Sweets for Angels by R.K. Narayan
In Sweets for Angels by R.K. Narayan we have the theme of aspirations, connection, kindness, regret, appearance, friendship, innocence and change. Narrated in the first person by an unnamed narrator the reader realises after reading the story that Narayan may be exploring the theme of appearance. Though Kali has the look of somebody who may be prone to be rowdy. The reality is that he is a gentle and kind man who does not wish any harm on others. How kind Kali actually may be is noticeable by his innocent attempt to give the school children some sweets. Though this may be a harmless act. To others Kali is viewed upon as being a kidnapper and somebody who may harm the children. This may be important as it is clear to the reader that Kali is being judged by others simply based upon his appearance. No consideration is being given to the fact that Kali is simple being kind or generous due to the connection he feels he has with the children. If anything Kali aspires to be as clever as the children and regrets he cannot do the simple things that the children can do (like reading and writing).
It is as though through looking at the children Kali not only aspires to be able to read and write and as such improve his life but he may also regret that he has lost out on an education. Knowing that he is employed for his physical abilities rather than his intellect. Though some critics might suggest that Kali has difficulty accepting his place in life the truth may be that Kali like other people dreams of bigger and better things for himself. Something which would be very human. Unfortunately for Kali his appearance lets him down and people rather than seeing a gentle giant see somebody who may be dangerous. Which is very much the case when Kali is tackled by the people in the street. It is also interesting that nobody believes Kali when he tries to explain what he was doing. It is as though the mob or crowd of people who are beating Kali have made up their mind about what Kali’s intentions might have been. If anything the crowd of people appear to be driven by fear and find it easier to believe what they want to believe than let Kali explain himself.
In many ways Kali was not only being nice to the children by giving them sweets but he was rewarding them too for their efforts while in school. Kali could have chosen to keep his extra money for himself but he wanted to share his happiness with the children. Something which some readers might find unusual. However in reality Kali is not a complicated man. He has no hidden agenda nor does he wish to hurt the children. If anything Kali is as innocent as the children themselves. Something that is lost on those in the street who beat and chase Kali. Though at the same time it may be Kali’s innocence that lets him down. He is after all a stranger and parents would recommend to their children to avoid taking things from strangers or talking to strangers. Despite the fact that Kali means no harm to the children. Again he is just somebody who wants to share his own happiness with others. The police though only briefly mentioned in the story may play an important role. Kali is taken to hospital rather than to prison. Which may leave the reader suspecting that the police know that Kali had no bad intentions towards the children.
It is also interesting that Kali’s attitude towards children changes at the end of the story because of the beating he has received. No longer does he look upon children with the innocent eyes that he once had. It is as though he knows that society will misinterpret his acts of kindness and generosity due to the environment of the times. One of the simple joys that Kali had in life has been taken away from him. However it is noticeable that Kuppan and the blind beggar stay by his side. Regardless of what has happened. This may be important as Narayan may be highlighting the importance of friendship particularly among those who may not be as fortunate as others. All three men have two things in common. They are poor and struggling to make a living. Which may leave some readers to suggest that all three men are in some way isolated from mainstream society. The one escape that Kali had is no longer available to him because of societal perceptions. If anything Kali is to remain on the fringes of society though the reality may be that he yearns to be more connected to the world around him.