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Poetic Justice in The Man-Eater of Malgudi

Paper type: Essay
Pages: 11 (2651 words)
Categories: India, Justice, Poetry
Downloads: 47
Views: 4

R.K. Narayan occupies a prominent position in the history of Anglo-Indian literature. He is one of those Indian novelists who have contributed a great deal to the development of Indian fiction. In his novels Narayan has deeply studied them and used them in his own way reflecting the socio-cultural, socio-economic, socio-political and psychological aspects of Indian society. His The Man-Eater of Malgudi ably represents these aspects of the society through the character of Vasu, the demon or the Rakshasa, a symbol of evil forces of human life.

The main objectives as mythical structure, technique and methods are organised in such a way that the author is able to create a metaphysical world in it. The author’s use of Hindu mythology finds a true reflection in this novel and through it he is able to represent a philosophical world of human mind and its overall effects on human society.

Narayan’s main attempt in this novel is to introduce the two contrasting forces- Good and Evil’ that exist in every human mind, are distinctly focused.

The novelist also represents in it a good lesson for every individual how the evil forces though possess immense power are ultimately vanquished and the good forces triumph over them. In fact, Poetic justice’ finds its true expression in this novel and with it peace, prosperity, a world of love, sanctity, solitude and harmony are established. R.K Narayan’s The Man-Eater of Malgudi has a definite sustained mythical structure.It is the method of using myth as a structural parallel which has been consistently applied inthis novel. This novel is rich in myths and legends and the novelist has used this techniquemore consistently and effectively in this novel than any other of his novels. As in his othernovels the structural parallel method has not been thoroughly used rather it is done in afragmentary way with an incoherent assimilation of character and situation. The materialsthat the novelist uses in this novel are rich in myths and legends and he uses the same oldtechnique. The relevance of the classical myths and legends to modern life is apparent to agreater or lesser extent in his novels.

In the novel The Man-Eater of Malgudi his method ofmythologizing contemporary reality becomes ever more apparent and important. Here theauthor has presented a definite sustained mythical structure. Reviewers have read it as anallegory and some have pointed out that the novel closely follows the classical pattern ofSanskrit literature. In his introduction to Gods, Demons and other’s, which followed thepresent novel, Narayan explains some of the principles which constitute the classical myths inhis novels. His principle of introducing myths, legends and folk tales is the inevitable triumphof good over the evils existing in the society since ancient times. He emphasises on the law ofkarma’ for shaping the future of an individual. He believes in the time-scheme of the godsand the role that god plays in the activities of every individual. He narrates the specificstylized roles of gods, demons, kings and sages in his works and they get interested to thereaders of all generation. These puranic’ characters are not described as the remote mythological characters invested with invisible spectral power rather act as types andsymbols possessing psychological validity in the context of the modern literature.

The structural unity of the novel The Man Eater Of Malgudi is wholly based more ona mythical parallel than on a philosophical concept. In mythical narratives the chiefcharacters who are gods, demons, dragons, sages and other beings are larger in power andboth the good and evil forces have unique supernatural forces that empowers them in such away that they are able to do what they wish and no other common force dares to enter intotheir zone. The powerful evil forces try always to do away with the good forces and humanityand gods and sages ultimately demolish their attempt and establish a world of peace,harmony, humanity and sanctity. In this novel Vasu stands for the evil forces of life. Vasu isthe power hungry taxidermist and the dynamic man of action who lives much above thecommon run of men. He has been ironically described as The Man eater’ and the Rakshasaas a demonic creature possessing enormous strength, strange power and extraordinary geniusfar above the ordinary level of humanity. He is designed after the Ravans, the Rakshasacharacter of the Ramayana and the Asuras available in the Indian Puranas. He is portrayed asthe incarnation of evil force that threatens common humanity in general. He occupies an allpervasive monster-like position. His demonic or Asuric personality raises him to the level ofan Asuras. By his character the novelist tries to establish a philosophical view of spiritualistthat implies that no one on earth is so powerful as to evade the stern hand of divine justice.

