The English Teacher

 

Major Themes

 

English Order vs. Indian Chaos – the disruption of routine:

Summary:

The disruption that Susila and Leela bring to Krishna’s daily routine at the hostel is an important first step in ‘bringing him to life’ and enabling the reader to appreciate the value of chaotic everyday India over the mundane rituals of Western academic life. However India’s chaos is not always a good thing, for example the street where the Headmaster lives is clearly filthy and we are not meant to appreciate its disorder as an example of genuine, untouched ‘Indian-ness’. We should be disgusted by it. An example of how Narayan is trying to find a balance of his own rather than simply rejecting the Indian or rejecting the English.

 

Quotations:

Page No

Quotation

Explanation

2

Brown’s lecture on ‘the importance of the English language, and the need for preserving its purity’

‘Could you imagine a worse shock for me’ – the student dropped he ‘u’ when asked to spell ‘honour’

 

 

2

In private Krishna responds by saying ‘Ask Mr. Brown if he can say in any of the two hundred Indian languages: ‘The cat chases the rat’’

 

 

3

Krishna describing his friend Gopal’s ‘dullness’. He was as ‘sharp as a knife’ in maths but ‘very dumb and stupid in other matters’.

 

 

11

Dr. Menon (philosophy teacher) doesn’t mind if Kant is spelt Cant as long as ‘[the student] knew what Kant had or hadn’t said’. Krishna attributes him ‘a sense of perspective’ because he was educated in the US and not Great Britain

 

 

12

‘Corporate life marks the beginning of civilized existence and the emergence of its values’ – a comment by the political science teacher

 

 

14

Kawadi was ‘a street full of all sorts of shops, sewing machines rotting away, coloured ribbons streaming down’ and there was an ‘enchanting haze that hung over the place because of the dust.

 

 

18

The economics teacher asks whether ‘One hundred percent materialism is compatible with our best traditions’, although Krishna essentially ignores this issue

 

 

20

The old man who refuses to let Krishna straightforwardly see the house: ‘Do you want the garage or not?’ ‘Has it a garage?’ I asked. ‘Don’t ask all that now,’ said the old man.

 

 

43

The clock, a symbolic of chaotic uncontrollable interruption to something that should be as nice and orderly as time, is sold by Susila.

 

 

50

Susila wants to have bath tiles in the hall of her new home. ‘People who like them for bathrooms may have them there, others, if they want them elsewhere …’

 

 

51

Susila wants to wash her feet in the river, even though it is in the other direction to their house hunt but Krishna ‘was in the mood to yield to her completely’

 

137

The Headmaster lives in an area where: ‘There was every sign that the municipality had forgotten the existence of this pert of town yet it seemed to maintain a certain degree of sanitation with the help of sun, wind and rain’

 

 

137

‘Carpenters, tinsmiths, egg sellers and a miscellaneous lot of artisans and traders seemed gathered’ in the Headmaster’s street. ‘ The street was littered with all kind of things – wood shavings, egg shells, tine pieces and dying leaves.’ So much so that Krishna ‘ was afraid to allow [his] daughter to walk there’

‘Unkempt and wild looking children rolled about in the dust, mangy dogs growled at us, donkeys stood at attention here and there’

 

 

138

There was ‘an abnormal liveliness’ about the Headmaster’s children despite the fact that ‘Their hair was full of mud almost matter, their dress torn and dirty’. In addition, ‘The whole place was unspeakably wet’ and ‘The mat was an old, tattered Japanese one’.

 

 

177

At Krishna’s resignation party Brown worries ‘I don’t know if it’s right to toast with coffee.’ although he toasts anyway.