Although R.K. Narayan is at his best in the delineation of the characters of rogues (rude) criminals and scoundrels the character of Natraj shows that Narayan is as deft in delineating the character of plain, simple and innocent people as that of a hardened criminal. Natraj belongs to the former category. As he himself says he is so good that he is “not able to say no to anyone”. He is purely simple and good at heart having nothing dark and repulsive in his character. He is a typical simple folk living in complete peace in Malgudi. He himself tells about his past life and his family background. He belongs to a family which was once proper ores but dwindled into want due to partition and family discontent. He was rendered done by the death of his father and mother going to Madras to live with the eldest son. But again Natraj is too good to quarrel with his lot. He reconciles to his modest living and is content to live in a partition of the house which is also being used for running a press. The press is his main source of livelihood.
But his peaceful life is greatly disturbed by the appearance of Vasu in his press one day as a customer. On an allegorical level, this signifies the world casting a net of evil and crookedness around a good soul to entrap and spoil him. Vasu is the epitome of all evil-selfishness, crookedness, and ungratefulness. Natraj present contrast to Vasu. He does not know the tricks and wiles of the world. He is intensely benevolent, non-interfering and non-imposing. He helps others even at the cost of his own convenience and comfort. He takes a lot of trouble for Mithu’s sake because Mithu had once helped him in time of need. He also takes the trouble to organize the function in the temple and to save Kumar, the temple elephant. He is a very good friend who plays a vital role in materializing the dream of the poet, Sen. He labors hard and takes great pains to honor the poet.
But Vasu infringes upon his peace and reputation. He takes undue advantage of his goodness. He enters his press as a customer and then settles in the attic over the press. The entrance of Vasu opens the gate of hell for Natraj. Natraj loses his business reputation and family peace. He is too weak to resist the force of evil, trickery, and deceit epitomized in Vasu. After Vasu’s death in his attic, he is even taken for a murderer. People stop coming to his press. His business is doomed. Natraj became the most pathetic figure.
But, despite all these analyses of evil and misfortune, Natraj survives. The force of evil fails to crush and destroy him. Ultimately, he triumphs. His triumphs uphold the superiority of good over evil. Poetic justice is done at last. Vasu dies under mysterious circumstances. The cause of his death is finally revealed by Rangi, the mist is cleared. His only worker in the press Sastri who had also left him returns. Things gradually improve and Natraj regains his lost name and position. Thus ultimately good triumphs over evil. After a prolonged grim battle, for existence Natraj comes out victorious. Sastri reiterates his faith in goodness when he remarks. Every demon appears in the world with a special boon of destructibility yet universe has survived all the rakshasha that were ever born.