The Edge by R.K. Narayan
In The Edge by R.K. Narayan we have the theme of control, connection, independence, pride, tradition, sacrifice, trust and struggle. 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 control. Ranga’s wife seems to wish to control not only Ranga’s life but their daughter’s life too. Something that is noticeable by her desire for her daughter not to attend school. It is as though Ranga’s wife does not see any benefit in her daughter attending school. Similarly Ranga’s wife does not like him associating with the blacksmith as he comes home drunk anytime that he is with the blacksmith. Though Ranga’s wife’s reaction is understandable, particularly because Ranga has hit his wife when drinking, it still nonetheless highlight’s Ranga’s wife’s desire to control Ranga. It is also interesting that Ranga’s daughter is a match for her mother. Something that pleases Ranga. He has no fear when it comes to leaving his daughter with his wife as he knows that his daughter has the ability to look after herself. It is as though Ranga’s daughter is as independent as Ranga is.
It is also possible that Narayan is exploring the theme of pride. Unlike his relationship with his wife Ranga appears to have a good relationship with his daughter. Not only does he wish for her to have a better life than his but Ranga also seems to be proud of his daughter’s achievements. She is the first of his family to receive a formal education and Ranga knows just how important this is. If anything Ranga knows that education is the key to a prosperous life. With it being better that his daughter stays in school for as long as possible. Despite Ranga’s wife being against the idea. Though Ranga and his wife differ on what is best for their daughter there is no disputing that both are hard workers. However despite the fact that both Ranga and his wife work hard they still have very little money. Which may be the point that Narayan is making. He may be suggesting that an individual can work hard and still struggle. Which is very much the case for Ranga and his wife. It is for this reason that the reader has some sympathy for Ranga’s wife and understands as to why she might wish for her daughter to work rather than go to school. The extra money would lessen the hardship that Ranga’s wife incurs.
There is also a sense that Ranga feels a close connection to his daughter. He has already lost six other children and knows how lucky he is. However where Ranga sees his daughter as being a gift. Ranga’s wife on the other hand looks at her daughter as being a burden. It is as though she is not able to adapt to the change in circumstances that she is going through. That being having a daughter in school rather than working. If anything Narayan may be highlighting the loss of tradition with Ranga’s daughter not working and attending school instead. Ranga’s wife doesn’t see her daughter’s schooling as something that will empower her daughter whereas Ranga does. It is also interesting that Ranga despite being a poor man still makes sure that his daughter has everything she needs. He is prepared to go without any type of luxury so that his daughter succeeds. In reality Ranga is prepared to make sacrifices. While the reader feels as though Ranga’s wife does not think the same.
The end of the story is also interesting as Narayan appears to be further exploring the theme of control. When Ranga becomes aware of what the government doctors want to do. He runs away. This may be important as Narayan could be suggesting that at times a government’s influence in an individual’s life can go too far. Despite being lured by the promise of thirty rupees and a transistor radio. Ranga is not prepared to allow the doctors to operate on him. If anything Ranga is not conforming. Which would play on the theme of independence. It might also be a case that Narayan is highlighting just how intrusive a government can be when it comes to trying to control an individual. It is as though there is no line drawn between what is a person’s right and what a government might do. There is no boundary. It is also noticeable that Ranga is a trusting man. First he trusts the man in the car. Then he trusts the chief and finally he trusts the doctors till he realises what they are attempting to do. If anything Narayan could be suggesting that rather than trusting government officials an individual is either better of questioning them or avoiding them. In Ranga’s case no good will come from him being compliant.