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HomeNewsThe Bachelor of Arts by R.K. Narayan

The Bachelor of Arts by R.K. Narayan

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— Janaki Balasubramanian–

“a moving and insightful exploration of the themes of love, loss, and self-discovery.” – Shashi Tharoor 

The Bachelor of Arts is a novel by R.K. Narayan, first published in 1937. It is the second book in a trilogy that begins with Swami and Friends and ends with The English Teacher. The novel is set in Malgudi, the fictional town that Narayan invented for his novels. It was well-received by critics when it was first published. The reviewer for The Times Literary Supplement called it “a charming and interesting novel” and “a very promising first work.” The reviewer for The New York Times Book Review said that the novel was “a quiet, sensitive study of a young man’s growth to maturity” and that it was “a work of considerable literary merit.”

The story follows the coming-of-age of Chandran, a young upper-middle-class college graduate into adulthood. Chandran falls in love with Malathi, who he desires to marry. Her parents disapprove of their connection because, according to Chandran’s horoscope, Malathi’s marriage to a non-Manglik will cause her to die young. This superstition has become recognized as the Mangala Dosha.

The rejection crushes Chandran, and he starts to doubt his own value. He drifts through life, unsure of what he wants to do with his future. He takes a job as a clerk, but he is unhappy and unfulfilled. He eventually decides to leave Malgudi and travel to the city, hoping to find a new start. In the city, Chandran meets a group of young people who are struggling to find their place in the world. He falls in with them, and they spend their days talking about philosophy, politics, and art. Chandran begins to feel a sense of purpose again, and he starts to write a novel.

However, Chandran’s newfound happiness is short-lived. His friends begin to drift away, and he finds himself alone again. He returns to Malgudi, where he reconciles with Malathi’s parents. They agree to let him marry Malathi, and the novel ends with Chandran and Malathi starting their new life together.

The Bachelor of Arts is a coming-of-age story that explores the themes of love, loss, and self-discovery. It is a beautifully written novel that captures the essence of life in India in the early 20th century. 

The novel is notable for its realistic portrayal of Indian society and its characters. Narayan does not shy away from the challenges that young people face in India, such as the pressure to conform to traditional expectations. However, he also shows how young people can find their own way in the world, even if it means breaking with tradition.

The Bachelor of Arts is a masterpiece of R K Narayan. Through the vehicle of this present novel, he has put autobiographical elements and delineated his personal happenings through the character of Chandran. The novel is a perfect embodiment of simplicity and values and effectively deals with realistic issues.

The theme of tradition versus modernity is a central theme in the novel. Chandran hails from Tamil Nadu and has lived a life as per the traditions and conventions of his place and time. However, his education has kindled a desire within him to break the chains of conservatism and look for an escape into the freedom of the world.

The theme of love and heartbreak is another important theme in the novel. Despite Chandran’s hopeless love for Malathi, their crossed stars prevent them from getting married. The situation becomes apparent to his parents, and they try to surrender to his wishes. Dazed by such heartache, Chandran decides to give up control and throw caution to the wind.

The theme of identity and self-discovery is also explored in the novel. Chandran’s journey to Madras and his decision to commit to a life of asceticism and become a sage show his desire to find his true self and purpose in life.

In conclusion, The Bachelor of Arts is a novel that incorporates autobiographical elements, humor, mythology, and local elements, to sum up.



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