Crime and Punishment by R.K. Narayan
In Crime and Punishment by R.K. Narayan we have the theme of fear, control, conflict and blackmail. Taken from his Under the Banyan Tree and Other Stories collection the story is narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator and after reading the story the reader realises that Narayan may be exploring the theme of fear. The teacher is afraid that the boy will tell his parents that he has slapped him in the face. Driven by fear the teacher loses control of the boy and ends up rather than being the boy’s teacher instead he becomes the boy’s play thing. This may be important as Narayan may be highlighting the importance of control in the classroom. Should a pupil end up taking control from a teacher the result will be disastrous with no lessons learnt. Rather than the teacher being an instrument of education they become part of a game for a pupil. Something which is very much the case in the story. It is also noticeable that the teacher is somewhat in conflict with not only the boy but with the boy’s parents. With both parent’s believing that they know better when it comes to the boy’s education.
If anything Narayan may be highlighting the difficulties that a teacher can incur with not only a pupil but with the pupil’s parents. In the story both parents seem to think they know what is best for their son. Something that becomes clearer to the reader by the fact that the teacher spends half an hour before lessons listening to both parents telling him how to educate their son. It is as though the teacher is being directed by both parents on how to teach their son. Which leaves the reader wondering as to why either of the parents don’t teach their son themselves. If they are so certain that they know the best practices when it comes to teaching their son. In reality the parents input is unnecessary and limits the control that the teacher has over the boy. Who if left to his own devices will only manipulate the teacher. However it is noticeable that the teacher does lose control of the boy from the moment that he strikes the boy on the face. Something that some critics might find inappropriate. Though the reality may be that the teacher is impatient. Which is not a trait that would be deemed appropriate for a teacher.
Though it is clear to the reader that the teacher’s impatience is driven by the boy’s continual answering of the maths question incorrectly. This should not be enough for the teacher to be aggressive towards the boy. However the boy is clever enough to realise that he can manipulate the teacher now that the teacher has struck him. Which may be the point that Narayan is attempting to make. He may be highlighting the pitfalls of corporal punishment. Rather than getting the boy to do as he wishes him to do. The teacher loses control of the boy. Leaving some readers to suspect that corporal punishment doesn’t actually work. In reality it may have the opposite affect with the teacher losing control and fearing that he will lose his job should the boy’s parents discover that he has struck the boy. As soon as the teacher strikes the boy. The lessons stop and the boy gains control over the teacher. Which may leave some readers suspecting that the teacher is not actually suited to teaching. Control in the classroom is paramount for a teacher.
The end of the story is also interesting as the tables end up turning on the boy. Where once the teacher was reliant on the boy staying quiet about him striking the boy. Now the boy needs the teacher to lie for him in order that his parent’s won’t scold him. If anything the teacher regains control over the boy by lying for him and telling his parents that everything is okay. By lying for him the boy is grateful and the reader suspects that he may become a better student by not forgetting that the teacher has helped him out. He may actually be more enthusiastic about his lessons and the teacher might also have learnt a lesson. The lesson being that he needs to be more patient with the boy and that he must not strike the boy again as he knows the consequences. Even if the boy is more trusting of the teacher he knows that this could be short-lived. The task ahead for the teacher is to re-evaluate his teaching practices and to remove corporal punishment from his curriculum. He also needs to learn understand that not every wrong answer given by the boy may be a deliberate trigger to annoy the teacher. If anything it may be ironic that the teacher will learn more from what happened than the boy.