Summary: A Horse and Two Goats R. K.Narayan

A Horse and Two Goats

R. K. Narayan

R. K. Narayan, a prominent Indian author writing in English, is https://approachenglish.files.wordpress.com/2017/07/a-horse-and-two-goats.jpg   best known for his fourteen novels, many of which take place in the fictional town of Malgudi.

 

 A Horse and Two Goats, one of the few of his stories not set in Malgudi, presents an

 amusing dialogue between Muni, a poor Tamil-speaking villager, and an affluent English-speaking businessman from New York. Through the conversation in which neither can understand the other’s language, R.K. Narayan humorously projetcs the conflicts between the rich and the poor, and between Indian and Western culture.

Against the backdrop of probably the smallest of countless Indian villages, Kritam, the story A Horse and Two Goats begins with the depiction of the poverty in which Muni, the central character, lives. There are around thirty houses in the village but only one, the Big House, is built of brick. The others are mud huts of bamboo thatch. The village has neither running water nor electricity. Muni and his wife were not always so poor. Once, he regarded himself well-off as he had a flock of forty sheep and goats. But years of drought, a famine, and an epidemic affected his flock and now he is left with only two scrawny goats. Being a low caste, Muni was not allowed to go to school or to learn a craft. Since Muni and his wife have no children, their only income is from the odd jobs his wife gets at the Big House.

Daily Muni’s wife cooks their typical breakfast of a fistful of millet flour over a fire in a mud pot. On this day, Muni has managed to get six drumsticks from the drumstick tree in front of his house. He demands his wife to cook them for him in a sauce. She agrees and asks him to get the other ingredients which they do not have in the house.

Muni has run through his credit at all the shops in the village, and today, when he asks a local shopman to give him the items his wife requires, he is disgraced and dismissed by the shopkeeper.

There is nothing else in the house and hence, Muni’s wife sends him away telling him to fast till the evening. Muni takes the goats to their usual patch: a grassy spot near the highway. Here, sitting in his favourite place, the shade of the pedestal of a horse and a warrior, Muni observes trucks and buses passing by.

As he waits for the time to return home, a yellow station wagon comes down the road and pulls over. A flushed American man dressed in khaki steps out and asks Muni about the nearest gas station. He looks at the statue and is instantly attracted to it. When he sees the khaki-clad foreigner, Muni’s initial instinct is to flee thinking that the foreigner must be a policeman or a soldier. However, Muni is too old to run and moreover, he cannot abandon the goats. Presently, the foreigner and Muni carry on a conversation, neither understanding the other. The American greets Muni using his only Indian word Namaste and Muni responds with the only English he knows-Yes, no.

The American is a New York based   businessman. After lighting a cigarette, he offers one to Muni. Then he gives Muni his business card, and Muni is terrified that it is a warrant. Muni commences a lengthy explanation to establish his innocence. The American presumes that Muni is the owner of the statue and expresses his wish to buy it. In between, he tells Muni about an awful day at work when he was compelled to work for hours without elevators or electricity. He seems blithely unaware that Muni lives this way every day.

The two strangers chitchat, each about his own life. Muni recalls his father and grandfather remarking about the statue and attempts to enlighten the American of the myth behind it. Muni explains to the foreigner that the statue is the guardian of the village and that at the end of this world, the Redeemer will come in the shape of a horse. The American is charmed by the rhythm of chaste Tamil as Muni recollects his grim and poverty-stricken childhood. The American does not understand a single word but assures Muni that the horse will have the best home in the U.S.A.

At last, the American shoves one hundred rupees into Muni’s hand and is certain that he has bought the horse, and Muni thinks that he has just sold his goats. Muni runs home to give the money to his wife. The American stops a truck, gets help to remove the horse off its pedestal, and drives away with his new acquisition. Muni’s wife considers Muni’s story to be a deliberate fib, and her misgivings are confirmed when the goats return home. As the story ends we find the miserable Muni facing the ire of his shrieking wife.

The most important theme in A Horse and Two Goats is the clash of cultures, specifically the clash of Indian and Western cultures. Using humour, instead of anger, Narayan demonstrates just how different the two worlds are. The two main characters in this story could not be more different: Muni is poor, rustic, illiterate, brown; the American is rich, city-bred, educated, white. Each man is completely ignorant of the other’s way of life.

It is essential to fathom R.K Narayan’s humour that is affectionate and sympathetic to humanity and human foibles in understanding the story, A Horse and Two Goats.  The statue of the horse, once glorious and elegant but now tatty and wretched, amusingly alludes to the present impoverished and irrelevant state of the village Kritam. When R.K Narayan creates the laughable characters of Muni and the American, the “two goats”, he jests at them softly and sympathetically, but never severely.

