The Vendor of Sweets

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The Vendor of Sweets
TheVendorOfSweets.jpg
First US edition
Author R. K. Narayan
Country India
Publisher Viking Press (US)
Publication date
1967

R.K Narayan’s The Vendor of Sweets (1967) like his other books is composed in simple, lucid English that can be read and understood without turning and returning the pages after a single read. The compositional language is no doubt, plain– to such an extent that even a young school child’s vocabulary will be able to comprehend the sense of the tale. Nevertheless, the message that is being sent to the readers is delivered in the best possible manner.

The main characters are Jagan and his son Mali. It revolves around the issues arising from the generation gap between father and son. Narayan in his superb style narrates the pr of his role in India's freedom struggle during his youth. Gita forms the staple of his life. He tries to act on the principles described in the great epic. Naturopathy forms the pivotal of his life and he even desires to publish his natural way of living in the form of a book, but obviously it is a futile dream as the draft has been gathering dust in the publisher’s office for the last five years. He wears hand spun cloth that signifies purity to him. In his early days Jagan loses his wife Ambika because of his belief in nature cures. He had never spent much time with his wife, something that causes discontent in his son Mali. Mali has got his passport and tickets ready without even informing Jagan about his plans.Mali, without his father's permission discontinues his education, and goes to America to get training to write a book. But, the old man accepts even this diversion with good heart and treasures every letter received from Mali and proudly exhibits it to anyone who cares to listen. A few years later, he comes back very Westernized and brings along a half-American, half-Korean girl, Grace. Jagan assumes that they are married, though Mali never told him this in a straightforward way, which causes great disappointment to Jagan. Jagan however develops an affection for Grace and feels Mali is not giving her the attention she deserves.

Soon Mali expresses a desire to start a machine factory with some partners from America. He asks his father to invest in this factory. Jagan is unwilling, which causes friction between Jagan and Mali. Troubled by the turmoil, Jagan decides to retire from active working. As this is happening, Mali is caught by the police for drunkenness and deserts his wife. Jagan then asks his cousin to make sure that Mali stays in prison for some time, so that he can learn his mistakes. Jagan also gives some amount of money to the cousin so that he can buy a plane ticket to Grace so she can go back to her hometown.

The conflict between the old and young generation, their ideals and the generation gap makes 'Vendor of Sweets' a memorable story. This novel was made as a TV serial in Hindi and subsequently dubbed into English.

Main themes[edit]

  • East/West: The relationship between Jagan and his son Mali might be read as the clash between Eastern and Western cultures. As characters, Jagan and Mali are contrasted in many ways: while Jagan keeps a strict, religiously founded diet, Mali has begun eating beef and drinking alcohol after his stay in America. While Jagan prefers to walk everywhere, Mali insists on getting a car. While Jagan's labour is manual; he is a vendor of sweets, Mali want to go into industrial business.
  • Generation gap: As one opposing British rule in his youth, and sticking to those ideals as a grown man, Jagan fails to see that his son does not share those same ideals. It is not apparent whose fault it is that Mali does not want to follow his father, his own or Jagan's.

Main characters[edit]

  • Jagan: The protagonist. A follower of Gandhi in his youth, he is now a vendor of sweets.
  • Mali: Jagan's son. Blames his father for his mother's death. After living in America he dislikes his hometown and wants to "modernize" it.
  • Grace: a half American half Korean girl Mali brings home, claiming she is his wife. She works like a catalyst between the two cultures, and tries to integrate into the Indian culture she has entered.
  • The cousin: A man regularly visiting Jagan in his shop to taste his sweets, and with whom Jagan discuss his matters.