The Roman Image by R.K. Narayan
In The Roman Image by R.K. Narayan we have the theme of opportunity, fame, honesty, enthusiasm, reputation, appearance and change. Taken from his Under the Banyan Tree and Other Stories collection the story is narrated in the first person by a man called the Talkative Man and after reading the story the reader realises that Narayan may be exploring the theme of opportunity. Both the narrator and the doctor are set for greatness due to their discovery of the so called roman image. However when they discover that the image is not what they expected it to be there is a sense that the narrator’s life won’t change as he would like it too. There will be no fame or recognition for the narrator despite all his efforts. This may be important as there is a sense that the narrator is driven by his desire to be famous and perhaps to make some money. If anything Narayan may be highlighting the perils of chasing an aspiration of a false opportunity. Though the doctor believes that he has done his research on the image. He still nonetheless is wrong about the image. This too could be important as Narayan may be attempting to sleight those who may deem themselves to be better than others when it comes to their particular field of interest (archaeology).
There is also no disputing that the narrator has worked hard for the doctor however due to the fact that he knows the truth about the image. It is likely that all his hard work will be in vain. Not only is he not going to be famous and receive praise from others but he is also out of a job. The doctor instructing the narrator to destroy the manuscript that he was working on. This could be important as the doctor appears to be genuinely concerned that he will be viewed upon as a fool. For devoting so much time on the project and also telling the world about the image. If anything the doctor may be concerned about his reputation and his standing in academic circles. It is for this reason that the reader suspects that the doctor wants the narrator to get rid of the image. Though both men may feel foolish the doctor is the one who will really suffer as his reputation is everything to him. He needs to be respected by others in order to progress with his work. Without a good standing among his peers the doctor knows he is nothing.
It is also interesting that the narrator is completely honest with the doctor. He could have said nothing and hoped for the best. Enjoying any fame or money that might come his way. Instead though he chose to do the right thing and tell the doctor the truth. It is also possible that should the narrator have not told the doctor the truth somebody would have eventually found out. Something that would have made matters worse for both the narrator and the doctor. In all likelihood the narrator probably had no option but to tell the truth. Even though he has exhausted his energies writing the manuscript. Both the narrator and the doctor are enthusiastic about their work which may have led to their fall from grace. The doctor in particular keen to find new discoveries that would enhance his reputation. Though there is no disputing both men are hard-working the doctor may have needed to step back and take time to reflect before he claimed the roman image to be one of the greatest discoveries he has ever made. If anything the doctor may have been blinded by his enthusiasm.
The end of the story is also interesting as rather than destroy the image the narrator throws it into the sea. Hoping that it will not be found again. This could be important as life would have been easier for the narrator if he had of destroyed the image. As it is the image is open to be found again and may be traceable back to both the narrator and the doctor. If this is the case that the truth will come out and others will realises that the doctor has made a mistake. No matter how great others think of him or how great he thinks about himself. He has made a mistake. A mistake that has the possibility of coming back to haunt the doctor and the narrator. It would have been easier to destroy the image and put the matter to rest. Though the doctor may not have been thinking clearly. Still stunned at his mistake the most important thing for the doctor is the continuation of his good name. His name is his trade whereas the narrator only had the good fortune to dream for a short period of time about what might be before reality set in. For a brief moment the narrator believed that the roman image would change his life. That was till he heard the truth about the image, the real truth.