Significance and Importance of the Railway at Malgudi in R. K. Narayan's The Guide

The coming of the railway at Malgudi is symbolic of an industrial and urban society on a predominantly simple agricultural community. The high values of traditional life give way to the modern ways and their attendant evils. This would mean the undoing of old ways of living and the cherished values of life. The tamarind tree which was the seat of Raju’s childhood and of the village cartmen who unyoked their bullocks for the night is now full of trucks and lorries; for there is brisk activities because of the laying of the railway tracks. Raju who grew up in a decent home, soon picks up abuses from the workers; and his father’s words ‘Just my misfortune!’ sound ominous in the light of the impending disaster.

The railway meant the ruin of Raju. He becomes a guide living by wits and gets emotionally entangled with a married woman, neglects the honest means of living and brings ruin upon himself and Rosie. In The Guide, Malgudi passes from an agricultural economy to an industrial one; and Narayan uses the setting to show how Malgudi and its humanity pass from a state of innocence to one of experience. There is a clash of caste, class, time honoured customs on the hand and the waking of the modern social and moral structure on the other.

The new currents and cross-currents disturb the peace and balance of Malgudi life. The arrival of outsiders like Dr. Pal, Vasu the Taxidermist, Rosie, Marco, Daisy bring trouble and disorder. The peace of the town is disturbed by the outsiders who either themselves are evil or become the cause of evil in others. We get a complete picture of Malgudi, of its emergence from the peace and self-assurance of the thirties to the more eventful and sensational years of the Gandhian and Post-Independence period.

It might be said that Raju's misdemeanors grow directly out of the vicissitudes of circumstance. He is a victim of the coming of modern ways of life to Malgudi; and the railway is symbolic of that.  First, he picks up bad language from the railway workers, then as his father's business commitments increase, he drops out of school. His varied encounters at his station outpost lead him to become a tourist guide. As Malgudi develops, opportunities for living on one's wits also proliferate. That Raju's "rake's progresss" is partly the result of the advent of modern progress to Malgudi is underlined in that his salvation is worked out through a renewed contact with the traditional way of life, still preserved in the village of Mangal.

Last modified: Wednesday, 30 September 2020, 9:33 PM