

Essay by ElaineA+, October 1996

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In Malgudi Days, although R.K. Narayan seems to present us with a bleak portrayal of India where life is very hard and there is very little human happiness, he means to reflect the triumph of the human spirit over the cruel circumstances of life. In India, poverty and the lack of education are prejudiced against and people are discriminated against because they are poor. In 'A Willing Slave', Ayah is discriminated against and treated badly merely because she is an uneducated servant. When she comes back late for the first time after her visit home, her employers imagine the worst, thinking 'she has perhaps been run over by a car and killed', 'she must have taken it in her head to give herself a holiday. No one is indispensable. I will dismiss her for this.' Although Ayah has contributed much to the family, no one but Radha appreciates it.

The same goes for Sidda in 'Leela's Friend', who is immediately assumed to be a thief simply because he was an ex-convict. However, the characters are not totally unhappy. Both Ayah and Sidda have a close, loving relationship with their charges, Radha and Leela, who seem to cling on to them more than they do to their parents. The children are free from prejudice and appreciate the true value of their servants. It is also untrue that the vicious cycle of poverty condemns a person to a life of unhappiness. In the story 'The Martyr's Corner', the lack of education does not mean a poor and unhappy life for Rama, who was said to be 'earning more money than graduates'. At times, external circumstances overturn previously happy lives and characters are not in control of their destiny. In 'The Axe', the appearance of the developers literally tear down...