Such Perfection by R.K. Narayan
In Such Perfection by R.K. Narayan we have the theme of dedication, faith, fear, pride and guilt. 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 dedication. Soma has dedicated five years of his life to his sculpture of Nataraja. He has isolated himself from those around him in order that he can sculpt the perfect image of Nataraja and have the sculpture displayed in the Temple. If anything Soma takes great pride in the sculpture. Something that is noticeable by his refusal to make the sculpture imperfect in any way. He even goes as far as demolishing part of his home in order that people can see the sculpture after those in the Temple refuse to allow Soma to display it in the Temple because they consider it to be too perfect and as such may be problematic. It is also interesting that Soma never gives up despite those in the Temple refusing to allow him to display the sculpture. If anything Soma willingness to ignore those in the Temple and display the sculpture at his own home further highlights the dedication that Soma has. He will not be beaten.
The fact that so many people come to the village to see the sculpture may also be significant as it suggests that those who have travelled have faith. However their faith soon turns to fear when the full moon rises and Soma shows everybody the sculpture. Many are killed due to the perfection of the sculpture. It is as though God is angry that an image so perfect is being displayed. Just as some had suggested to Soma that the sculpture was not for mortal eyes. Soma himself after everything that happens also realises that the sculpture is too perfect for mortal eyes. However what is really interesting is the lengths that Soma will go to in order to right things. Rather than chisel part of the sculpture and leave a flaw he decides instead to sacrifice his life. This could be significant as it highlights just how important Soma’s work is to him. He cannot bear to do anything to something that he considers to be perfect. It is as though Soma cannot degrade his work in any way. So proud is he of it despite the troubles the sculpture has brought. Soma considers it easier to end his life than do anything to the sculpture that will make it less than what Soma intended it to be.
There is also no doubt that Soma feels guilty about what has happened. Which in many ways explains his reasoning behind sacrificing his life. It may also be important that Soma at no stage in the story listened to anybody when it came to the sculpture. Though some critics might suggest that Soma has acted arrogantly it is more likely that Soma was so happy and proud of his work that he wanted everybody to see it. So that it too might bring joy to others. At no stage does Soma seek to profit financially from his sculpture. He is happy to have it displayed in the Temple for others to enjoy too. It might also be important that Soma is not a wealthy man nor does he appear to be driven by a desire to have money. Soma’s work means everything to him. The fact that God also intervened may be important as those who may not have had faith in a power greater than themselves now through God’s intervention have no reason to disbelieve that there is a God. However God’s intervention has not been a pleasant thing to those in the village.
The end of the story is also interesting as Soma though he survives the initial anger of God. He does lose his home. He is affected by the consequences of his actions of leaving the sculpture perfect. He may have not paid the same price as others but he still nonetheless is affected. The fact that God also alters the sculpture may be important as by altering the sculpture God is showing Soma what Soma himself could not do. It is also interesting that after God’s intervention the sculpture manages to find a place in the Temple. Though some critics might suggest that the sculpture after God’s intervention is flawed and no longer perfect. It might be important to remember that the sculpture in its original state angered God. Which may be the point that Narayan is attempting to make. He may be suggesting that perfection is not something that mankind should aim for. It is more important for mankind to try their best then it is to strive for perfection. Mankind itself is not perfect and as such neither will anything that mankind attempts to do be perfect. Something that Soma has learnt not only from God but from others too. However Soma chose not to listen. The results being that God on sight of Soma’s sculpture was angry.