Old Man at the Bridge: Ernest Hemingway: A Critique

Old Man at the Bridge: Ernest Hemingway: A Critique

The short story Old Man at the Bridge by Ernest Hemingway wholly demonstrates the vicious repercussions of war on disinterested innocents. The short story, narrated by a nameless soldier, sensitively portrays the sorry plight of the refugees who are displaced by war.

The action takes places at a pontoon bridge near the Ebro Delta on an Easter Sunday during the Spanish Civil War. All the refugees of that area were crossing the bridge to protect themselves from the impending attack by the enemy troops. The young soldier was on a mission to cross the bridge and find out how far the enemy had advanced.

After the soldier had scanned the region for any sign of the enemy troops, he noticed an old man still sitting at the pontoon bridge. The seventy-six-year-old man wore black dusty clothes and his face was dusty grey. He wore steel-rimmed spectacles which suggested that he was neither a shepherd nor a herdsman. He appeared weak and exhausted. The soldier asked the old man where he came from. The old man replied that he was from Sans Carlos. He had already walked about 12 kilometres from his hometown, San Carlos, and was weary and exhausted. Therefore, even after the soldier had advised him to flee, the old man did not move.

The officer asked the old man about his political loyalty and he replied that had no politics. In San Carlos, he owned two goats, a cat and some pigeons which he had to leave behind because of the artillery. His whole life revolved around his animals and his hometown. He was just taking care of his animals without harming anybody just like any other ordinary individual unconcerned with the ongoing war. When he was told to move to safety in view of the advancing enemy troops, he was worried about the safety of his animals and wanted to remain with them.

The old man is more concerned for the safety of his animals than for his own safety. The animals stand for different qualities. The pigeons, for example, represent peace and harmony and the fact that they fly away, away from the war, maybe is a reference to the refugees who flee from the war to a safer place. The cat being a symbol of independence, does not need anybody to survive, but the goat is often used as a sacrificial animal and this probably represents the old man and his situation. Like a goat which is sacrificed, the old man’s fate is sealed. The old man’s obsession with the safety of his animals brings out Hemingway’s point that this mad war unnecessarily destroys even such useful human beings who help to sustain life. The narrator, the young soldier, advised the old man to cross the pontoon bridge to save himself from the impending assault of the advancing enemies. Although the old man got up and tried to move, he swayed and teetered. So, he sat down again in the dust as he was too tired to move. He finally resigned himself to his fate and the imminent doom.

We, along with the young soldier, arrive at the painful realisation that the old man will not be able to move on and will probably die at the bridge. The irony is that like a goat which is sacrificed, the old man`s fate is sealed on an Easter Sunday, a day of hope and faith.

Neither the old peasant nor the war is identified by name in the story, for the idea of the tragic sacrifices of uninvolved men in every war is universal. The old man epitomises the victims of war- men, women and children who had to leave their home and their normal life as victims of a war with which they have nothing to do.

Summary : My Lost Dollar Stephen Leacock

My Lost Dollar
Stephen Leacock
The author’s friend Todd was going for a short stay in Bermuda. Just before his departure, he borrowed a dollar from the author to pay off the taxi. 
When Todd wrote a letter to from Bermuda, the author expected a dollar bill in the envelope.
Twelve months go by. Todd has returned from Bermuda but has not bothered to return the one dollar to the author. The lender is too decent to offend his friend by demanding his dollar back. However, the thought that Todd had borrowed the dollar bothered the author, and he made some futile attempts to get back the dollar. 
First, he went to the railway station to receive Todd when he returned from Bermuda. He found Todd very cheerful, but at all ashamed that he had not returned his loan of a dollar. Later, during an evening tête-à-tête, the author raised the topic of the American dollar and asked whether it was used in Bermuda too. Todd did not get the hint about the unpaid dollar.
The author met Todd almost daily in the Club; however, Todd did not refer about the due dollar. One day, Todd is disapprovingly observed that Poland had defaulted its debts. The author was very much upset that Todd did not consider his un-paid debt. Annoyed at Todd’s irresponsible attitude, the author wrote off his loaned dollar and added Todd’s name to his list of defaulters of one-dollar loans. 
The author, offended and distraught, accepts that forgetting to repay loans was a human frailty.  The distressed by the thought that he could have taken such loans and not repaid it. Tormented with guilt, the author desired that his creditors would claim their repayments. Haunted by the disquiet of loan defaults, he wished to initiate a “Back to Honesty’ campaign. He is persuaded that honesty should be the core of all nations seeking greatness.
The author did not desire his ‘forgetful’ friend to know of the agony he had undergone because of the non-payment of the debt and exhorted his readers not to bring the copies of the story to the University Club Montreal patronised by Major Todd.

