Wife’s Holiday by R.K. Narayan
In Wife’s Holiday by R.K. Narayan we have the theme of trust, desperation, selfishness, greed and control. Taken from his Malgudi Days collection the story is narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator and after reading the story it becomes clear to the reader that Narayan may be exploring the theme trust. Kannan cannot be trusted. So desperate is he to play dice that he has taken all of his son’s money. Without thinking about anybody but himself. To ease his mind Kannan justifies taking the money thinking that he will profit while playing dice and have enough money to return the coins to his son’s saving box. However Kannan who has been so driven by his actions of breaking open the saving box does not seem to realise that even if he puts the money back in the box. His son will still know that something is wrong because the saving box has been smashed by Kannan. The saving box itself may also be important as symbolically it represents two things. Firstly it represents or symbolises Kannan’s son’s aspirations for the future and secondly for Kannan the box acts as a means to escape and play dice. Neither representation goes hand in hand with the other. Which may be the point that Narayan is attempting to make. He make be suggesting that any aspirations that Kannan’s son has will never be achieved due to Kannan’s greed.
If anything Kannan is driven by two things. An unwillingness to work and greed. He knows that he can get the four annas he is looking for should he do a day’s work. However the draw of the game of dice is too much for Kannan. It distracts him and lessens his ability to think straight. No father wishes to steal from their children and it might be a case that Kannan can’t help himself. So powerful is the draw to play the game of dice. Rather than thinking of the consequences Kannan acts impulsively believing that he will be able to return the money to his son’s saving box. In reality throughout the story Kannan lacks any type of control and is only happy when he is playing dice. Though that costs him all of his son’s money. The fact that Kannan is also not very good with numbers may be significant as Narayan could be suggesting symbolically that Kannan is also not very good with money.
As readers we are aware that Kannan’s wife keeps track of all the finances. It is also possible that she only gives Kannan the bare minimum when it comes to giving him money. It could be a case that due to his gambling habits Kannan cannot be trusted and as such his wife firmly holds onto the reigns when it comes to matters concerning money. It is also interesting that the draw of the game of dice takes precedence for Kannan. That is all he can think of even though at times he may feel that what he is doing is wrong. The game of dice comes first for Kannan rather than any loyalty to his family. The reader also senses that Kannan looks at his wife’s involvement in his life as a hindrance. As though he is under her control at all times. Kannan lacking the freedom to do as he wants. Which may be important as Kannan’s wife may have experience of what Kannan is like should he be giving a free reign to live his life as he would like to. It may be a case that someone needs to keep an eye on Kannan as when he is left to his own devices he does not act responsibly.
The end of the story is also interesting as there is a sense that Kannan knows that he has been caught for what he has done. Though the reader does not get any insight into the subsequent argument that is sure to happen between Kannan and his wife. The reader is still left in no doubt that there will be a furious argument between the two. Kannan’s wife will not only be angry that the lock has been taken off her trunk but on discovery that her son’s money has also been stolen. Kannan’s wife is sure to strongly reprimand Kannan. Kannan like a lot of gamblers has taken a risk. A risk that has not paid off. Instead he is leaving himself open to fracturing the family. All because the power of a game of dice was too strong for Kannan. As to whether Kannan has learnt a lesson is difficult to say as the reader never hears the argument between Kannan and his wife. Some critics might suggest that Kannan is remorseful while others might suggest that nothing will change. That Kannan will always put himself before his family and will always view his wife as a hindrance rather than as someone who is keeping the family together. Though what is certain is that any outcome will most likely be based on the actions of Kannan’s wife rather than on Kannan.