The Gold Frame by R.K. Laxman
In The Gold Frame by R.K. Laxman we have the theme of deception, dishonesty, independence, responsibility and fear. Narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator the reader realises after reading the story that Laxman may be exploring the theme of deception. Datta having destroyed the customer’s photograph begins to hatch a plan together in whereby he attempts to use another photograph to fool the customer. Not only is Datta being deceptive but he is being dishonest too and not taking full responsibility for his actions. The reader left feeling as though Datta fears the consequences should he tell the customer the truth about what has happened to his photograph. This may be significant as Laxman may be suggesting that the power to lie is overwhelming for Datta. Rather than owning up and taking responsibility for his actions Datta decides to lie to the customer. Which places him in an unfavourable light with the reader who may have previously had some sympathy for Datta due to his working conditions and the fact that he appears to be a hard worker. Though it might be important to bear in mind that Datta is aware that some customers do not return for their pictures even after Datta has framed them.
What is also interesting about the story is the independence that Datta shows after he destroys the customer’s photograph. He has an opportunity to pray to the Gods but he instead decides upon taking the action that he does. Though some critics might suggest that Datta should have been honest with the customer he does still nonetheless appear to show some ingenuity. Though again some readers might suggest that Datta is simply displaying an ability to deceive. It might also have been braver for Datta to have been honest with the customer and to tell them the truth about what happened their photograph. Even if the customer may have looked for compensation from Datta. At least then Datta’s integrity could not be questioned. Whereas the reader is left with no alternative but to question Datta due to his actions. It is not as though Datta is struggling financially and if he is Laxman makes no mention of this in the story. If anything Datta appears to have taken the easy way out and decided to deceive the customer by using another photograph to fool him.
With regard to the sympathy that the reader may feel for Datta prior to his deception. It may be a case that Laxman is deliberately setting the reader up to feel sympathy for Datta. He runs a small shop and one is left to assume that he struggles as well. Immediately the reader feels as though Datta must be a hard-working and honest man. When the reality is very much different. Datta may be hard-working but he is definitely not honest. He is thinking only of himself and the consequences of what he has done when it comes to destroying the customer’s photograph. At no stage is Datta thinking of how the customer may feel about having a treasured possession destroyed. If anything it is easier for Datta to be deceptive rather than having to face the consequences of his actions. Should Datta have taken responsibility for his actions he may still have suffered at the hands of the customer. However he would have gotten the respect of the reader. As it stand the reader ends up switching their allegiance from Datta to the customer. Hoping that the customer will not be fooled by what has happened to his photograph.
The customer himself may be an important character. He is full of enthusiasm at the start of the story but as the story progresses his enthusiasm wanes when he is not given what he is looking for. Though he has been fooled by the replacement photograph the square frame is not what he has ordered. Which may be the point that Laxman is attempting to make. He may be suggesting that Datta through his deception has actually still been caught out. Leaving the reader to suspect that Laxman may be highlighting the importance of honesty. An individual may deceive but they must also ensure that they do so correctly and completely. Something that Datta has not done. Through his panic Datta has forgotten about the customer’s requirements. An oval frame with a cut mount. Even if the error is easily fixed the fact that Laxman ends the story with the customer complaining is enough for the reader to realise the importance of honesty. If anything Datta has left himself with more work to do not only on the replacement photograph and frame but on his character too. Datta has shown himself to be an untrustworthy individual who thinks only of himself and has a total disregard for the feelings of his customers.