The Man-Eater of Malgudi | Critical Analysis

The Man-Eater of Malgudi | Critical Analysis

The Man-Eater of Malgudi Analysis

Universality and Popularity

The Man-Eater of Malgudi was the ninth novel of R.K. Narayan. It was published in 1961 and C.D. Narsimhaiah regards it as an anticlimax coming as it does after, The Guide, an undisputed masterpiece. It has been highly praised by a number of critics and regarded as one of his finest works. Its popularity was immediate and universal. On its publication, it was highly praised by the editors of Times Literary Supplement in the following words:

“Narayan has now written his most delightful story of the little world of Malgudi, his imaginary town in South India. The good printer Nataraj and his close friends, a poet and a journalist, find their congenial days disturbed when Vasu, a power-hungry taxider mist, moves in with his stuffed hyenas and pythons, and bring his dancing women up the printer’s private stairs. When Vasu, in search of larger game, threatens the life of a temple elephant that Natarai has befriended, complications ensue that are both laughable and tragic. A not unwelcome death occurs, murder is indicated, and the search for the guilty party who might have been Nataraj himself or anyone of his friends, or even the temple dancer-lends suspense to this bizarre, yet moving tale.”

“Pungent as a Madras curry, gay, witty, the rueful wry gaiety of Tamils and Telugus, Narayan’s The Man-Eater of Malgudi makes the most rich and satisfying mixture. Hilarity and high seriousness are rarely yoked together in partnership as effectively as they are in this book. Narayan’s writing is limpid and beautifully unforced.” This praise has been echoed by successive critics of the novel

Allegory Fable and Irony

The Man-Eater of Malgudi is considered the best novel because it conveys a moral which is very beneficial for mankind. The novel conveys an important message that evil is self-destructive. Evil does not flourish. The Man-Eater is an ironical word. There is no timer Vasu, on the other hand was a mighty man who killed a large number of wild animals in the forest of Mempi. Due to his evil nature he committed horrible deeds. Ultimately he committed suicide. Thus there is a justification of this title. Vasu was a Man-Eater as he committed suicide by his single blow of hammer-fist. There is another gruesome event in the novel as Vasu wanted to kill Kumar. Muthu was very worried about the safety of the elephant. So in the novel we find both irony and allegory.

An Autobiographical Novel

It is an autobiographical story in which Natraj narrates the whole story in the first person. In his printing press he was assisted by Sastri-the compositor, a proof-reader and a machine-man all combined into one. Among his other companions there was a poet who was engaged in writing the life of God Krishna, and Sen, the journalist who always criticised Nehru. The smooth and sympathetic life of this small group was disturbed by H. Vasu, the taxidermist who was an M.A. and had come to stay with them in a room in the upper story of the printing press. This tall man, who was about six feet, with his bull neck, hammer fist and aggressive behaviour, aroused fear in the hearts of Natraj and his friends. Natraj tolerated him in his room upstairs till he made himself unbearable by robbing Mempi forest of its wild life and collecting dead animals in his room for stuffing them.


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Vasu’s Fantastic Antic Behaviour

When Natraj’s neighbours complained about his attics, insanitary unhygienic condition, he explained to Vasu that he should buy a new house. The taxidermist Vasu felt that it was an insult and sued him for harassing him and trying to do unlawful methods by unlawful means. But the timely help by an old lawyer saved Natraj.

There was a lots of misdeeds done by Vasu. For example he hunted wild animals in the Mempi forests and brought them to the attic of Natraj. Due to this a foul unbearable smell used to come He even killed dogs, cats and once it happened that a complainant came to Natraj about Vasu.

Later his inhuman behaviour against the people was highlighted. He was shown as a brute, stone-hearted person his attitude was unbearable. Nobody liked him and everybody hated him.

His misbehaviour grew when he became a permanent occupant of Natraj’s attic. And he also started inviting women of loose characters like Rangi and some others to the great annoyance of all concerned. Thus, Vasu became insensitive, without any emotions, without caring about the feelings of others.

Mystery of Vasu’s Death

After being relieved of a great worry, Natraj goes to his office as usual without the thought of anything in his mind. To his great shock and dismay he gets the news that Vasu was dead. The Police start their investigations, they start interrogating the poet, the dancer Rangi and Natraj’s other friends. From the medical report it becomes clear that Vasu died of a sudden attack received on his right temple from a blunt instrument. When the police failed to find the culprit the matter was dropped. Later Rangi told that a mosquito which had sat on the forehead of Vasu and as Vasu slapped his forehead with his fist he died on the spot. He thus died with a blow from his own hammer-fist. This was an unexpected death of Vasu.

Motive of Killing the Sacred Elephant

The crisis about the killing of the sacred elephant Kumar arises when the taxidermist Vasu threatens to kill Kumar, the temple elephant who was taken to participate in the celebration of the religious epic, written by the poet.

Natraj was fond of animals. He therefore gets upset when he comes to know through Rangi that the elephant was to be shot on the night of the proposed celebrations. He immediately acquaints his friends like the poet, the lawyer and other important people of the town with the intentions of Vasu the taxidermist. The matter was even reported to the Police authorities but they were helpless and they expressed their inability to take any action unless the crime was actually committed.

Natraj’s Spiritual Agony

The thought of Kumar’s murder made Natraj go crazy. Even after he was compelled to stay in his house, the thought of Natraj about Kumar, the temple elephant did not stop. As the procession passed away in front of his press, his heart began to beat faster. As he was anticipating about the incident of the noise of the gun-shots and the panic-stricken cries. He was taken aback when the procession passed away without any unpleasant incident. It passed away very quietly without any disturbance.

He was so religious that he made special arrangements for the placing of the idol of goddess in the temple.

A Great Work of Art

The novel has a well-coherent plot and a fine gallery of vivid, life-like characters. The character of Vasu, the central figure was a masterpiece. The narration was enlivened by Narayan’s comic vision which frequently fused and mingled with pathos. In short, it was a great and complex work of art with a number of themes and ideas standing out of it.

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