The Character of Rosie in R. K. Narayan’s The Guide

Rosie in R. K. Narayan’s The Guide is a complex female character – a hybrid of tradition and modernity of Indian Culture. She challenges the Hindu orthodox stereotype of how a woman should be and yet a part of her complex nature is intensely orthodox. In her we can see a woman trying desperately to free herself from the pigeonhole, at the same time allowing the doors of patriarchy to enclose her.

Significantly Rosie enters Malgudi through Railways which brings the touch of modernity with it to the traditional and homogenous culture of Malgudi. The exotic nature of her westernized name also shows her social hybridity. But her name is only a starting point of her unorthodox life. She traditionally belongs to a Devdasi family who are dedicated to the temples as dancers. They are viewed in the society as of low class women. Yet she acquires a University degree, M.A. in Economics, which is not only unconventional but almost revolutionary. In fact Rosie reads ancient works on dancing such as Bharat Muni's Natya Shastra and even employs a pundit to explain the old Sanskrit verses. She also looks for ideas in the Ramayana and Mahabharata. Thus we realize that Rosie can blend her knowledge with her art like all truly educated person.

 If Rosie is driven to the arms of a stranger, it is partly not her fault. Marco has never considered the basic needs of the woman he takes for a wife. Instead, he has offered insult to her womanhood. Rosie starts living with another man, Raju.

The most important aspect of Rosie's character is her pursuit of dance. As a Devdasi she learns to use it for professional gains. But for Rosie, as we can see, dance is far beyond any kind of material gains. At first it becomes her way to achieve spiritual sanctity which later becomes her means of gaining independent identity. Thus within years Rosie alias Nalini becomes an extremely famous Bharat Natyam dancer. In a country where women are still harassed and questioned in their workplaces just for being women, this achievement of Rosie, to become a thoroughly welcomed and respected BharatNatyam dancer, to successfully pursue her art, to transform herself into a self-made woman is a revolution in itself.

In spite of all these, one part of her remains essentially orthodox. First of all she herself never really respects her own Devdasi clan and always calmly accepts what is publicly told about them- “we are viewed as public women. We are not considered respectable; we are not considered civilized.”  Gayatri Chakroborty Spivac has charged Narayan with making Rosie the heroine of a sentimental tragicomedy rather than exposing through her situation the evils of the Devdasi system. Again, Rosie keeps on carrying the burden of her failed marriage all her life. First of all Rosie seems to have an extremely old fashioned notions about the relationship between husband and wife and about the role of women in society. She constantly expresses her gratitude to Marco for having married her in spite of her background. We can also find her abiding sense of guilt at having betrayed his trust- "I realized I had committed an enormous sin." Even after many years, when she becomes a household name with her own identity, her unsympathetic and insulting husband's book remains very dear to her and she carries it all her life. (She knows very well her husband can never appreciate her art or womanhood. Then even her attitude towards the dominating and hard-hearted Marco remains one of submission and subservience). Moreover her change of name from Rosie to Nalini is a hint of her wish to fit herself in that very conventional society which she challenges and leaves.

Rosie, at the end, portrays a very strong character. She has the ability to come out of the clutches of indifferent and exploitative men. She breaks the unfair social rules that try to bind her and her art. Most of all she establishes her own identity through her art. Rosie is truly a precursor of this new age Indian women.

Last modified: Saturday, 5 May 2018, 1:38 AM