TET – Themes

TET Themes

While in Eastern cultures death is celebrated as a new beginning and life elsewhere, Krishna sees death as the end-a typically Western view indicating his ignorance and weakness of mind.


Education•The novel also compares Western and Eastern educational methods. The British education system as exhibited by the novel’s protagonist seems to be not so much about helping the boy’s to succeed (Krishna’s keeping boys occupied and not teaching).

  • Krishna blatantly exclaims on page 8 that were it not for the 100 rupees he would not be a teacher.
  • Knowledge arises in the mind of an individual when the person interacts with an idea or experience. There are two contrasting theories on knowledge. One dictates that knowledge exists with a person and needs to be unlocked. Accordingly, Socrates argued that education was about drawing out what was already in the student. This is the method of education undertaken by the schoolmaster Leela’s nursery. The Eastern method. The opposing perspective on knowledge argues that knowledge exists apart from the human thought process. Socrates’ opponents, the Sophists- a group of itinerant teachers- were thought to give their students knowledge.


Colonialism•The English Teacher is a social commentary on colonialism in India during the last few years of…


The setting of the place Malgudi was not new to me having read his Swami and Friends. Narayan‟s Malgudi is a great literary creation and is a microcosm of a small Indian town, which does not shed its basic character even with the influence of the west. In the novel Narayan does not venture much out of Malgudi like he did in The Guide or in the Bachelor of Arts. In my first reading I noticed with interest the description of the river, and its banks. Another description of the landscape which struck me was the description of the house of Krishnan‟s friend. The small wood, the lotus pond and the alcove in a corner are described so beautifully that they seem to dance before our eyes. Later I discovered that Narayan has given apt settings to the happenings in the novel. The setting of each scene acts as a catalyst in the presentation of the scene. For example, the filthy surroundings of the head master‟s house give us an indication of the harmony that might be expected in the house.


I have observed that most of Narayan‟s novels follow the pattern „Order-Disorder-Order‟ and this novel is no exception. The married life of Krishnan establishes the order in the novel. The visit to the infected lavatory and subsequent illness of Susila mark the disorder. Order is once again restored in the novel with the union of Krishnan and Susila. Later, having gathered an idea about the life of Narayan it came as no surprise to me that he had included the supernatural in the novel. Having witnessed the death of a near one, I could later connect with Krishnan‟s efforts to cope with the loss.



Krishna did not adjust easily to his new family-based life, his first related outburst occurred when Susila rid him of his predictable-unpredictable alarm clock that went off at random times in the day causing a nuisance to all. He used a literary tome to suppress its unpredictable nature and silence it, while he himself lived under the clock’s suppression, just like he used a literary approach towards life to prevent himself from accepting its unexpected truths.


The fact that Susila sold it is symbolic of her freeing Krishna of the views that supressed him, including the colonial views at his college, but also the things that he was attached to and prevented him from moving on in his life, starting from a material object such as the clock, symbolic of time and it’s reign over the lives of the people. This signifies the official transition in Krishna’s life, from predictability to the unpredictability that Susila brought into his life, something that again has no control over, but is eventually proven to be a source of inspiration and delight as soon as he realises that there is always a limit to what can be achieved through anything that is knowable and predictable.


In the timeless classic penned by R. K Narayan “The English Teacher”, it is entirely reasonable and sound to regard Susila’s death as a pivotal turning point in the novel. Susila’s passing on to the netherworld marks a radical change in Krishna’s life, and therefore it is valid to term the incident as one which is of “massive consequence and magnitude”. What is more befuddling and intriguing is the question of who actually caused her ultimate demise. A number of theories and characters come to mind when the question is posted. I, for one, hold Dr. Shankar responsible for Susila’s death. His demeanor, attitude and work ethics throughout her ordeal did not justify his supposed status as ‘the most successful practitioner in town [Malgudi]”, let alone “the greatest physician on earth”.

For starters, Dr. Shankar is way too sloppy in the way he works. When Krishna, the protagonist, first sought help from the physician, Dr. Shankar merely “asked a few questions, wrote down a prescription and put it away”. He confidently declared that “it is just malaria” and he has “fifty cases like this on hand, no need to see Susila”. This type of hit-and-miss and inaccurate assumption of a patient’s illness has to be the cardinal sin in the world of practitioners. He is far too confident and casual in his diagnosis that he is able to tell to tell what illness a patient is suffering from without even being present in front of the in front of the patient. Dr. Shankar is the perfect example of what all doctors in the world should not do. His quick dismissal of Krishna’s request for him to see Susila proves just how irresponsible a doctor he is. Dr. Shankar is not meticulous enough, and in his official capacity as a doctor, he is best described as “an automaton dispensing medicine and healthcare”. If only Dr. Shankar had been more elaborate in his proceedings, the outcome might not have proved to be so tragic.

Another key factor in Dr. Shankar’s contribution to Susila’s demise is…



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