Summary:The Last Leaf O. Henry

The Last Leaf
O. Henry

A firm friendship bloomed between two young artists, Sue and Johnsy, based on reciprocal trust and shared artistic inclinations. They shared a ‘studio’ in the strange old Greenwich Village. Everything was going well till Johnsy fell ill with pneumonia in the wintry November. The illness affected her so much that she remained all day in bed sure of death. She lied down gloomily watching through her window the leaves fall off from a vine. The doctor did not have much hope of her recovery as she was utterly defeated by the sickness. When Johnsy confided to Sue that her passionate desire was to paint the Bay of Naples, Sue sat in the room sketching trying to draw her sorrow to her art. However, Johnsy was sure that death would come when the last leaf of the vine fell.
An old thwarted artist Behrman, who always declared that he would paint a masterpiece lived below Johnsy and Sue. Sue told him that her friend was dying and that Johnsy insisted that when the last leaf fell off of the vine outside her window, she would die. Even though Behrman derided the foolish notion, his protective attitude towards the two girls made him see Johnsy and the vine.
That night was horribly stormy, and icy rain spattered against the window. There was only one leaf left on the vine. Sue closed the window and pleaded to Johnsy to go to sleep because she did not want Johnsy to see the last leaf fall. Next morning, Johnsy was sure that the last leaf had fallen, and death beckoned her too, When they opened the window, they were astonished to see that there was still one leaf left. 
Johnsy judged that the leaf stayed there to show her sinfulness in accepting death without a fight. that made her resolve to live.  Her will to live made her recovery fully. 
In the afternoon, the doctor came and told Sue that Behrman was dead. But before his death,   Behrman had painted a masterpiece – the last leaf was Behrman’s masterpiece. He had painted the leaf after the last leaf had fallen off the vine.  His final act- the last leaf on the wall gave Johnsy hope and life.

Summary : The Kabuliwala Rabindranath Tagore

The Kabuliwala 
Rabindranath Tagore
The story The Kabuliwala is narrated by the father of a five-year-old Mini. The talkative and innocent Mini and Rahamat, a hawker of dry fruits from Kabul, are the central characters of the story. 
One morning Mini saw a Kabuliwala through her window and called out to him. He was a tall, untidily dressed man with a turban on his head and a bag slung over his shoulder. As soon as the Kabuliwala drew close the house, Mini ran and vanished inside.  Her father bought some dry fruits and chatted with him and came to know of him and his family at Kabul. Then he called Mini and introduced her to Rahamat, the Kabuliwala so that she would shed her fear of the Kabuliwala. Rahamat gave Mini some dry fruits from his bag.
Later Mini’s father found that his daughter and Kabuliwala had struck up a happy relationship, and the two of them met practically every day. The Kabuliwala was a patient listener to Mini’s tittle-tattle and also gave her loads of nuts and raisins. The Kabuliwala entertained Mini with stories of his motherland. 
Mini’s mother, Rama, was against the growing companionship between her daughter and the Kabuliwala and feared he would kidnap Mini one day and sell her off as a slave. 
All of a sudden disaster struck the Kabuliwala. He was arrested and sentenced to several years of incarceration for stabbing one of his customers who owed him money. After his release from the jail, the Kabuliwala went to Mini’s house to meet her. However, He found that Mini had grown up, and it was her wedding day.  
Mini’s father was not happy to see the Kabuliwala on that day and considered it inauspicious to let him see Mini. He persuaded the Kabuliwala to go away. Before going away, the Kabuliwala left a few grapes and raisins for Mini.  He then showed Mini’s father a tatty piece of paper with a charcoal print of a tiny hand. It was his daughter’s. Filled with pity for the Kabuliwala, Mini’s father called Mini. When the Kabuliwala saw Mini in her bridal dress, he was surprised to find a young woman he could not recognise. Mini was embarrassed when she thought of their long-forgotten companionship and shied away. The Kabuliwala found it extremely difficult to reconcile with the reality.  Seeing the predicament of the Kabuliwala, Mini’s father offered him enough money to return to Kabul to join up with his daughter. Even though he had to cut down some of the wedding celebrations, he was contented with his humanistic gesture to a distressed father.