Trail of the Green Blazer by R.K. Narayan
In Trail of the Green Blazer by R.K. Narayan we have the theme of guilt, pity, appearance, identity, struggle, trust, change and commitment. 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 guilt. Raju though he has robbed the man wearing the green blazer of his purse feels guilt with regard to the balloon in the purse. He knows that a child will be left disappointed and as such attempts to put the purse back where he took it from. Minus the money. This may be important as it shows that Raju though he is a pickpocket has a conscience. Which may surprise some readers that a thief could have a conscience. If anything Raju pities the poor child who the balloon is intended for. Though he doesn’t know the child there is a sense that Raju knows how disappointed the child will feel. It might also be important that Raju devotes all his time to the man wearing the green blazer as this would suggest that Raju considers the man worthy of being robbed. The man’s appearance is defining the fact that Raju thinks he is worth robbing.
What is also interesting about the story is the fact that Raju’s wife does not know that he is a pickpocket. This may be important as it would play on the theme of identity. Narayan may be suggesting that an individual can be married to another individual and never really know that person. Which is very much the case in the story. Raju’s wife doesn’t really know who Raju is. She never asks him about how he receives his money. Thinking no more than the fact that Raju receives commission for work he has done but there is never any mention of the work that Raju has done. In many ways Raju is being deceitful by not only being a pickpocket but by not giving his wife clarity over what it actually is he does for a living. There is also a sense that Raju has no option but to steal from others. He is a poor man who doesn’t work and has a family to feed. Though some critics might suggest that Raju could get a job it is possible that Raju is comfortable with how he earns his money. Which is somewhat ironic considering that it is his feelings of guilt which lead him to spending eighteen months in prison.
By pitying someone he has never met. The young child who is expecting the balloon. Raju manages to cause not only harm to himself but harm to his family too. As readers we are aware that Raju’s family rely on him for an income. However while Raju is in prison it is assumed that his family would have been left to struggle. It is also interesting that Raju’s wife considers that Raju has brought shame on the family as this would play on the theme of appearance again. Raju’s wife obviously fears how she and her children will be perceived by those who know her and who have discovered that Raju has gone to prison for stealing. At no stage does Raju’s wife see the irony in the fact that Raju was trying to do the right thing by putting the balloon back in the man’s pocket. For her Raju has simply brought shame onto the family by his actions. It is also possible that Narayan is suggesting that Raju’s wife can no longer trust Raju because of what he has done.
The end of the story is also interesting as the reader is left with the feeling that Raju will not change. The only thing he will change is the fact that he will never return anything he has stolen. Raju’s time in prison has not deterred Raju in any way. He remains as committed as ever to his occupation as a pickpocket. Any feelings of guilt that Raju may have over anything he has stolen will not be entertained by Raju again. That is the lesson that Raju has learnt and as such he will no longer feel for any of his victims. Raju will feel no responsibility towards them and view them simply as a pickpocket would. As a target that has the possibility of being worth robbing. Regardless of what Raju robs he will not make the same mistake twice. If he had not pitied the young child because of the balloon. He would not have ended up in prison. That is Raju’s logic. Raju doesn’t consider that what he is doing is wrong. For him pickpocketing is a job that supports his family. That in the future will be Raju’s primary focus. Again regardless of what he might rob Raju will return nothing. In Raju’s eyes he tried to do the right thing and only ended up in prison.