Use of Myth in R.K. Narayan’s Novel “The Bachelor of Arts”

Taken from these various traditional sources the myths and legends are improved and improvised to suit the modern times and contemporary situation. Through these stories Narayan tries to present a view of life and a moral vision in terms of the comic mode, though never didactic or instructive anywhere. In the words of George Woodcock: “The ancient Indian myths which Narayan began to read within his middle years are not merely plots for films; his novels recreate them.” Therefore one can see that Narayan’s view of life is essentially Indian and that his novels offer a recreation of the traditional imagination as it acts upon the individual consciousness with the contemporary society.

Narayan’s vision is characterized by a unique Indian sensibility:

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Narayan is a writer with a full commitment to certain spiritual and religious ideas with which Indians are normally familiar and he has been able to penetrate into the core of Indian life without being hampered by problems of regionalism, religion, caste and class with which an Indian writer has to come to grips. What is characteristically great about him is that he has been able to capture the essence that is Indian.

That Narayan’s vision is characterized by a unique Indian sensibility is of no doubt. And his adherence to the ancient Indian tradition—(as reflected in his fictional world) a tradition which is deeply rooted in the beliefs of the trans­migration of the soul, karma, reincarnation and renunciation, becomes clear through a perceptive study of his fiction.

Chandran of the Bachelor of Arts is the boy Swami grown up:

Chandran of The Bachelor of Arts is the boy Swami grown up. He is a young man now, soon to be a Bachelor of Arts studying at the Albert Mission College. He is a representative of the college-going youth with all ambitions and aspirations. He gets elected as the cultural secretary, struggles hard to arrange and manage cultural programmes, presents a paper in the seminar, learns to tread warily with his European teachers and finally appears for the B.A. Degree Examination, and comes out of the college.

Awaiting the results, and having planned nothing in particular, Chandran goes for a walk along the banks of the river Sarayu and sees Malathi and falls in love with her at first sight. He tries to marry her but the horoscopes mismatch and the parents decline to proceed with the marriage.

Soon after his graduation, a major change comes into Chandran’s life. He falls in love and this change him immensely:

Having become a graduate, he is yet to decide as to what career he is to choose when well-wishers and relatives begin to pester him with enquiries and advice about his future until “Chandran had a feeling of persecution” Then he decides that he would like to go to England and get a doctorate and tells his father and relatives so. This convinces everybody because among Indian middle-class going abroad for higher studies enjoys a certain prestige which makes it an accepted excuse for not taking up a job or allied responsibilities.

In the meanwhile, there is no college for Chandran now and he enjoys his new-found freedom. He spends his time in the library catching up on the reading he had not been able to do in college. In the evenings, he goes for long walks alone on the banks of Sarayu as almost all his friends including Ramu have left Malgudi. During one of his rambling along the banks of Sarayu, Chandran he chances upon young girl in a green sari playing with her little companion. He falls in love with her at first sight:

He liked the way she sat; he liked the way she played with her sister, he liked the way she dug her hands into the sand and threw it in the air. He would have willingly settled there and spent the rest of his life watching her dig her hands into the sand.

This prepares us for the ‘irrational’ way in which Chandran falls in love with ‘the girl’ and the manner in which he begins to imagine that she too returns his feelings so that there is a strong case for him to marry her. His infatuation with the Malathi, the girl on the sands, remains merely at the level of eye-friendship and though Chandran is not even sure if she is fair or brown or her is straight or crooked, his feelings for her are very intense.

He dreams and fantasizes about her and begins to confuse dream with reality so as to want to marry her. This faithful equation of “optical communion” with love only underscores his immaturity and innocence. Denied of contact with the girl, he can express his feelings in poor imitation in the manner of heroes of books of fiction. He does not have the capacity of a mature adult to devise solution to meet the trouble if and when it comes. That is why he takes the broken affair with Malathi very seriously when the disappointment comes.

Chandran’s failure in his love with Malathi is similar to the mythical Sasanka’s love for Tara:

According to K.V.S. Murti, it is here that one notices the mythical parallel—that of Tara and Sasanka (The Moon God). Sasanka or Chandra as he is more commonly known, falls in love with Tara, wife of his guru. As it is out of bounds of the ethical code, it proves unsuccessful. Chandran too falls in love with Malathi, a phenomenon which is unheard of in a society where marriages by parental consent and arrangement are common.

The love-affair, if one can call it that, is doomed to be a failure from the beginning. Chandran frustrated goes out of Malgudi and becomes a sanyasi for a while. Thus he enters the fourth stage of the varnasramdharma, advocated by the Vedas. This is a stage to be entered only after going the first three—that of brahmacharyav (bachelor), garhasthya (householder) and vanaprasthya (renouncer of the world). As Chandran is not at peace with himself and is not ready for sanyasasrama, he fails as a sanyasi.

After a short period, he realizes that he has not fulfilled his other duties and responsibilities as a son and householder, and that his renunciation was really an alternative to suicide. He returns home, sets up an office as an agent of The Daily Messenger and marries Susila, a girl of his parents’ choice, falls madly in love with her and settles down happily. Towards the end of the novel he is seen leaving for Talapur, his wife’s place since he failed to get a letter from her almost a week.

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