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“The Guide” by R. K. Narayan Essay

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Updated: Jan 15th, 2022

Modern morality values have firmly entered the life of western society many decades ago. However, eastern cultures’ values are affected but not overthrown. What can be said about modernity and Indian society? Did it refashion its values or just affected them in a way? In The Guide novel by R. K. Narayan this question is actively discussed. The novel’s characters represent different lifestyles and beliefs. Marco is a symbol of western modernity whereas Raju’s mother represents traditional Indian mentality. The following paper has its purpose to discuss the characters contrast of Raju’s mother and Marco from various angles.

First of all I would like to draw your attention to some basic points concerning R. K. Narayan’s novel. The events which the author described took place in a fictitious town in South India – Malgudi. The basic idea of the novel is the protagonist’s transformation. The characters of his mother and his lover’s husband Marco make their contribution to this transformation. They also reveal two different ways of thinking: western modern one and Indian conservative values. Marco’s and Raju’s mother’s characters are to be considered further in order to research the differences in western modernity and Indian traditional values. In the following paragraphs their values, believes and role in the novel will be discussed.

Marco’s character

Speaking about Marco it should be first of all stated that he is an anthropologist and scholar by occupation and is much more interested in his researches than in his close ones and his beautiful young wife Rosie in particular. He is a man of academic interests; he constantly studies sculpture and tries to dig out some unknown ancient objects. He is much more interested in studying stones than in dealing with people.

Marco is evidently a nickname for Rosie’s husband (however this fact is not stated clearly by the author). Raju calls him like this due to his appearance the day they met. This man was dressed in a jacket and a helmet as if he was to undertake the expedition just like Marco Polo. “He dressed like a man about to undertake an expedition, with his thick colored glasses, thick jacket, and a thick helmet, over which was perpetually stretched a green, shinny, water proof cover, giving him the appearance of a space-traveler” explains Raju (Narayan, p. 17).

As to Marco’s marital status he is married to a beautiful woman named Rosie but he does not love her and is blind to her physical and emotional needs. Marco is impotent and he does not conceal his sexual creeds. He openly says to Raju while on a tour with him and Rosie: “If a man has to have peace of mind, it is best that he forgets the fair sex” (Narayan, p. 63). They quarrel constantly. It should be pointed out that moral values meant nothing for Rosie’s husband. It seemed that Marco didn’t love his wife and does not really care about her. He shows no interest to her values and passions, for example to dancing. Thus, Marco made wrong choice when he married Rosie. When people have nothing in common they cannot be happy, they don’t understand each other and they can’t trust each other. The things are not important for Marco so he is hopeless.

Marco is associated with masculinity image as he represents certain characteristics which are considered to be typical for male sex: he is composed and outwardly restrained, while his opponent Raju is very impulsive and thoughtless. When Marco found out that Raju and Rosie were the lovers, he simply left his wife and came back to Madras.

Marco signifies the western influence in the novel. Everything about him from his way of being dressed to his conduct and values shouts about it. Marco believes in his work, what he can achieve, what can make him outstanding scholar and anthropologist. These are his main concerns. He does not care about family values too much. Marco is not noticed to pay special attention to his wife and to undertake particular measures to save his marriage – when it is broken it is simply left by Marco as something useless and even robbing him of peace of mind.

Marco’s role in the novel is establishing western influence in modern day Indian society. The author resorts to the use of his character to bring in the ideas of material values which are far superior to spiritual and emotional ones in western society.

Raju’s mother character

Speaking about Raju’s mother it should be stated that she is in contrast to Marco the representative of India traditional society with its moral standards, traditions, religious values and beliefs. This calm and modest woman values gods, religious traditions and marriage ties as something sacred. Her main concern is to preserve high moral standards within her family and when she fails to do so for her son Raju this becomes a real tragedy for her.

When Raju comes to live with the other man’s wife in his family house his old-fashioned mother cannot stand this. The author writes: she “looked anguished for a moment, wondering how she was going to accommodate a ‘Rosie’ in her house” (Narayan, p. 55). The woman did not withstand her resentment out of her son’s undeserving conduct and left their home. Raju’s mother says to his lover Rosi: “Everything was so good and quiet – until you came in like a viper. On the very day I heard him mention the ‘serpent girl’ my heart sank” (Amitangshu, p. 1). This explains clearly how hateful were her son’s deeds to the woman. However, her position definitely left its trace in Raju’s mind. He said to himself: “No, no. It is not right, Marco is her husband, remember” (Narayan, p. 69).

Raju’s mother’s character’s role in the novel is establishing Indian values. Her beliefs indicate that western values so actively coming to the country have evaded it but not overthrown the former morality. The woman simply acknowledges the fact of existence of “new morality” but she does not except this new way of thinking, she shows her protest. Thus the author is offering his idea on modern day India mentality. People acknowledge globalization process, let western beliefs and traditions enter their lives but do not stick to them.

In conclusion, it should be pointed out that Raju’s mother and Marco’s characters are used by Narayan to give a contrast among modern western values and conservative Indian moral principles. The author depicts those two oppositional characters in order to contrast western material values to eastern morality and spirituality principles. Both characters affect the life of the main protagonist Raju. However, it seems that his mother is more effective as after a row of events Raju comes to adhere to Indian spiritual values.

Works Cited

  1. Amitangshu, A. Sex, Symbolism, Illusion and Reality in R.K. Narayan’s The Guide. 2003.
  2. Narayan, R.K. The Guide. United States: Penguin Classics, 2006. Print
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