The Agnostic by Khushwant Singh
In The Agnostic by Khushwant Singh we have the theme of belief, fear and change. Taken from the Best Indian Short 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 Singh may be exploring the theme of belief. The hostess believes in God and is dismayed to see that her visitor does not. In fact she is so scared of the visitor’s beliefs that she hopes they will not rub off on her children. Though there is little chance of this as the children are having fun with the argument their mother is having with the visitor. They in fact find it amusing that her mother’s authority on God is being questioned by the visitor. It is also interesting that both the mother and the visitor quote poems in support of their religious beliefs. Though there is no sense that either person is listening to the other’s poem.
The fact that the children are so young may be a good thing for the hostess. Not only can she threaten them by taking their ball away, which they are afraid off, but they may also have an innocent view of God which is not easily swayed by the visitor. Much to the mother’s relief. However at the same time they are overjoyed to see the adults argue, Even if the argument is over God. Both adults give a persuasive argument about God existing and not existing but this does not really overly concern the children. The argument that is going on is more important to them. They may sense that as they are not the focus of attention they can carry on as they like and play.
The mother gets quite heated during the argument which may highlight she is not open to criticism. Even if she is a firm believer of God. She should still be able to allow the visitor to have his open mind. This may be significant as the mother may take God for granted and believe all that she has learnt. The visitor on the other hand makes a plausible argument and cannot be disproved by the mother. No matter how hard she tries to prove that God is real and exists. The visitor has an answer for all her questions when it comes to the matter of God existing. Some critics might suggested the mother is blindfolded and willing to accept God no matter what.
There is however a change or moment or realisation in the story and that moment comes from the visitor when he catches the ball. Having previously said he would believe in God if he caught the falling ball from the tree. This sounds very simple but sometimes it is the simple things that make a person change. Much to the relief of the mother who feels as though she has been vindicated. No longer is the visitor an agnostic and now has a firm belief in God. Though some might suggest the ball falling from the tree was inevitable this cannot take away from the message of the story. In whereby Singh pits an agnostic against a believer. Even if the matter is solved in the simplest of terms. What started out as heated argument between two adults has resolved itself politely to the happiness of the mother.