Emden by R.K. Narayan
In Emden by R.K. Narayan we have the theme of connection, loss, jealousy, redemption, appearance, guilt, struggle, independence and acceptance. Taken from his Malgudi Days 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 connection. Rao though his mind is not as quick as it once was still remains connected to his family. Something that is clear to the reader by the fact that twenty members of his family still live with him. Though none are directly mentioned their voices can be heard when Rao goes out for his daily walk. This may be important as it suggests that Rao is loved by his family. That they have genuine concern about his well-being. Though at the same time there is a sense that Rao views his family as a nuisance. This might explain as to why he spends so much time alone away from his family. He has a routine and does not let anybody disturb it. If anything Rao is set in his ways as many elderly people are. He does not like a fuss. Something that is noticeable when it comes to Rao’s birthday. He simply wants to live his life the best that he can.
The fact that Rao’s past is so disturbing might also be significant as Narayan may be attempting to contrast the life of an old man versus that of what or who Rao was when he was younger. If anything Rao was an unpleasant man who appears to have been corrupt. He also instilled fear in others. Something that he has not transferred to his old age. Nobody is afraid of Rao now. Despite his banging of his staff on the ground when he wants to be noticed. It is as though life may have passed Rao by. He has no friends or at least none are mentioned. The reader left assuming that either Rao’s character did not allow for him to have friends or that his friends are all dead. Either way there is nobody apart from family in Rao’s life. This might be important as it might suggest that Rao was a difficult man to get along with. Something that is noticeable by the fact that only his assistant in work will back Rao up.
Though Rao is unable to remember too much about his relationship with S. he still is aware of the fact that he should not have hit her and that the trigger for his violence towards S. was jealousy. However despite being physically violent with S. there is a sense that Rao wants to redeem himself. Hence his walking to Gokulam Street. Even though over fifty years have passed Rao may feel guilty about his actions. Though the reader is aware that Rao as a younger man did not feel guilty. If anything a younger Rao may possibly have been an arrogant type of person. Full of his own importance. It is for this reason that he most likely accepted bribes from others. The result of which was the loss of his job. The fact that Rao told people that he voluntarily retired might also be important as it could be case that Rao believes that appearance is important. Should people be aware that Rao was fired his standing in the community would lessen. No longer would people see Rao as he would like to be seen. Not only has Rao lost his job but he has also lost his strength. He is not the same man as he once was. The reader suspecting that the philosophical articles that Rao reads in the paper are part of Rao’s acceptance of his circumstances.
The end of the story is also interesting as the reader realises that Rao is struggling more than he usually would. He has not been to Gokulam Street in over fifty years and is reliant on others to direct him. For the first time in the story there is a sense that Rao is not as independent of others as he would like to be. Whereas previously Rao had control over his life this is not the case when he is walking towards Gokulam Street. There is also a sense that Rao is not the same man he once was. Nobody on the street really takes notice of him. To them he is a stranger. Yet in a previous time people were afraid of Rao. If anything Rao does not command the same stature that he previously had. Which may be the point that Narayan is attempting to make. It is possible that Narayan is suggesting that everybody eventually changes. Rao has one goal and that is to redeem himself. He might not have had the chance to apologize to S. but he is going in the right direction. Even if it has taken him over fifty years.