‘The English Teacher‘ is an autobiographical novel by R K Narayan published in 1945. It is one of his several novels set in Malgudi. The novel is dedicated to R K Narayan’s wife Rajam.
‘The English Teacher’ is among his semi-autobiographical trilogy along with Swami and Friends and The Bachelor of Arts. Malgudi is a fictional town first introduced in his Swami and Friends. Narayan won Sahitya Academy Award for his ‘The Guide‘. Graham Greene was instrumental behind the publication of his first four books.
Krishna, the protagonist of the novel, is an English teacher whose inner conflict after his wife passed away and his quest for mental and emotional well-being is the plot of the novel.
THE ENGLISH TEACHER SUMMARY
Krishna has been employed as an English lecturer at Albert Mission College, Malgudi. He leads a tedious lifestyle, discontent with the poor economic condition, unable to fulfill even the fundamental needs for a man. Both his job and life are boring. He compares his own lifestyle to that of a cow.
Krishna’s job consumes all his energy and time which makes his intellectual pursuit impossible. He is more interested to be a writer, especially a poet. But his job keeps him away from this aspiration. His inconsistent psychological babbling throughout the novel makes the plot disturbing. British colonization of India has its own impact on the plot. Krishna tries constantly to access to the western lifestyle. He becomes pessimistic and deeply frustrated at his inability to be so.
As he is working away from his home, he has to lead a life separated from his lovable family. His wife Susila and his daughter Leela are the object of his love. One day, he receives a letter from his father intimating that his wife, daughter and mother are coming to stay with him in Malgudi. At this news, his spirit comes alive. Susila is a tolerant, sensible and practical young wife running counter to Krishna’s impractical approach to life. Krishna lives always in a dream; before as well as after the death Susila.
A new concern for searching a spacious home to accommodate all the family members increases his frustration. He and his wife begin to search for a house for rent. Susila contracts typhoid when she has used a public bathroom. She is confined to bed and there is no hope of her recovery. Thunder strikes on his head when she dies one day. The loss of his most loved wife deteriorates him.
Krishna continues to live only for his daughter. He becomes deeply doleful and inconsolable. He is not interested in his job.
Krishna accidentally encounters a hermit who claims to have the ability to communicate with the dead. He can’t resist his feelings. He wants to speak with his wife’s spirit. It doesn’t go wrong. He is able to speak with the spirit of his departed wife. This reinvigorates his life and his spirit enliven again.
Krishna leaves the old job and joins as a teacher in the school where Leela studies. By now Krishna has changed a lot and looks optimistic. He also is able to converse with his wife directly. He becomes enthusiastic in his new job in school imparting education to kids. His sorrows are gone and he builds a new life ever.
R K Narayan had to face a tough time after the death his wife Rajam. Obviously this novel is written after her death and the plot reflects this story.