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Book Review: R.K Narayan”s The Vendor of Sweets

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Anushri Mondal:

R.K Narayan’s The Vendor of Sweets (1967) like his other books is composed in simple, lucid English that can be read and undestood without turning and returning the pages after a single read. The compositional language is no doubt, plain– to such an extent that even a young school child’s vocabulary will be able to comprehend the sense of the tale. Nevertheless, the message that is being sent to the readers is delivered in the best possible manner.

The story deals with Jagan, the primary protagonist of the story. Jagan plays the role of the father of the household which houses his only son, Mali, and memories of his late wife. The story revolves around the life, deeds, confusions, policies and beliefs of the protagonist and his final, ultimate decision to dislodge himself from the material world and live a life of recluse and isolation.

Mali, his son, is portrayed as a character having ambitions that can be regarded unique or perhaps at odds with his father’s expectations, is a young chap ready to leave his homeland in order to learn the art of novel writing. He comes across as a revolutionary, returning to India along with a foreigner-woman whom he declares to be his beloved wife in the initial days, but later on reveals about the non-occurrence of the marriage ceremony. Although, on a superficial level, he comes across as someone who is opposed to the conservative ideals and values represented by his father Jagan; although further contemplation dawns upon us that Mali is not really opposed to, but in line with his father’s temper.

Jagan’s earlier life (when he was a part of the freedom struggle and supported Mahatma) is a revelation of his aggressive spirit. A spirit that does not fear the walls of a prison chamber, reiterated in his son’s similar stance in the concluding part of the novel, when he is arrested and sent to prison on account of achohol found in his car.

The relationship between the father and the son is hashed, based on mechanical exercises and utilitarian expectations from the son by the father. There is little or no warmth in their relation and there is no attempt to develop one such, especially on part of Mali. Jagan is shown to be inquisitive about the strain in their relation but is also burdened by the guilt conscience when he recalls the fact that Mali had stopped talking to him on the very day when his mother expired on account of Jagan’s refusal to provide her with antibiotics. Since one cannot change the past, Jagan ultimately accepts his position as a money lender for his son, with no other duties or responsibilities.

Grace, the woman who Mali has ‘supposedly’ married, is a woman of duty, responsibility and sensibility. She is the one who is charred by the Indian traditions, finds it fascinating and makes every effort to bide by the customs and traditions, at times , even more than the Indians themselves. She promptly wins Jagan’s (her father-in-law) heart with her extreme sweetness and rational temper. She soon becomes a medium of conversation between Jagan and Mali from being looked as an averred foreigner when she stepped on the platform of Malgudi for the first time.

The book is a must read for all fiction lovers and Malgudi fans.

You must be to comment.
  1. Vartika Pandey

    it is anice review. hope the book too would be mice.

  2. Vartika Pandey

    there are grammatical errors.

  3. Ria chakraborty

    nice bt it cn represent in sm other way

  4. kiaratanaz

    thanks!!!!!!!!!! this helped me a lot………..

  5. PRIYANKA PRIYADARSHINI

    HERE’S MINE……………….

    Time is a strange teacher. It makes you act contrary to all your judgements, beliefs and desires. It is a great leveler too, as only it can make sure that whatever has happened would be rectified in due course.

    ‘The Vendor of Sweets’ by R.K. Narayan, the master creator of ‘Swami and Friends’ exhibits this fact very convincingly.

    ‘The Vendor of Sweets’ is centered around an old orthodox Brahmin, Jagan, who runs a sweet-meat shop in Malgudi and has never ever stepped out of his hometown. Gita forms the staple of his life. He tries to act on the principles described in the great epic. Naturopathy forms the pivotal of his life and he even desires to publish his natural way of living in the form of a book, but obviously it is a futile dream as the draft has been gathering dust in the publisher’s office for the last five years.

    Apart from his love for bhagwadgita and naturopathy, the only important goal of Jagan’s life is to provide the best education to his son Mali and make him a successful man. Since jagan’s wife is not alive, he becomes over obsessive about his son Mali. However Mali considers his father’s reliance on naturopathy instead of proper medical help, the main cause for his mother’s early death. Thus, he avoids his father and does not include him in his everyday life.

    A turning point comes in the story when Mali abandons his studies to become a writer. Jagan accepts this sudden change in his son’s ambitions with fatherly love and even starts hoping that his son would become a much better writer than himself. But, he is shocked to know that his son has changed tracks again and now wants to go to America. Mali has got his passport and tickets ready without even informing Jagan about his plans.

    But, the old man accepts even this diversion with good heart and treasures every letter received from Mali and proudly exhibits it to anyone who cares to listen. Narayan has very convincingly portrayed the numerous soliloquies, the old man has with himself, ranting about his bottled up conflicts and tussles. He has the best concern for his son and is heartbroken when Mali returns from America with a foreign wife, Grace. after initial awkwardness, he makes peace with Grace as well and once again tries to bridge the gap between himself and his son, with Grace acting as a common link.

    However, the situation worsens, when Mali asks for financial help from his father and jagan refuses to do so. Mali leaves home in a jiffy,leaving behind the poor old man to fend for himself. Towards the climax, jagan’s heart undergoes change and he let Mali suffer for his drinking habits and favors Grace instead.

    The book revolves around the theme of generation gap. The more the vendor tries to fill the gap, the more prominent it becomes. The father has difficulties in adjusting to the changing attitude and life style of his son, while the son considers his father’s Gandhian lifestyle redundant and boring and does not care to understand him.

    R.k. Narayan is famous for his Malgudi Days and I especially liked his Swami and Friends which was written in a very simple manner suitable for children book. But, after reading this novel, Narayan’s maturity in handling sensitive issues comes into picture. He is one of the most reliable writers, who can be expected to give a beautiful treatment to this common but seldom touched upon subject.

    I was touched while reading about the old Vendor of Sweets, who is punished for no fault of his, in fact his love and innocence becomes his nemesis. The vendor, who is deeply religious, believes in caste system and considers crossing sea as a grave sin for Hindus, is made to undergo all those events which shake his beliefs in age-old wisdom and jerks him to accept the changing reality with a brave heart.

    A very absorbing book which depicts life as a challenging ocean, which can be only crossed on the boat of time with patience and endurance acting as oars.

    1. Krishna Chaitanya

      Excellent review !! Liked the way you put it !! Great job 🙂

  6. swetha

    utttterrrrrr crappp !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. varshini

    thanks ……… its very useful for me

  8. nisha rawat

    it,s a book review or something else

  9. chirag chandak

    samjh nhi aa rha…farzi

  10. jane

    nice ……

  11. Mayank Khem

    You have copied it from Wikipedia! Loser.

  12. kundan

    nice review

  13. parag sharma

    best ever had

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