An Accident by R.K. Narayan
In An Accident by R.K. Narayan we have the theme of hopelessness, appearance, kindness, uncertainty and gratitude. Taken from his An Astrologer’s Day and Other Stories collection the story is narrated in the first person by an unnamed narrator and from the beginning of the story the reader realises that Narayan may be exploring the theme of hopelessness. The narrator feels somewhat lost due to the fact that his car has broken down. It is the middle of the night and there is nobody else around. That is till Arul arrives and through his kindness offers to fix the narrator’s car. This may be important as Narayan by having Arul fix the car may be suggesting that hopelessness can be overcome with an act of kindness or charity. It is also interesting that the narrator considers Arul to possibly be drunk. Though he is uncertain and cannot be sure. This too may be important as later in the story Arul’s Master is sure that Arul was drunk when he died. Though the reader themselves may not be so sure considering the fact that the narrator himself is unsure. The fact that Arul is dead might also be significant as Narayan may be suggesting that help can come from different sources.
It is also possible that Narayan is exploring the theme of gratitude. Through Arul’s act of kindness the narrator wants to pay Arul. However Arul refuses the money. This too might be important as Arul appears to have no use for money. Something that some readers might find strange but might lead other readers to the assumption that Arul is dead. There is no need for him to have any money. Though again others might just suggest that Arul’s refusal of the money might further highlight his kindness. The fact that Arul wants his job back is also interesting. As if he was dead just like money he would have no use for a job. It is as though Arul has unfinished business with his Master and that he wants to assure his Master that he was not drunk. If anything Arul may not wish to depart from the world without having a clear understanding with his Master. He has been faithful to him for twenty one years and may not wish to end their relationship on a sour note. It is possible that Arul is unable to let go of the physical world and make the move to the spiritual world.
It may also be a case that Narayan is suggesting one can never know for sure through a person’s appearance as to who they might be. As mentioned the narrator assumed the possibility that Arul may be drunk because he was in the hills alone in the middle of the night. Something that many might consider to be unusual. However Arul is not what he seems to be. He is the exact person that the narrator needs to see. Someone who can fix the narrator’s car. Something he appears to do diligently and with care. This may be important as it suggests to the reader how serious Arul might have taken his role as driver to his Master. Also by being so diligent the reader is left wondering is it really possible that a man who knows how to fix a car and how to drive a car might actually have been drunk when he was driving. This would leave the reader suspecting that Arul was irresponsible yet when he is talking to the narrator and helping the narrator he takes on the role of responsibility by fixing the car.
The end of the story is also interesting as the Master appears to be firm in his belief that Arul was drunk when he crashed the car. As though Arul had a history of drinking while working for his Master. This in itself is a difficulty that the reader has to contend with as one is left to either believe the Master or Arul. Which may be the point that Narayan is attempting to make. He may be suggesting that in life one has to make decisions based on the information they have at hand. For the narrator he does not know for sure if Arul was drunk and he only has the Master’s word. A man that the narrator may have never met before. In reality it is a case of who does the narrator believe, Arul or the Master. Arul after all has helped him and done so as an act of kindness while the Master is someone who is to be respected. If anything the reader is left as confused as the narrator. It is the word of a humble man against the word of his Master. Each individual reader possibly having a different opinion on who they might believe.