Strength for Today and Bright Hope for Tomorrow

Volume 9 : 5 May 2009
ISSN 1930-2940

Managing Editor: M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.
Editors: B. Mallikarjun, Ph.D.
         Sam Mohanlal, Ph.D.
         B. A. Sharada, Ph.D.
         A. R. Fatihi, Ph.D.
         Lakhan Gusain, Ph.D.
         K. Karunakaran, Ph.D.
         Jennifer Marie Bayer, Ph.D.



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Indianness in R. K. Narayan's Novel
The Man-Eater of Malgudi

Susan Nirmala S., M.A., M.Phil.

R. K. Narayan
R. K. Narayan

The Indo-Anglian Novel

Today a good number of Indians use the English language to express their experience of life. Their writings have developed into a substantial literature and are referred to as Indo-Anglian literature. The term Indian English literature is also used to refer to this fast growing body of literature which is written by Indians using English as their second language in most cases.

The Growth of the Indian Novel in English

With the introduction of English in India, a number of English Classics were translated into various Indian languages and Indian writers were inspired by these translations. Some of these writers also wrote their creative works in English. Despite its late start, the novel writing in English by Indian writers has gone far ahead of poetry both in quantity and quality. It was with the Gandhian struggle for freedom that the Indo-Anglian novel really came into its own. The ideals of the Indian freedom struggle were reflected in the earlier novels written by Indians.

The unique intricacies of Indian social life and the untranslatable nuances of Indian conversational speech are better rendered through the medium of one's mother tongue than through a foreign language. But the Indian novelists writing in English have overcome this insurmountable hurdle. Novelists like Mulk Raj Anand, Raja Rao, Bhabani Bhattacharaya, Kamala Markandaya and R.K. Narayan and others have considerably enriched Indo-Anglian fiction by producing works of high standard.

Right to Creativity through English

Indo-Anglian writers have defended their right to use English and have created for themselves a niche among a class of readers, who seem to enjoy reading Indian fiction written in English.

Visualizing English defending itself before an Indian judge against the charge that it was the language of foreign oppressors and should now return to its own country, R. K. Narayan makes the language declare,

"You probably picture me as a trident bearing Rule Brittania, but actually I am a devotee of goddess Saraswati. I have been her steadfast handmaid" (A Writer's Nightmare, 16)

Narayan defends the status of the English language in India. In 'To A Hindi Enthusiast', Narayan writes:

For me, at any rate, English is an absolutely Swadeshi language… It has sojourned in India longer than you or I and is entitled o be treated with respect. It is my hope that English will soon be classified as a non-regional Indian language. (40-41)

An Indian Writer of Indian Fiction with International Audience

R. K. Narayan is widely regarded as India's greatest writer in English. He has gained international reputation even among the readers in England and the USA, whose native language is English. R. K. Narayan had an ability to make the rhythm and intricacies of Indian life accessible to people of other cultures.

Narayan's English

Narayan wrote all his novels in a type of English which is peculiar to him with a distinct Indian colouring. He has written 15 novels and scores of short stories. While many Indo-Anglian novelists his generation had the tendency to preach, to sermonize, to advise and to convert their readers, Narayan wrote art for art's sake. In each of his novels he has presented a slice of life as he saw it, with colourful description.

English Poses Only Small Problems in Reading Narayan's Novels

Perhaps the most startling discovery in reading a Narayan novel is that language poses such a small problem. Simplicity and clarity are the keynotes to his style. Narayan's language as reflected in his English belongs to the everyday world of ordinary people. It is the "language" in which the average Malgudians dream, love and indulge in their small wars, laugh and lament. His style gives the distinct impression of a small South Indian community confined to a particular setting, their manners and musings, conversations and thoughts and instinctive reaction to things.

Narayan hardly needs a glossary to give an explanation of the words and phrases that he has used in his novels. Where he writes specifically of Indian customs or objects as he often does, no western, for that matter, non-South Indian reader will ever find it difficult to understand. No use is made of variations in accent or wrong usage of the many Indianisms that Narayan, as much as anyone else, could have heard on all sides in every part of the country. The significant fact is that while all his characters speak English, Narayan manages to express through this rather colourless medium of his, not only the general Indian sensibility but a whole range of characters, personality and temperament within it.

Narayan takes advantage of the fact that our level of passive language skills (listening and reading) in English has always been superior to our active language skills (speaking and writing).

This is only the beginning part of the article. PLEASE CLICK HERE TO READ THE ARTICLE IN PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION.

Effect of Temporal Variations on Phoneme Identification Skills in Children and Adults - Comparative Study | Indianness in R. K. Narayan's Novel - The Man-Eater of Malgudi | English Vocabulary Learning Strategies Manipulated by the Students of Azad University, District 5: A Gender-oriented Study | The Impact and Relevance of Hedda Gabler in Modern Days | Search for Identity and Self in Indian Poetry in English by Women Writers | Teaching English in Minority Institutions | The Sociolinguistics and Cultural Considerations of English-Arabic Translation of Political News | Attitudinal Factor in Second Language Acquisition - An Illustrative Example from a Class in University | A Study on Emotional Skills and Adjustment towards First and Second Language Learning and Academic Achievement | Nonverbal Communication in Tamil Novels - A Book in Tamil | The Effect of Proficiency on Multilingualism, Error Finding, Social Class and Attitude in Multilingual Pre-University Mysore Students | A Review of Muzafar Desmond Tate's The Malaysian Indians: History, Problems and Future | HOME PAGE of May 2009 Issue | HOME PAGE | CONTACT EDITOR

Susan Nirmala S., M.A., M. Phil.
Department of English
Karunya University
Coimbatore 641 114
Tamilnadu, India

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