Question: How does Narayan make this a comical and amusing moment in the novel, ‘THE ENGLISH TEACHER’? (Exchange between Krishna and the old man regarding the house and the garage)
Answer: The above-mentioned extract has been taken from the novel ‘The English Teacher’ written by RK Narayan. Up till now, Narayan has successfully conveyed to the readers that Susila, along with Leela will be arriving shortly to reside with Krishna in Malgudi. In this particular extract, the readers see Krishna hunting for the ideal house for his family to dwell in. This scene has been made comical with the help of imagery, dialogue delivery, and diction.
Narayan has potently used imagery to make this a comical moment in the novel. Throughout the time period where Krishna was house hunting, his critical nature comes across. In this extract, Krishna first spots the ‘rag-covered cane chair’. This critical observation elucidates to the reader how Krishna was paying attention to every miniscule detail. As Krishna spent his life in the hostel, he is used to being served everything on a plate. However, the readers find this comical, as they know that nothing can be utopian in the real world. Krishna’s naivety of awareness is amusing for a reader. This thought is further reinforced when Krishna was ‘cowed by’ the ‘authoritarian’ demeanor of the landlord. This image is in contrast with Krishna’s conduct in class where he is the one in charge. In this particular scene, the reader can see that he has a naïve personality as a physically challenged old man is suppressing him. Therefore, his inexperienced approach towards real-life situations comes across as comical to the reader. Moreover, Narayan has made this a laughable moment for the reader by saying that Krishna was sitting in such a position where he ‘was in constant danger of being tipped off into the street’. A reader finds this amusing as Narayan depicts a helpless state of being of Krishna. The task of house hunting had consumed his thoughts, however, he had been failing in finding the house that matched his needs. Moreover, Krishna was in danger of being ‘tipped off’ as the arrival of Susila was nearing and he still didn’t have a house for them to live in. This desperation of Krishna to find a house and his constant failure at this task amuses the readers. Thus, by employing vivid imagery, Narayan has made this an amusing moment in the novel.
Narayan has effectively used dialogue exchanges between Krishna and the old landlord to make this a comical moment in the play. The consistent sarcasm in the dialogues of the two individuals makes this moment entertaining. The old man’s sarcastic comment where he claims to be the ‘slave’ to ‘god’ and announcing ‘god’ as the ‘owner’ of the house is hilarious for the reader as this shows the contrast between the two personalities. Krishna is a learned, western-minded person, while the owner seems uneducated yet spontaneous. Krishna offers a blunt reply for this comment as he quickly replies by asking for the rent, clearly showing that he has no interest in getting involved in this trash talk. The amusement is further elevated as the two men indulge in a debacle pertaining the ‘garage’. This is entertaining for the reader as each of them tries to act haughtily, trying to assert their authority over the situation. In addition, the old man further sneers at Krishna as he mockingly tells the boy to ‘show him [Krishna] every cupboard’. This comes across as amusing for the audience as the old man mocks Krishna, almost as if grasping that he was in dire need of finding a house quickly. Moreover, he aims this as a jibe towards Krishna, mocking him for his agitated state pertaining the selection of the house. Therefore, this dialogue exchange between Krishna and the old man makes this a comical moment in the novel. The old man’s witty comments in his ‘querulous’ voice throughout this extract enhance the amusement in this particular moment.
Narayan’s diction also adds a humorous touch to this extract. Narayan describes Krishna’s anxious state of mind in the phrase ‘whole town waiting to crowd into it’. This phrase highlights how Krishna was nervous about finding the right house immediately. The choice of words such as ‘crowd’ and ‘fight’ creates an image of an auction for a prestigious thing, which everyone is desperate to own. Since Susila and Laila’s arrival was nearing, this house was something that Krishna dearly wanted. Moreover, Narayan shows how Krishna ‘clung’ to his student at this particular moment. Krishna has been described as person with little interest for his profession and him clinging to a student comes across as ironical. Moreover, its generally the student that follows the teacher, however, in this case, the opposite is taking place as Krishna, the teacher, is desperate for his student to show him the house. Furthermore, Narayan describes the landlord as a ‘shrunken palsied patriarch’. This amuses the readers as the ‘patriarch’ has been described as ‘shrunken’ who had to ‘strain’ his eyes in order to get a clear view of things. This contrasting visual imagery envisages the fact that the person in control is disabled, making this an amusing moment for the reader. The fact that the person in control is not physically dominant but still being able to oppress Krishna is amusing for the readers. Lastly, the old man states that he would ‘wag my [his] tongue’ continuously had paralysis had not affected him. This is amusing for an audience as he is comparing his ‘wag [ging]’ to that of a dog. Moreover, a dog wags his tail when he is happy, however, the old man would do it just for the sake of it. This paradoxical statement is also funny for the audience. Hence, Narayan makes this a hilarious moment.
According to me, Narayan has also added an entertaining element to this moment by also showing how the owner of the house was reluctant to sell his place. Even though his days were numbered (because of paralysis), he tried to brush of Krishna even without even cross-questioning him. The old man also states that he doesn’t ‘want to give you [Krishna] my [his] house’. As he rejects Krishna as a tenant just because of his inquisitive nature is amusing for the reader. This overall image comes across as humorous to the audience as they find this moment peculiar and unconventional.
All in all, Narayan has made this scene comical with the help imagery, dialogue delivery, and diction.