What impression is gained of Krishna in the first half of the novel?


‘What was wrong with me?’ Narayan’s portrayal of Krishna at the start of The English Teacher is one that embodies contrasts. As a person who does not know his meaning in life, his purpose nor have a passion for his career, Krishna’s intriguing personality manages to captivate the reader. Krishna is a teacher, yet he is a student. He lives the boring and monotonous lifestyle of an academic, yet delights in the ‘subtle emanations…the highest form of peace and joy’ in nature. Krishna is inspired by Susila and loves her dearly, yet social stigma and rules often barricade in his honest emotions. Krishna is both East and West, homeless and at home and Narayan successfully weaves together these different impressions of Krishna to culminate in one long intimate journey of self-discovery, when he can finally say with conviction ‘I am alright…I am different…I have changed now.’


In the first chapter the reader is introduced to Krishna a school teacher ‘dubbed lecturer’ at Albert Missionary School/ His orderly and routine-filled life is the essence of the impression gained by the reader when he ‘read for the fiftieth time Milton, Carlisle and Shakespeare.’ Krishna has always felt a ‘vague dissatisfaction, a self rebellion’ contained within himself that is yet to be fully released. Furthermore, he constantly reiterates ‘I am a poet...I am doing the wrong work,’ whilst arriving to class ‘five minutes later’ where he could ‘dawdle over attendance for quarter of an hour.’ This apparent disinterest and lack of enthusiasm for his job is interesting for in colonial India, most Western perceptions and cultures were indeed valued by the locals. Yet Krishna seems an exception to this insisting that ‘there are blacker sins in this world than a dropped vowel’ therefore asserting the sense that despite his meticulous exterior, there is an internal conflict between the British and the Indian side as each one strives for dominance: a representation of India’s own fight against the ‘lion tamer’s touch’ or the British influence and loss of heritage.


Krishna is portrayed as a man who has futile hopes for the future that he can ‘write a hundred lines of poetry every day, read everything [he] wants to read’ and that his book will be ‘read all over the world.’ The reader sympathizes with and understands this character for he wishes to fulfill his potential, to ‘wrest a meaning’ for his existence rather than the remorseful knowledge of ‘living like a cow.’ His dreams and aspirations evoke sadness and a personal pain in the reader who realizes that they are unlikely to come true: Krishna is deluded himself and his fruitless efforts to convince himself of future success makes us more emotionally attached to him, such that we too are part of his spiritual journey and the process of healing. Krishna’s monotonous and predictable life has managed to stifle his identity, yet as his desire to break free wavers with uncertainty due to the looming British and Western presence, his wife Susila enters into the progression of events and instigates change.


An impression of Krishna, which is also garnered, is his immense love and care for Susila. She is his source of inspiration, ‘her eyes sparkled like a child’s,’ and bringing spontaneity into his life. She introduces him to the rare moments of delight a pleasant life can bring and his own ability to reach that state. In addition, her death has a perceivable impact on Krishna who feels as if ‘nothing will interest me in life hereafter’ thus accentuating the notion that Susila was a stabilizing part in his lifestyle and he relied on her for guidance: without her he remains only ‘numb and blind.’


Krishna is also a student in the novel. Narayan gives the impression that regardless of his superior knowledge in other areas such as Western literature, Krishna is a man without happiness and inner peace. His respectable job provides no comfort and his expertise in English no satisfaction. One of the first teachers Narayan explores in the novel is Krishna’s father who ‘always seemed ro appreciate [the ink]…’ teaching Krishna ‘you couldn’t buy this shade of green with all the fortune in the world.’ This suggests that the contentment of the mind and soul is not found superficially by material wealth, but rather by uniqueness and a sense of pride in your self is identity strengthened and nurtured. Another crucial teacher for Krishna is Susila who teaches him the appreciation of small apparently irrelevant things and the beauty nature embodies. She loves him and because of this pure emotion, Krishna too has gained something he had been searching for so long, someone to love and cherish. For, as he later realizes, if he should choose to care for someone and they are lost to him then their value and contributions to his life and development become ever more pronounced. And only through Susila’s unpredictable death can Krishna come to view life with esteem, through experiencing personally the tragedies and the elatedness of reality and not of the sheltered academic world he had become accustomed to.


Krishna himself also personifies development whether it is in finding an inner balance between East and West or transcending from dismissal to faith and awe. Initially Krishna lightly mocks Susila’s rapture over religion by ‘becoming a yogi’ but later soon goes to the Medium to forge a connection with her soul-a traditional Indian belief itself. He gradually fosters and sustains his Indian cultural heritage s that it balances out with the Western influences in colonial India. With this achievement, Krishna states his independence and that he has managed to resist the British dominion over himself therefore asserting the fact that he is in control of his own fate.


An impression created of Krishna is also one of a man deeply rooted into social stigma and this can be seen when he has a ‘forbidding pride’ stopping him from approaching Susila when she ‘gives away [his] clock.’ However development is shown when he finally decides to go towards her agreeing that ‘I am glad you have rid me of it,’ thus presenting an endearing image of humility that would typically be unusual in the caste system applied in Indian society.


In conclusion, Krishna is portrayed in many different ways by Narayan. The most effective however is his impression of a student who displays for the reader striking contrasts. A representation of the poem which had ‘moved [him] to tears’, like King Lear, Krishna will learn more everyday that the most important thing in life is to follow your heart and leave behind social rules and stereotypes in order to reach happiness and contentment. By preserving vivacity and being susceptible to beauty will enable him to retain a sense of balance where he can find satisfaction. Then he will understand intimately that in fact ‘Man is master of his own Destiny.’