The Guide is a 1958 novel written in English by the Indian author R. K. Narayan. Like most of his works the novel is based on Malgudi, the fictional town in South India.
The Guide Summary
The Guide is powerful story about spiritual transformation and self-realization. The narrative itself is both fantastical and comical, as the path the main character, Raju, takes to understanding is not intentional.
In essence, Narayan’s story shows how a man intent on deception, including self-deception, comes to find clarity based in large part on his life of deception. The Guide!
Raju lives in a quaint village called Malgudi. In Malgudi, Raju aspires to be whatever other people want him to be. As such, he is a chameleon of a character, always becoming someone based on someone’s current need. The Guide!
One such example of Raju’s malleability is when he begins managing a shop at the Malgudi train station, and is known by the village people as “Railway Raju.” In this role, Raju bills himself as an expert guide, and professes to be able to obtain any and all items a person is searching for.
Raju also meets Rosie, a gorgeous dancer, and becomes her lover. He also becomes Rosie’s guide, and aids her in making the decision to become a professional dancer. The Guide!
His advice pays off, and Rosie soon becomes famous on account of her dancing skills. With this new opportunity, Raju becomes “Raj,” an influential man with an elevated social standing, thanks to Rosie. Things seem to be looking up for Raju, and yet complications soon arise.
Raju eventually ends up in prison because of his machinations. While there, Raju again changes his persona and causes others to not only respect him, but to like him and come to his aid if need be.
The reader can see by this point in the novel that Raju has an uncanny ability to effect change in other people, as well as in himself, and yet he does not realize the extraordinary power he holds. He sees his ability as a survival mechanism and nothing more.
Raju is finally released from prison, but is unsure where to go or what to even do with his life at this point. He does not want to return home to Malgudi because he does not want to deal with all the gossip and rejection he is sure will be there waiting for him.
Instead, Raju takes shelter in an abandoned temple. In this holy place on the banks of the Sarayu River, Raju is able to think a bit more and give himself time to come up with his next plan. The Guide!
While hiding out in the temple, Raju meets a strange man named Velan. The two begin talking and discussing life, and after a time, Velan actually thinks of Raju as a holy man. With his talent for becoming whatever is beneficial to his circumstances, Raju picks up on Velan’s mistake and plays along with the ruse.
When Raju is later forced to admit that he is not a holy man after all and subsequently must reveal where he is from and who he really is, he is somewhat shocked to find that his admission and guilt, which he initially thought would free him from the burdensome role of a holy man, actually has the opposite effect he was looking for.
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About the Author
Rasipuram Krishnaswami Iyer Narayanaswami (RK Narayan) was a well-known Indian writer famous for his set of work and writing in the fictional South Indian town of Malgudi. He was one of the leading and famous authors of early Indian literature written in English along with two others, Mulk Raj Anand and Raja Rao.