Vasu is a man of hot-headed and self willed and such a personality is always obdurate anddoes have the sense of morality. Such a personality runs at his own will intending to fulfil hisown desire. It is he who threatens to defy all the prized human values and pricking ofconscience to satisfy his own selfish needs. It is well said that a demon is morally andvirtually bound to be barren to be demolished in the hands of almighty and thereby thesociety in general is able to define the good forces of life in the context of evils. That is why,the poetic justice is seen when Vasu is caught in his own trap and dies by his own hand. Herethe destruction of the Man eater’ offers a parallel to the destruction of the evil doer Ravanain the hands of Rama, the god man. There may be controversy that Ravana in the Ramayana was a devoted disciple to the lord Shiva and he had not violated even Sita’s chastity, thenhow can he be treated as demon. The very simple answer to the controversy is that Ravanawas an emblem of self ego and an undefeatable personality. His self ego made him blindand in spite of being a devoted disciple of Lord Shiva he has to die for lacking of ethicalvalues. Sastri’s view about mischievous forces to Nataraja signifies the moral underlying themythical structure of the novel:Every demon appears in the world with a special boon of indestructibility. Yetthe universe has survived all the Rakshashas that were ever born. Everydemon carries within him, unknown to himself, a tiny seed of self destruction,goes up in thin air at the most unexpected moment. Otherwise what is tohappen to humanity. (The Man Eater of Malgudi)Narayan has deeply studied the Hindu mythical trilogy of Bhasmssura Praveen, an Asura ordemon who was granted power to burn up and immediately turn into ashes (bhasma) anyonewhose head he touched with his hand. Bhasmasur was tricked by the god Vishnu’s onlyfemale avatar, the enchantress Mohini, to turn himself into ashes. From the Bhasmssuratrilogy Narayan has created his Vasu who like Bhasmssura met his death by his own hands.Through the character of Vasu Narayan is able to give an insight into the innocent minds Malgudi about The Man Eater Of Malgudi whose myth and fact cannot not be clearlydistinguishable.

Heroic character either good or bad becomes true heroic when it istransferred to the qualities of legendary mythical character in general. For such a mind a factdoes not become significant until it can be related to a myth. Vasu, the hard heartedtaxidermist is given to cannibalism and the annihilation of his own kind. Narayan follows theIndian classical tradition by giving his central character a mythical status.The mythical structure of the novel is designed by the puranic conflict between sura’and asura’ i.e. a conflict between good and evil. The use of myth has a structural relevanceto the total concept of the plot and this is not incidental. A controversy arises here in thestructural pattern of the story of this novel-was Narayan using consciously myth as atechnique in his work? Or was it an unconscious expression of his basic outlook which sees in the existing order of things a desired stability that should be permanent against all the oddsof the evil? The answer to the very controversy is that Narayan’s The Man Eater of Malgudiapparently falls into the category of archetypal pattern where mythical situation underlinesthe whole or part of a novel. This is seen in this novel in certain archetypal figures, situationsand relationships. Vasu is the archetype of evil force that goes on relentlessly in its fightagainst truth and nature. The archetypal situation as occurred in the last part of the novel isinteresting enough when the unconquerable man eater succumbs to death by his own weaponReduced himself to ashes by placing the tips of his fingers on his own head.Narayan has created domain of human psychology to show the destructibility of theevil forces and eternity of peace and order originated from the ashes of destruction of the evilforces as seen in the novel. Evil forces though powerful are bound to destroy by the trueforces of peace and order and thus there will germinate a new dawn to usher a new worldorder. By this novel the novelist envisions of a positive world where orderly life movessmoothly when the darkness, unreality, illusion and disorder like bubble sooner or later willburst. The normal order of cosmos will prevail with the destruction of evil forces.

It cannot be denied that Narayan very often uses the myths, legends and folk tales inhis novels sarcastically. In the novel The Man- Eater of Malgudi Vasu is a representative ofthose who wish to deserve power through evil action. In this novel myths and legends are partof the characterisation of Vasu and also they are integral to the development of the events ofthe story. The design of the novel though not complicated makes recognition through itsstructure. In this context Northrop Frye’s classification of recognition in fiction ispraiseworthy. Frye has spoken two types of recognition in fiction. As arte facts of theimagination, literary works, including “the pre-literary categories of ritual, myth and folktale”(Archetypes 1450) form, in Frye’s vision, a potentially unified imaginative experience.He reminds us that literature is the “central and most important extension of mythology. symbols, myths and genres” (Hart 23). Integrity for criticism requires that it too operateswithin the sphere of the imagination, and not seek an organizing principle in ideology. To doso, Frye claims:. . . leaves out the central structural principles that literature derives frommyth, the principles that give literature its communicating power across thecenturies through all ideological changes. Such structural principles arecertainly conditioned by social and historical factors and do not transcendthem, but they retain a continuity of form that points to an identity of theliterary organism distinct from all its adaptations to its social environment(Words with Power xiii).

