But Narayan’s alternative was rejected both by Graham Greene and the Publisher Thomas Nelson & Sons Limited. Greene wrote to Narayan: ‘it seems to me’ he explained, ‘too vague and obviously poetic for so admirably concrete a book. And Omar Khayyam has been used too often over here (England).’ Graham Greene suggested Sarayu Sands for the novel.
But the Publisher rejected that too and suggested the title The Bachelor of Arts. Graham Greene also liked that title and explained his reason to Narayan for backing the choice: ‘It seems to me to combine admirably the sense of something plain and concrete and the sense of poetry in the background.’
The Bachelor of Arts is a very apt and suggestive title for the novel:
The title, Bachelor of Arts chosen for R.K. Narayan’s novel is very apt and suggestive. A good title indicates what the reader should expect of the novel besides highlighting its theme. Seen from this light, The Bachelor of Arts combines admirably the sense of something plain and concrete and the sense of poetry in the background as pointed out by Graham Greene. The novel as its title indicates traces the life and career of Chandran. He is indeed The Bachelor of Arts and the protagonist of the novel.
Chandran is the hero of the novel in the full sense of the term and the novel has been justifiably named after him:
Chandran is the hero of the novel in the full sense of the term and the novel has been justifiably named after him. It relates the life and adventures of Chandran, the ‘unheroic hero’. The first part of the novel deals with Chandran’s life at Albert Mission College, Malgudi tracing his studies as a final year B.A. student of B.A. History, his participation in the college extra-curricular activities, his interaction with his professors and friends at college leading to his ultimate passing of his B.A. Examination and becoming, Chandran, B.A.
The second part of the novel traces Chandran’s infatuation with a young girl Malathi frequenting the Sarayu sands with her little sister and ends with his frustration and despair when his efforts to marry her end in smoke. As his memories of Malathi torment him, he decides to quit Malgudi for a change.
The third part of the novel deals with his strange experiences at Madras, his decision to become a sanyasi, his aimless wanderings from district to district as a sanyasi till he becomes disenchanted with his fake sanyasihood, gives up ochre-clothes for good and returns to his parents at Malgudi.
The fourth part of the novel deals with his efforts to reestablish himself in life by taking up the Malgudi agency of The Daily Messenger issued from Madras and improving its circulation by his excellent canvassing techniques and uncompromising dedication.
He marries the girl; Susila suggested to him by his parents and becomes a loving husband of the charming young girl. The novel ends with his flying visit to see her at her parents ‘house at Talapur as he has not heard anything from her for the past six days.
Chandran is the central figure of the novel, The Bachelor of Arts:
Chandran is the central figure of the novel, The Bachelor of Arts. He is the centre of action of the novel and he is also connected to all other characters in the novel. The novel portrays a detailed account of Chandran and his relationship with the other characters of the novel. We get to know about the Professors and friends of Chandran at Albert Mission College through his interaction with them.
In the same way, we come to know of Chandran’s domestic set up and his intimate relationship with his father, mother and his brother Seenu. Chandran is either the chief source of joy and comfort or the source of anxiety of his family as he marches through the ups and downs of life.
In fact, we come to know more about Chandran’s parents, their deep affection and attachment to Chandran only through Chandran’s interaction with them. Chandran’s love-life is studied through his futile longing for Malathi driving him to his desperate decision to become a sanyasi and wander aimlessly to punish himself, his society and his parents. Chandran’s fulfilled love-life with Susila whom he marries is traced to us at some length as the novel winds towards its end.
The entire action of the novel and the other characters are viewed through Chandran’s perspective:
We can see that the entire action of the novel and the other characters are viewed through Chandran’s perspective. All the knowledge or perspective that we gain about the plot and the characters of the novel is enabled through his reactions and responses during his interactions with them. The entire action of the novel is perceived from his point of view.
The novel is episodic in form, and the various episodes are spun round Chandran. It is his point of view that is presented to us by Narayan. We come to know of Chandran’s Professors, Brown, Ragavachar and Gajapathi and his friends, Ramu, Natesan, Veeraswami and Mohan as they all appear to Chandran.
Thus we know Kailas, the epicure and his easy-ways of life through Chandran’s perspective of him. Again we come to know of Malathi and Susila through Chandran’s perspective. They are interesting to us because of their relationship with Chandran. We get an excellent picture of Chandran’s parents and his younger brother Seenu from Chandran’s point of view.
Chandran is a severe critic of himself and he is able to subject his actions on the touchstone of his own critical examination:
The sudden ups and downs of Chandran’s life are perceived through and presented from Chandran’s vision of life. Chandran is a severe critic of himself and he is able to subject his actions on the touchstone of his own critical examination. Disappointed with his love for Malathi, he deserts his home and becomes a sanyasi. He wanders from place to place as a mendicant depending on the goodwill of the people with whom he comes in contact.
But when he subjects his action as a sanyasi to severe soul- searching self-analysis, he finds that he is cheating people and preying on their faith. He realizes that he chose to become a sanyasi in preference to suicide. “He was different from the usual sanyasis. Others may renounce with a spiritual motive or purpose. Renunciation may be to them a means to attain peace or may be peace itself.
They are perhaps dead in time but they do live in eternity. But Chandran’s renunciation was not of that kind. It was an alternative to suicide. Suicide he would have committed but for its social stigma. Perhaps he lacked the barest physical courage that was necessary for it.” He became a sanyasi because it pleased him to punish his flesh. His renunciation was a revenge on society, circumstances, and perhaps, too, on destiny.
Likewise, we get an account of Chandran’s responses to love and friendship:
Likewise, we get an account of Chandran’s responses to love and friendship: “He then explained his new philosophy which followed the devastating discovery that Love and Friendship were the worst illusions. He explained that people married because their sexual appetite had to be satisfied and there must be somebody to manage the house. There was nothing deeper than that in any man woman relationship.” He has come to view them both “as distracting illusions and hysterics.”
However, like most other heroes of R.K. Narayan, Chandran is an “unheroic hero”:
Thus it is very clear that both from the point of view of the plot and action of the novel, The Bachelor of Arts, Chandran is the hero. However, like most other heroes of R.K. Narayan, Chandran is an “unheroic hero”. He is just an ordinary young man, like most of us, a bundle of human weaknesses and virtues. There is nothing heroic or extraordinary about him.
He is neither a monster of wickedness nor an angel of divine qualities. He lives his life making mistakes, causing misery to himself as well as other just as most of us do. He tries to make amends for his mistakes by returning to the bosom of his parents and reestablishing himself in his professional and matrimonial life.