Naga by R.K. Narayan
In Naga by R.K. Narayan we have the theme of independence, connection, struggle, responsibility, selfishness, loyalty and commitment. 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 independence. The young boy in the story though he may not like it is independent of others. His father has abandoned him and there is a sense that the boy is left to fend for himself. Something that he successfully manages to do despite the fact that he is still a boy. This may be important as Narayan may be suggesting that the boy has learnt to become responsible for himself. Though he has had to struggle, even when his father was there, the boy nonetheless manages to get on with his life when left to his own devices. It is also noticeable that life is a struggle for the boy. He is beaten by his father when his father is drunk and there is a sense that the father does not really wish to share his life with the boy. Something that becomes clear to the reader when the father leaves the boy. Just as the boy is acting responsibly the father is acting irresponsibly. Thinking only of himself and his own needs.
It is also possible that Narayan is exploring the theme of connection. There is a sense that the boy though he scorns Naga feels connected to him. It is as though both have had to struggle. The boy with the loss of his mother and then his father and Naga with the fact that he has grown old and is no longer able to perform as he once had. However it is noticeable that Naga is somewhat of a burden to the boy and may actually be hindering the boy’s independence. Though rather than being able to abandon Naga as he would like to the boy feels a responsibility or connection to Naga. It is for this reason that he saves Naga. Even though by doing so the boy will be unable to free himself of the life he is living. If anything Narayan may be suggesting that Naga is a thorn in the boy’s side. He no longer serves a purpose yet the boy is unable to let him go because he has grown attached to Naga.
Though some critics might suggest that the boy is being weak or sentimental it is possible that Narayan is highlighting the boy’s loyalty to Naga. Something that is not mirrored by the father’s presence in the story. It may be case that the boy understands what it is like to be abandoned and as such cannot do the same to Naga. The fact that the father takes the monkey rather than Naga may also be important as it is possible that the father knows that the monkey will earn him more money than Naga would. If this is the case than it is difficult not to look upon the father as acting selfishly. Not only has he abandoned the boy but he has ensured that he will make a good living. At no point does the reader feel as though the father has had to struggle as the boy has. True he may have raised the boy on his own but he had a responsibility as a parent to do so. Something that he gives up on when he abandons the boy. If anything it is difficult to be sympathetic towards the father as he appears to be thinking only of himself.
The end of the story is also interesting as the reader sees just how loyal the boy is to Naga. Though he knows that Naga is no longer of any use to him. He cannot let him die. Not only is there a sense that the boy is being loyal to Naga but Narayan may also be suggesting that the boy despite his best instincts remains committed to Naga. Which is the complete opposite to how the boy’s father feels about the boy. There is also a sense that Naga will live out the rest of his life with the boy whether or not he serves a purpose. The boy through loyalty is unable to let go of Naga. Just as Naga has been faithful to both the boy and his father likewise the boy is being faithful to Naga. It is as though the boy has realised that though Naga is no longer making money he still nonetheless is part of the his life. If anything Narayan may be leaving the reader with two companions together in a world that has shown itself to be cruel. Firstly the boy’s father abandoned him and secondly Naga is too old to perform and make money for the boy. Regardless of this the boy remains connected and committed to Naga.