Miscommunication In R.K. Narayan's Short Stories: "A Horse And Two Goats", "The Watchman", And "The Evening Gift"

1687 words - 7 pages

In many of R.K. Narayan's short stories, miscommunication between people leads to an open ending. Examples of this can be particularly seen in A Horse and Two Goats, The Watchman, and The Evening Gift. In A Horse and Two Goats, miscommunication is conveyed through a language barrier; In The Watchman, it is brought about by an age difference; and in The Evening Gift it is illustrated through drunkenness. The three situations of miscommunication lead to an open ending, in which the story isn't completely resolved, and we don't completely know the protagonist's outcome.In A Horse and Two Goats, the miscommunication becomes evident relatively later on in the story. An old Indian man, Muni, was sitting on the pedestal of a horse statue with his two goats. Two foreigners approached with intention of buying the statue, which was property of the municipality. He thought they wanted to buy his goats. The old man spoke only Tamil, while the men from New York obviously spoke English:The stranger was completely mystified by the gesture. For the first time he said, "I really wonder what you are saying because your answer is crucial. We have come to the point when we should be ready to talk business."A long conversation followed, with neither party understanding the other's viewpoint. Obviously talking business was out of the question since neither of the parties understood the other's language. Eventually Muni took the money which he thought was for the goats, leaving them behind and going home to his wife:"I have sold our goats to a red-faced man. He was absolutely crazy to have them, gave me all this money and carried them off in his motor car!"Hardly had these words left his lips when they heard bleating outside. She [Muni's wife] opened the door and saw two goats at her door. "Here they are!" she said. "What's the meaning of all this?"Muni was puzzled by what had occurred and got angry at the goats. He thought that they didn't want to go with the foreigners and that they had returned to him. He didn't realize that the 'red-faced man' didn't want the goats at all, but the horse statue, which did not belong to him.In terms of the story itself, it ends abruptly without the reader knowing what has become of many of its elements.He muttered a great curse and seized one of the goats by its ears and shouted, "Where is that man? Don't you know you are his? Why did you come back?" The goat only wriggled in his grip. He asked the same question of the other, too. The goat shook itself off. His wife glared at him and declared, "If you have thieved, the police will come tonight and break your bones. Don't involve me. I will go away to my parents...."We are left with ambiguity about what happens to Muni. On the one hand he did sell something which wasn't his, but on the other hand it was unintentional. In addition, earlier in the story it was said that nobody had really cared for the statue. We are not told if he ever figures out the misunderstanding that occurred, or...

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