Theme of the Novel The Man-Eater of Malgudi

R.K. Narayan weaves the plot of the novel ‘The Man-Eater of Malgudi’ on an ancient myth of Bhasmasur and Mohini. However, he is not interested in extolling the spiritual heritage of his land like Raja or planting propaganda in creative art as Mulk Raj Anand. R.K. Narayan enjoys painting his people with their real hearts and mind. He depicts the canvas without sounding preachy or cynical. The quiet landscape of Malgudi provides a suitable background for his fiction. Malgudi is a microcosm, this is a world within a world.

The conflict between good and evil has been a permanent theme for literary. It assumes epical significance in some of the great works of art. The Man-eater of Malgudi has a parallel development to an ancient myth projecting a clash between good and evil. The innocent world of Malgudi with her people and surroundings live pales apart from the attic of the press. Natraj and Vasu are symbols of two different sides of life. They represent virtue and vice in their true form respectively. Natraj is too meek to say ‘no’ to anybody. In the company of Sen and Sastri, he leads his life in the press with nothing much to worry about the world. The life around Malgudi and far-off Mampi forest run on its orbit. Taking little care of the outer world they live at peace with themselves. They are true to their environment, their God and their own selves. The appearance of Vasu rejects the order and crunches the innocence and purity of Malgudi. He is a danger to the very existence of life there Vasu is a taxidermist and he rejoices in the killing. The sportive fauna of the forest became the target of his bullets. He stuffs the dead body and sells them for money.

Vasu is anti-life, anti-nature and anti-god. He is the prince of darkness. Nothing can survive within his reach. Nature loses its rhythm but finds no way to get rid of this mighty demon. Gifted with immense strength, Vasu bullies and frightens. The whole lot seems to be spineless before the demonic creature. The smoldering anger cannot change into a blaze and Malgudi continues to breathe in-state air coming from dead life. Natraj along with his company imagines of protesting against his ways and wishes.  But these are plans not to be translated into action. They pin their faith in the supremacy of goodness and it is the last hope for them.

On a religious occasion, Vasu is determined to shoot the temple elephant dead. Keeping aside her loyalty to Vasu, the public woman, Rangi informs Natraj about the heinous scheme of Vasu. The rumor spreads and the festive mood of Malgudi becomes gloomy. In their own ways, some people try to mitigate the Rakshasa or destroy him. All efforts go in vain. The classical myth tells of Bhasmasur destroying himself while dancing at the dictated posture of Mohini. On a fateful night, Rangi was fanning him to keep off mosquitoes. Vasu was sleeping and Rangi also tells in a drowse. Flies swarmed around his face and the terrible demon struck himself in the course of keeping away the flies. The dreadful blow brought his end. As a matter of fact, every demon keeps within himself the seed of destruction and this is the only way through which he writes off his existence.

As an allegory “The Man-Eater of Malgudi” has its roots in the classical myth. The novelist develops his plot in his usual charming style. However, he had a penchant for delineating, his characters in an artistic way and setting them in ordinary situations and incidents. Never trying to introduce in the personal lives of his characters, he makes them grow in their own individualistic way.

‘The Man-Eater of Malgudi’ restores normalcy at the end of the novel. The novelist watches disorder but life returns and there prevails usual serenity after a duration. This is a ‘poetic justice’ in ‘The Man-eater of Malgudi’. In fact, Narayan’s novel is a pensive comedy where darkness cannot reign forever. Sunshine has to follow the black shadow of evil.
His vision is essentially a cornic vision. In the moments of sorrow, he doesn’t fail to look at the brighter aspects of life. The adjournment lawyer in the novel proves his honesty in taking life in its totality. His style is simple but that does not suit his characters or environment in the novel.

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