The English Teacher


Major Themes


Family Love


Although an obvious theme one of the important developments in Krishna’s character throughout the novel is his increasing ability to connect with other human beings, something which is particularly demonstrated for the deepening love he feels for his family. From the, possibly, clichéd action of smelling his wife’s letter before opening it and his initial terror at the thought of living together we quickly are presented with an endearing picture of him playing with water with Leela and building a caring, loving, flirtatious relationship with Susila. Krishna’s devastation at Susila’s death is palpable and is intensified by his joy of being able to communicate and eventually meet her. This experience is one of the principal events that helps develop him as a character and his reactions to this death drive the plot forward for the second half of the novel. At the same time his effective fatherhood renders him mildly heroic, fully illuminates the caring side of his nature and evokes our sympathy for him.



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Krishna’s initial reaction to his father’s announcement that he should start living with his wife and child is ‘God, what am I to do with a little child of seven months?’ He admits ‘this somehow seemed to terrify me’ and that ‘while he no doubt felt a mild affection for it … there was nothing compelling or indispensable about it.’




‘I smelt my wife’s letter before opening it’




‘There was every indication that [Leela] was going to prove the most astonishingly intelligent person




However, soon he admits ‘I found [Leela] enchanting.’




He spoils Leela with treats: ‘Just a little won’t do her harm’ and also develops a closer relationship with his wife: she waits for him to come home and when he does they ‘spent an hour or more sitting there and gossiping. She hated everyone I hated and respected anyone I respected.’




Krishna ‘Smiled to [his]self’ at Susila’s indigo saree and resolves ‘I will call you Jasmine hereafter’




In response to Krishna’s flirtatiousness Susila says ‘Remember we are in a public road and don’t start any of your pranks here,’ she warned, throwing me a laughing glance.




‘How the little girl would live it if only she could be brought [to the river]. I think she will simply roll in the sand. But we must take care not to let her go near the water.’




‘I lowered my voice still further and said, ‘Jasmine.’ She suppressed a smile that came to her lips, her eyes flashed a mild reproof.’




‘What a joy. We were all jubilant.’ when Susila’s temperature went down to 101 degrees.




After the funeral the family are ‘a silent and benumbed gang’ and Krishna feels ‘a curiously dull pain at heart’




After Susila’s death ‘The days had acquired a peculiar blankness and emptiness.’




Leela watches her father while he sleeps to see ‘if any ant or fly as going to get into you through your nose.’




‘It was, as a matter of fact, my chief occupation in life … I felt a thrill of pride whenever I had to work and look after the child.’




When he thinks he has communicated with Susila, Krishna ‘went about my work with a light heart … The day seemed full of possibilities and surprise and joy.’




After Leela left Krishna believes ‘There is no escape from loneliness and separation ... wife, child, brothers, parents, friends … we come together only to go apart again … All struggle and misery in life is due to our attempt to arrest this law … a profound an unmitigated loneliness is the only truth of life’



When he can finally see Susila at the end of the novel Krishna says: ‘The boundaries of our personalities suddenly dissolved. It was a moment of rare, immutable joy – a moment for which one feels grateful to Life and Death.’