RK Narayan's Use of Language in "The Guide"

Essay by BilleUniversity, Bachelor'sB, August 2007

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Narayan's style is usually described as direct, unadorned and limpid. He has a gift forsketching detailed pen pictures that bring scenes and characters vividly to life withouttaking recourse to ornate or excessive description. However, the extreme simplicity ofNarayan's language has led many readers to consider this a flaw in his technique, a lackof the depth and complexity that one expects of a major writer. The fact is that Narayan'sapparent artlessness conceals a sophisticated level of art.. Narayan handles language likean immensely flexible tool that effortlessly conveys both the specific, as well as thesymbolic and the universal.

RealismThe first and most obvious characteristic of Narayan's style is his realism, which is aconsequence of his keenly observant eye for the salient fact. In The Guide, the scope ofthe narration extends from the town to the countryside, and from the peasant and thecommon man to the wealthier people Raju associates with in his heyday.

In each case, itis Narayan's meticulous attention to detail that conjures up, in its most recognisable16colors, this wide spectrum of scene and society. The intellectually stifling atmosphere ofa small town in pre_independence India is graphically elicited through Raju's pyol school, with its crampedconcrete deck flanked by a dirty drain, and its bullying teacher:[The schoolmaster] lived in Kabir Lane, in a narrow old house with a cement pyo! infront, with the street drain running right below it. He gathered a score of young boys ofmy age every morning on the pyol reclined on a cushion in the corner, and shouted at thelittle fellows, flourishing a rattan cane all the time. ... He was a very abusive man... whohabitually addressed his pupils as donkeys and traced their genealogies on either sidewith thoroughness (26).

The schoolmaster is not really very different from Velan's brother the cowherd, "one ofthe lesser intelligences of...