Narayan’s novel The Man- Eater of Malgudi assumes a new meaning as soon as therecognition of the identity of the total design is experienced, One is the continuousrecognition of credibility, fidelity to experience. The other is the recognition of the identity ofthe total design, into which we are initiated by the technical recognition of the plotThe author is quite aware of the total design of the novel. He succeeds in maintainingthe integrity of the structure. His observation of poetic justice in the classical mythology iswidely acclaimed, The strong man of evil continues to be reckless until he is destroyed bythe tempo of his own misdeeds. Evil has in it, buried subtly, the infallible seeds of its owndestruction and however frightening a demon may seem, his doom is implied in his own evilpropensitiesNarayan executes this idea of the mythical demon in this novel and describes itsrelevance to modern time. His portrayal of Vasu, the taxidermist as narrated in the early partof the novel shows the demonic quality clearly, He shows all the definitions of a Rakshasa,persisted Shastri, and went on to define the makeup of a Rakshasa…………He said, EveryRakshasa gets swollen with ego’ He thinks he is invincible, beyond law. But sooner or latersomething or other will destroy him’Literary works adorned with mythical elements have mock-heroic quality. The mockheroicmethod as used by Narayan in the story depends on a balance between credibility andevery human society possesses a mythology which is inherited, transmitted and diversified byliterature” (Words with Power xiii). Mythology and literature thus inhabit and function withinthe same imaginative world, one that is “governed by conventions, by its own modes, irrationality. With the establishment of Vasu’s image as Rakshasa and with the exposition ofhis complete tenacity and aggression, all encounters with him take on the character of mockheroicskirmishes with an invincible demon.

Like Dr. Faustus Vasu is too confident ofhimself, too sure of his superiority over other and too quick to challenge the knowledge andauthority of others. Nataraj narrates him, Now it was like having middle aged man-eater inyour office and home, with the same uncertainties, possibilities and potentialities’.Yet all events in the novel remain credible while the final explanation of Vasu’s deathalone is deliberately absurd. He has smashed in his own skull. Death is inevitable; no powercan survive forever and save anything from it. Demons adorned with evil forces of life desireto occupy the power of the whole earth and intend to conquer the good forces through thetricks of black art. But by the inevitable power of death drags them to the ultimate doom.Vasu’s death is an established fact which was inevitable in the course of time. Like everydemon as we see in the great epics and the Puranas of India Vasu also carries within himconsciously or unconsciously the tiny seed of self-destruction’ which brings about his end.What happens in the destruction of the demons in the great Indian epics that the demons aredubbed by God with the pledge that they are immortal but they fail to see the tricks played?As in the case of Mahisasur who is befooled with a promise that no man can harm or kill him.It does not mean that he will not be killed by woman. Devi Durga, a symbol of truth, justiceand power defeated and killed him in the form of woman. The story that Vasu killed himselfis a parody of the well known myths about demon of Indian epics. Shastri returns to Malgudi, having shrewdly absented himself while the police investigation was going on in the press.

He offers Nataraj the mixed holy ash of his pilgrimage as if absolving him from hisinvolvement with Vasu. In fact, the mythical structure of The Man-Man of Malgudi is partlya self conscious device, it is mainly the archetypal pattern that is to be found in many of hisnovels. The myth of Bhasmasura used in The Man-Eater ofMalgudi’ brings forth the truth that the evil does notrecognize any propriety’. Bhasmasura in the myth and Vasuin the novel turn out at the end to be selfish, mean,ungrateful and cunning fellows. Thus, the myth and thenovel both establish the fact that evil brings about it owndownfall and destruction. Besides, both the novel and themyth hint at the novel and secret and mysterious origin ofthe evil. In the myth, the evil has a divine source, and it isdestroyed through a divine trick. In the novels, the evilappears to be quite captivating, but to end, however is veryironical as the power of Vasu stands juxtaposed to the smallinsects like mosquitoes. But it is really very surprising thatR.K. Narayan did not make a conscious use of the myth inthis novel. In a ratio interview be made it very clear that hewas not at ill aware of the fact that he was creating or hascreated an Asura in the form of Vasu.

Works Cited

1. Abrams, M.H. A Glossary of Literary Terms. Singapore: Thomson Asia Pvt. Ltd, 2003.

2. Frye, Northrop. Anatomy of Criticism. London: Faber, 2009.

3. Frye, Northrop. Fables of Identity’ Studies in Poetic Mythology. London, Jacks Press,1963.

4. Gangopadhyay, Avik. Literary Theories and Criticism; Beyond Modernism. Kolkata:Books Way, 2005.

5. Naik, M.K. A History of Indian English Literature. New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi, 2007.

6. Narayan, R.K: The Man Eater of Malgudi; London, Makey, 1999.

7. Sanyal, Samares C. Indianness In Major Indo-English Novels. Bareilly: Prakash BookDepot, 1984.

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Poetic Justice in The Man-Eater of Malgudi. (2019, Aug 20). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/poetic-justice-in-the-man-eater-of-malgudi-essay

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