Short Summary of “Man-Eater of Malgudi” by R. K. Narayan

When even Nataraj’s neighbours complain to him about the unsanitary conditions of the neighbourhood, he requests Vasu to find a new house for himself. The taxidermist treats this as an insult and sues him for harassing him and trying to evict him by unlawful means. The timely help from his clients, an old lawyer, his ability to prolong a case beyond the wildest dream of a litigant, saves Nataraj from the clutches of the law. Soon after Vasu starts bringing Rangi, a notorious dancing woman and some other women like her, to his room, to the great nuisance of all concerned. But Vasu cares too hoots for their feelings.

The crisis, however, comes to a head when the pitiless taxidermist threatens to kill Kumar, a temple elephant who is to be taken in a festival procession organized to celebrate the poet’s completion of his religious epic on God Krishna. Nataraj is very fond of the elephant, Kumar. He becomes naturally upset the moment he learns from Rangi that Vasu intends shooting it on the night of the proposed procession. Nataraj immediately posts the wicked intentions of Vasu to his friend, the poet, the lawyer, and other important people of the town. The matter is reported to the police authorities but they express their inability to take any action against him until the crime has been actually committed.

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The very thought of the temple-elephant, Kumar’s murder, drives Nataraj crazy. Even while compelled to stay in his house owing to the agitated condition of his mind, he constantly thinks of the danger awaiting Kumar. As the procession passes in front of the printing press, his heart begins to beat pit a pat with fear. He is afraid of hearing the fateful gun shots and cries of panic-stricken people. He is surprised when the procession passes away without any untoward incident.

Freed from a nagging worry, Nataraj goes to his office in the morning. To his utter shock and dismay, he learns that Vasu, the taxidermist is dead. The police authorities of the town soon start investigations. Murder is suspected; Nataraj, his friends, and Rangi, the temple dancer, are interrogated by the police.

From the medical report it is gathered that Vasu had died of a concussion received on his right forehead from a blunt instrument. When the police fail to find any clue of the culprit, the matter is dropped. Rangi later tells them that while striking a mosquito that settled on his forehead, Vasu slapped his temple and died instantaneously. He thus died of his own hammer-fist.

The novel has a well-knit plot and a fine gallery of vivid, life-like characters. The character of Vasu, the central figure is a masterpiece. The narration is enlivened by Narayan’s comic vision which very often and mingles with pathos.

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