Like the Sun by R.K. Narayan
In Like the Sun by R.K. Narayan we have the theme of honesty, conflict, anger, change and rejection. Taken from his Under the Banyan Tree and Other Stories collection the story is narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator and from the beginning of the story the reader realises that Narayan may be exploring the theme of honesty. Sekhar decides to spend one day telling the truth even though he is fully aware of the consequences of telling those in his life the truth about their qualities. Something that is noticeable when Sekhar comments on his wife’s food suggesting that it is not good. This may be significant as not only is Sekhar angering his wife but he also leaves himself open to personal criticism. Though on this occasion his wife does not retaliate even though she is so shocked by Sekhar’s bluntness and honesty. It may also be a case that Sekhar hopes that others will change if he is more honest with them. Yet there is to be no change in Sekhar. He may not necessarily be open to the same criticism he gives others.
The incident with his colleague in school is also interesting as Sekhar opinions only appear to isolate him from his colleague. Though Sekhar might consider himself to be displaying an honest trait. In reality he is no more than expressing his opinion with regard to the man who died. Sekhar did not know the man personally or at least the reader is left to believe that he did not. Which may be the point that that Narayan is attempting to make. He may be suggesting that some people’s truths are no more than opinions. Opinions that for the most are non-critical till one decides to abandon any thought for another person’s feelings. Something that Sekhar has deliberately chosen to do despite the obvious pitfalls that await him. One of which is alienation from others and a refusal by others to engage constructively with Sekhar due to his opinion or honesty. Though Sekhar from the start of the day when he criticized his wife’s cooking is aware of the consequences that await him for his honesty towards others. If anything one might suggest that Sekhar is either being foolish or brave.
There is also the matter of how beneficial Sekhar’s honesty is. When it comes to his wife she remains angry at what she perceives to be criticism but noticeably continues to cook for Sekhar. With the headmaster it is more positive and he no longer fools himself when it comes to his musical aspirations. Thankful for Sekhar’s input with regard to what he thought of his musical abilities. However it is noticeable that the headmaster may have taken matters a little too personal. Even though he is grateful to Sekhar. Something that is noticeable by way of the fact that the headmaster wants all one hundred test papers on his desk the following day. Disregarding what he had previously said to Sekhar in whereby he allowed him ten days to mark the papers. This could be important as Narayan may be highlighting that there are consequences for being honest. Though the headmaster might have been grateful to Sekhar. He also appears to be a little too demanding of him at the same time. Perhaps he is driven by the rejection he may have felt. Even if he had been grateful to Sekhar for his honesty.
It is also interesting that Sekhar can only wish for the day to be over as he knows that his honesty comes with a price. Something he learns when he is told to mark all one hundred test papers. It may also be a case that Sekhar wishes that the truth was not like the sun as his honesty only manages to create problems for himself. Not only in his home life but in his professional life too. As to what the trigger for Sekhar’s experiment was is difficult to say. Perhaps he wished to live for one day being totally honest even if there were repercussions. It is an idealist approach to life and as such this may be the reason as to why Sekhar only was completely honest for one day. He may have been aware of the realities of life and the fact that being honest has its consequences. As to whether being honest is more beneficial to being politely evasive with the truth is left for each reader to decide for themselves. Some may suggest that honesty is the foundation of a good society while others might suggest it is better to curtail the truth in order not to hurt another person’s feelings. Particularly in matters that border on the trivial and which may not really be very important to the progression of society.