Analysis of the Character of Natraj in R. K. Narayan's "Man Eater of Malgudi"

It is generally seen that the heroes of R. K. Narayan (1906-2001) are broad, reflective and going back to the past, grown nostalgic. In the Man Eater of Malgudi (1961)the central character Natraj similarly broods, reflects and grows nostalgic. S. R. Ramteki regards Natraj a timid cowardly person – “he is portrayed as cowardly submissive and good for nothing fellow”.

Natraj is a prosperous seasoned printer of Malgudi. He has a small, cosy, warm world which there is his loving wife, his pretty son Babu, his dear friends, the poet sen and his sincere assistant, Sastri, a semi-scholar. He is some what timid hen pecked, religious, simple, gentle, modest, sensitive and intelligent. He is a simple, gentleman and the world in which he lives seemed to be gay and innocent. It is when he faces with Vasu, he realizes the raw realities of life. Natraj is temperamentally some what becomes timid to Vasu because he has developed  a fear phobia for him (Vasu). He has the weakness and so he always take his wife into confidence. It is his weakness which tortures him the most. His fear of Vasu remains until Vasu dies. His timidness admits his weakness.

Natraj is unworldly, he is blessed with touch of spiritualism. Though he is cheated by the lawyer and Vasu, Natraj is so gentle that he does not demand money from them. He does not find any difference between the employer and the employee and he works together with them -naturally very co-cooperatively. He helps Mathu in finding out a veterinary doctor for the treatment of Kumar. He has to undergo many hardships and hurdles. how amply he neglects his pressure business to celebrate the marriage of Radha and Krishna based on poem composed by the poet!

Natraj’s love for Kumar knows no bound when he learns that Vasu plots to murder the elephants, he is consciously concerned. He lives no stone unturned in saving the life of Kumar. He is even prepared to neglect his business. The thought of murdering Kumar by Vasu never remain aloof from him. He thinks various plans and finally he risks his life when he enters in the attic of Vasu for checking him. He picks up the gun of Vasu so that he may not shoot Kumar. His love for his wife and son is very much tender and true. He is loveable husband and affectionate father. He always wants to clear all the ills from the path of his family life.

In spite of his all business busies, he is a religious, spiritual minded. He takes keen interest in the mythological discussion with Sastri. He arranges a procession with pomp and fanfare for celebrating Radha-Krishna marriage. His philosophical outlook is noticed when he utters besides the dead body of Vasu – “Where is all your bragging …………. How, and all your pushing and pulling and argument? Are you in heaven or hell? Where ever you are, are you still ordering people around”. Natraj’s sympathy for Vasu is well pronounced when he says – “I was depressed to think that a man who had twisted and burst three inch panel doors with his first was going to do nothing more than lie still and wait for the doctor to cut him and examines his insides to find out what had caused his death”.

P.S. Sundaram regards Natraj as a benevolent person who fears the ruthlessness and believes in fatalism. To the critics, Natraj thinks that – “What is faled must be endured and that the good nuist prevail in the end”. To him again …. “Natraj’s character is all of a piece”.

Natraj’s character appears prominent if we contrast him with that of Vasu. William Walsh contrasts the “Passivity of Natraj with the violence of taxidermist hunter, Vasu who is not only a character but also an oppressive and destructive force”. Natraj is brought up in a family where he is taught never to kill animal, to feet the ants with sugar, to share his food with the crows and the sparrows, and to allow the squirrel and the sparrows deplete the granary. But, after Vasu’s coming Natraj’s establishment is turned into a charnel house. 

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