Short Summary of “English Teacher” by R.K. Narayan

Krishna now meets the head-master of a new Children’s School. He is very much impressed by his educational theories, gives up his job in the college to serve the new institution. That very night he is able to communicate with the spirit of his dead wife directly, for the first time. At this, an ineffable joy descends upon his soul.

Human connections are not achieved easily in Narayan’s fictional world. Indeed, what often strikes you about that world something well concealed by Narayan’s instinct for humour and sense of absurdity is its extraordinary lovelessness. A Brahmanical formality circumscribes the relationships within families, the father being especially aloof, often cold, and romantic love, when it occurs, is either a loss of self-control (The Bachelor of Arts, Mr. Sampath, The Guide, Talkative Man), or so beset by anxiety and fear Waiting for the Mahatma) that its failure comes (as in A Painter of Signs), almost as a relief to the protagonists.

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This is what makes so remarkable the first part of The English Teacher, where the narrator, Krishna, describes the quiet happiness of suddenly falling in love with his wife. The happiness is celebrated here through the many details of domestic life: the little squabbles, the shopping expeditions, the reading of poetry, the fussiness over the first child, the search for a new house.

Elizabeth Bowen was one of the many reviewers of the novel who commented on the rapturous state of Krishna’s being, which really derived in this most explicitly autobiographical of Narayan’s novels from the serenity and joy marriage brought to Narayan’s own life. Until his marriage, his novels still unpublished and the future a discouraging blank, Narayan seems to have been like Krishna, who, when the novel begins, is leading a largely unsatisfactory life as a teacher of English literature, trying to explain the poems of Southey to uncomprehending students at a missionary college.

The six years of married life with Rajam, his wife, seem to have returned Narayan, while he was still in the midst of the long ordeal of growing up and finding a vocation for himself, to that “joy over nothing in particular” of his childhood.

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