What aspects of the personality and behaviour of Krishna might make you feel sympathetic towards him?


Throughout this novel, Narayan has successfully managed to manipulate Krishna’s character as the protagonist.  Krishna is depicted in certain situations as a man deserving of sympathy however in many events of this novel, there are also times in which readers will find it extremely difficult to connect with him at all due to his ambiguous nature. However it is in Narayan’s ability to portray Krishna’s changing character which inevitability makes readers feel sympathetic towards him.


Right from the start of the novel, Narayan is able to illustrate Krishna to be man who simply “read for the fiftieth time Milton, Carlyle and Shakespeare” as oppose to really teaching them “Milton, Carlyle and Shakespeare.” Immediately from his lack of enthusiasm readers feel as though Narayan does not justice in making Krishna the protagonist as this aspect of his personality reflects poorly on children and the education system. What surprises us afterwards is that Krishna in fact realises too that his life recently is incomplete somehow, as though there is “something missing”.  We learn that his motivation lies elsewhere and that the area he has decided to focus his efforts is in learning to “cultivate new habits”. In a dominant reading one could say that Narayan has made us sympathise with Krishna in this sense as he is at a loss in life, the sympathy in this part would be easy to most of his targeted readers who would most likely be middle-age or mentally mature to comprehend and connect with the feeling when “something [is] missing” in life. The profound meaning of this book will link back to one of Narayan’s main objectives and that is to exploit the unpredictability of life and the fact that by learning is never truly finished, this is especially accentuated as he chooses to convey this perspective by using Krishna as a tool.  Whereas in a subversive reading it can be interpreted to a certain extent that Narayan has actually deliberately created Krishna as a paradox from the very beginning to show in macrocosm how everyday life is not full of climaxes and denouements but with frivolously mundane yet important events such as not having many “conflicts”. By amalgamating these two readings the meaning of the book automatically becomes all the more profound and easier for the readers to sympathise with Krishna, as the challenges he faces in life are universal. Hence, Narayan has accomplished to involve the readers with the text whilst able to evoke emotions of sympathy successfully as well.


As his life progresses, Krishna’s characters develops as well proving that there is an undeniable link between time and maturity which once again, relates back to an aspect of truth in real life.. His behaviour towards the students in his classroom emphasise how he is unable to deal with emotions, thus suggesting that in actual fact Krishna himself may be the one who needs to be taught. “The English Teacher” adds significance and meaning this novel as there is a sense of irony within the title itself. Despite being “The English Teacher” Krishna does not really teach English to the students, merely telling the students of the content. This is because Krishna’s personality is not fully developed yet to comprehend the true meaning behind literature that was written by authors who wished to immortalise truths about life, which in this case, Krishna has yet to discover himself. As the readers, we realise his inability to deal with emotion and break free from the confines of India’s social mores in the 1940’s when he admits that it was the “greatest relief” to end class after almost revealing to the students of his passionate and poetic nature that is indeed concealed to the world, and to a certain extent himself. We can truly sympathise with Krishna in this sense seeing as his ambivalent nature allows readers into a glimpse of his true self. Therefore as he develops with time, we can almost empathise with his inner struggles to remain true to himself and the patriarchal society which expects him to abide to India’s cast system. Thus, after Susila’s death we are forced to mature along with Krishna as he starts believing in spirituality in order to connect with his wife at the same time as being more independent and loyal to the east since “the sun inclined to the west”. He comments on how one of his most “important occupations in life” is now to keep count of Leela’s clothes. This statement may seem hyperbolic but somehow to Krishna there is an element of truth hidden within. After the death of his wife, he has now become more considerate and aware of his daughters needs seeing as he has taken upon him the roles of both mother and father. The sympathy involved regarding this turn of events is unavoidably and the fact that Krishna has acknowledged his new purpose in life, which is to continue irrevocably in making Leela “dancing with joy”, solidifies our faith in Krishna’s new personality and behaviour towards life.


Essentially, Krishna’s life was lacking direction but during and after having discovered that he is “the master of his own destiny” after all gives us as readers hope that he has found the true meaning of life, that “a garland is waiting” for him somewhere as long as he has faith. It is because of Krishna’s drastic developments in his personality and behaviour towards love and life that constantly arose throughout the novel that the readers are fully able to sympathise with him as he faced this universal obstacles.