The English Teacher Essay

1062 Words 5 Pages
The English Teacher, by Indian novelist R. K. Narayan, tells the story of a young professor, Krishna, who must adapt first to family life with his wife and daughter and then to his wife's death. This short novel, written in simple prose, examines many large issues--love, death, loyalty, fate--but always with equanimity. Krishna teaches himself, and the novel tries to teach us, to be, as it is put by the novel's last words, "grateful to life and death."

Set a few years before India gained its independence, the novel begins with Krishna living in a hostel near his university, the same one he had occupied as a student, and going about his routine. He is not very happy as an English teacher. He soon learns that his wife and
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On the other hand, it still smacks of escapism; I doubt dead wives return to see their husbands any more often in India than they do in America. What irks me is not the presence of a supernatural element, but that the novel is presented realistically; it limns a simple, unromantic world and sets the death of a spouse in the midst of it, as the central issue. The convenient vision that ends the novel strikes me as an evasion.

That is not to say the novel is simplistic. Indeed, I hesitate to point out that fault, because I was kept in moral suspense till the end. As I said, it is not clear for a long while whether his otherworldly communication is real or simulated, and the novel's themes are urgent and complex, the happy ending notwithstanding. Besides, the ending has some lyrical beauty.

The most interesting part of the novel is doubtless the anxious beginnings of Krishna's spiritual experiment. That the results of this experiment turn out to have empirical foundations (more or less: a certain lost box has tiger feet, as Susila said, but the letters are still missing) does not vitiate the power of these scenes, that is, it does not cheapen them aesthetically. It is fascinating and moving in itself to see what a man needs for comfort, what separation and loss mean in the

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