Second Opinion by R.K. Narayan
In Second Opinion by R.K. Narayan we have the theme of conflict, failure, connection, acceptance, independence and appearance. Taken from his Malgudi Days collection the story is narrated in the first person by a young man called Sambu and after reading the story the reader realises that Narayan may be exploring the theme of conflict. Throughout the story there is a sense that Sambu and his mother are in constant disagreement. Not only is she displeased about how Sambu lives his life but she is also concerned about his future. If anything both characters are in conflict with one another with neither giving the other an inch. This could be important as it suggests that both Sambu and his mother each want separate things. Sambu wants to live his life as he is doing while his mother would prefer if Sambu married. It is also noticeable that Sambu’s mother’s wish for Sambu to marry appears to be based on materialism. She wants Sambu to marry the daughter of a distant cousin who happens to be wealthy. The reader sensing that the cousin’s wealth is the driving factor for Sambu’s mother. While Sambu himself does not appear to be driven by financial gain.
There is also a sense of failure in the story. Not only when it comes to Sambu’s relationship with his mother but also there is the fact that Sambu has never passed his Matriculation. It is as though he has given up on education. Yet it is noticeable that he still likes to read some of his father’s books. It may be a case that Sambu prefers to educate himself rather than to be formally educated in a school or university. Though some critics might suggest that Sambu for most of the story acts selfishly when it comes to his mother it may be possible that Narayan is highlighting instead the fact that Sambu is independent. He lives his life as he chooses to live it and the reality is that he does not have any responsibilities. Something that makes it easier for Sambu to live his life as he would like to. Should Sambu follow the direction his mother wishes him to take and get married. His life will change dramatically. It is also possible that there is no void in Sambu’s life unlike his mother who appears to long for grandchildren. If anything Sambu’s mother may wish for Sambu to get married more for her sake than for Sambu’s.
It is also possible that Narayan is exploring the theme of connection. Despite being in conflict for most of the story. When Sambu hears that his mother might be unwell. He starts to want to understand her more. He is also prepared to marry the girl chosen for him in order to please his mother. This could be important as there is a sense that Sambu is getting closer to his mother. Even if it means that his life will change. Throughout the story Sambu had a daily pattern that he followed however after talking to Dr Kishen Sambu returns home and focuses on his mother. Though it is interesting that he finds it hard to ask her about her perceived illness. This may be significant as it is possible that Narayan is highlighting just how distant Sambu and his mother have been from one another. The fact that Sambu looks for a second opinion from Dr Natwar would also further place an emphasis on the theme of connection. Despite all their differences Sambu still cares for and loves his mother. She may have been a thorn in his side throughout the story but he still nonetheless wishes her the best.
The end of the story is also interesting as Narayan appears to be further exploring the theme of independence. Though Sambu agrees to meet the cousin at the bus stop. He also makes sure that his mother is aware of the fact that he has no intentions of marrying. Something which Sambu’s mother appears to accept. If anything Sambu’s mother seems to be more concerned about appearances when it comes to her cousin. She does not wish for others to talk about her or the fact that nobody was there to greet her cousin. She can live with Sambu’s decision not to get married but finds it difficult to accept how other people will perceive her should Sambu not greet the cousin at the bus stop. This may be important as it suggests again that Sambu’s mother is prepared to marry off Sambu to her cousin’s daughter not because either party (Sambu or the girl) are in love but because of how the marriage will be viewed by others. In Sambu’s mother’s eyes the marriage will be as success because Sambu is marrying into money. He will be looked after by his mother’s cousin. Yet his own happiness does not seem to be important to his mother. Rather than it being Sambu who acts selfishly throughout the story it is his mother who is thinking only of herself.