The Man Eater of Malgudi: Sketching the character of H. Vasu

H. Vasu like Iago in Shakespeare’s ‘Othello’, Healthcliffe in Emile Bronte’s ‘Withering Heights’, Voss in Patrick White’s ‘Voss’ “is the prince of darkness and in darkness his activities are to be conducted”. He has been called ‘man-eater’, ‘terrifying’, ‘unreasonable’, ‘man with the dark halo’, ‘cruel’, ‘rakshasha’, ‘arrogant by implication’ and one who laughs ‘diabolically’. Vasu, a gigantic ex-circus “trong-man”, is farther attributed as wild animal hunter and a taxidermist.

 Literally Vasu is not a man eater as he does not eat the flesh of persons. Being a secluded individual, he rather by constantly troubling and terrorizing the human beings with his demonic strength sucks their peace of mind. He blasts bullies, aggres­sions and hectors. He beats down the huge strong ‘phaelwah’. His Herculean strength makes him prepare to knock the tiger down with his hands and ram the built of his rifle between his jaws if it comes to that when Sen, the poet, Muthu and Dr. Joshi visit his attic to ask not to shoot kumar. He threatens them to pick up and toss them down the stairs. He forcibly snatches the green folder and the list of the donors from Natraj and collects the money from the Malgudians by threatening, keep the money for his own use. Vasu not only kills animals but kills the name and fame of Natraj; “he had destroyed my name, my friendship, and my world’. Vasu’s presence horrifies and fascinates Nataraj.

            Vasu is an intellectual giant who gets his M.A in economics, History and English from the Presidency College Madras. He knows laws, talks of Vedanta, of the transmigration of soul and the omnipresence of God. He follows Mahatmaji and even gets imprisonment for that. Vasu is a taxidermist and therefore, it is very natural on his part to shoot animals and tan the hides. Had he been employed and prosperous, he would not have resided in the mosquito-infested attic. Vasu asked Natraj to reside in the attic and as Natraj agrees it is not Vasu’s fault and remains there as a guest. Even Natraj admires vasu – “He worked single handed on all branches of his work. I admired him for it”. The pseudo-philosophy of self-willed and assertive Vasu is revealed in his speech “we are civilized human beings, educated and cultured and it is up to us to prove our superiority to nature. Science conquers nature in a new way every day; why not in creation also? That’s my philosophy, Sir.”  

            Being a dissolute womanizer when he can no longer hunt the jungle animals he takes to indulging in sex. His passion for hunting is transformed into the passion for lascivious lust. He likes to enjoy the inordinate immoral company of as many loose women as possible. That is why he is very much against the institute of marriage. He wants to stick to the Mephistophelian concept of enjoying sex. He freely satisfies his sexual desire with the excessively passionate Rangi and other prostitutes of the town.

            Vasu is open- hearted, vivacious and sometimes appears kind hearted too. If he takes Natraj to the Mempi village it is not for any harm but out of his high spirits and playfulness. If Natraj fears that Vasu has kidnapped him, it is Natraj’s nothing but false fear. When Natraj visits the Mempi village and the axle of the bus is broken it is vasu who takes him to Malgudi in his jeep. Rangi praises him as brave and courageous. He fears no one on earth or in heaven. These anilities of Vasu show that though he has some weakness, he can not be called as man eater.

            H. M. Williams in his Indo-Anglian Literature observes Vasu as a mighty force which can hardly be controlled. He is to him, a mighty avalanche or a tempest. Williams believes that Vasu who is a revolutionary force, despises in his utter haughtiness and will, all that is established. He regards Vasu as the embodiment of will. Vasu’s greatest contribution for the Malgudians is that he exposes all the absurdities of Natraj and his friends. Vasu is certainly not Bhasmasur who brings doom on himself. However few critics opine the satanic traits in Vasu. Meenakshi Mukherjee in her book The Twice Born Fiction says: “The Man-Eater of Malgudi resorts to the Puranic conflict between Sura and Asura.” K. R. Srinivasa Iyengar too in his Indian Writing in English finds in the Man-Eater an absolute evil- “anti-life, anti-nature, anti-faith.” This theme is implicit in R. K. Narayan himself who cites Vasu as the modern version of a Rakshasa.  

Even though, the death of Vasu is based on the mythology, the death of Vasu due to the mosquitoes- smashing- hands is not convincing. His death can not be accepted by reason and logic. No one has ever been killed in this way. The death of Vasu is a matter of improbable probability. Vasu is not such vicious as he being projected by other characters; even such a man simply happens as Raju in The Guide. Therefore it is not always convincing to agree with some critics who observe that the man eater of Malgudi is a giant of man, a potent, dangerous bully, a wild threat to the norms of society. What we can only say that Vasu is the dark domain of ours.  


  1. Thank you sir for this unique and amazing answer.It's really helpful to me.I'm a great follower of you.Thank you once again.

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  3. Thank you very much for this information


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