An Astrologer’s Day by R.K. Narayan
In An Astrologer’s Day by R.K Narayan we have the theme of fear, freedom, appearance, desperation, guilt and relief. Taken from his Malgudi Days collection the story is narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator and after reading the story it becomes clear to the reader that Narayan may be exploring the theme of fear and how far a man might go in order to overcome fear. The astrologer has left his village due to the fact that he was afraid that he had killed somebody (Guru Nayak). In what seems to be a friendship that has gone badly wrong the astrologer not only was afraid of what he felt he might have done but he was also conscious that should he stay in the village he would be charged with murder and in turn lose his freedom. Which is interesting as the astrologer spends his nights helping people gain some sort of control or freedom within their lives. However it may be worth knowing that the astrologer is somewhat of a charlatan and in reality doesn’t really know very much about the stars. His job is a means to an end. He stays on the street at night in order to feed his family. However people still come to the astrologer looking for information that might help them with their lives. Which may suggest that each customer is somewhat desperate. Desperate enough to believe what the astrologer is telling them. When the reality is the astrologer is formulating an opinion based on the information each customer gives him.
Symbolically it may also be important that for most of the story the astrologer is in the dark. This in many ways mirrors how the astrologer feels when it comes to Guru. He like the street was in the dark about what happened Guru. The lightning in the street and the fact that it is dark also sets the tone for the astrologer’s conversation with Guru. It is not by chance that the astrologer knows Guru by name. However what is not clear to the reader is at what point the astrologer began to recognise Guru. What is also interesting is the advice that the astrologer gives to Guru. It is entirely defensive. That being the astrologer is attempting to put as much distance between himself and Guru. If anything the astrologer is protecting himself and ensuring that he does not see Guru again. Which in all likelihood will be the case as Guru believes everything that the astrologer has said to him.
Narayan may also be exploring the theme of guilt. The astrologer has spent his time in the city believing that he has killed Guru and the weight of this on his conscious forced the astrologer to abandon his village. If anything it was the guilt that the astrologer felt along with the fear of going to prison for murder that drove the astrologer out of his village. It is also interesting that the astrologer has the appearance of an astrologer or someone who might know what the stars have in store for an individual. This could be important as it is most likely that the astrologer has changed his appearance and his persona when he arrived in the city. The young man that he had been was no longer. The innocence of his childhood was lost after the incident with Guru. The astrologer in order to make a living and to succeed in the city had to change who he was. Something that he successfully managed to do. So successful is the astrologer at changing his appearance that not even Guru was able to recognise him. It is as though the astrologer has all the tools of the trade something that is noticeable from the opening paragraph of the story.
The end of the story is also interesting as Narayan appears to be exploring the theme of relief. The astrologer feels relieved that Guru is not dead as it lifts a great weight from the astrologer’s shoulders. How relaxed the astrologer is; is noticeable by the way that he explains his story to his wife. It is in a casual manner. Which may be important as again there is a sense that the astrologer feels more relaxed about his life. So relaxed in fact that he manages to stretch himself on the pyol. Where once the astrologer had been driven by fear this is no longer the case. His life can begin again knowing that he is not a murderer. He may be a charlatan when it comes to the art of astrology but that in itself is not a crime. At last the astrologer can feel free even if he doesn’t know what the stars have in store for him. The darkness that was inside the astrologer has disappeared. No longer is he tied down by his past and the mistake that he thought he had made. At the end of the story there is not only a sense of relief but also a sense of freedom. The shackles the astrologer had imposed on his mind are gone.