Friday, November 28, 2008

Analysis of "A Horse and Two Goats"

Haven't posted for a while (I seem to be writing this in every new post nowdays), so here's another school assignment; an analysis of "A Horse and Two Goats" by R.K. Narayan.

“A Horse and Two Goats” is a short story written by R. K. Narayan, from India. Basically, the story is about two individuals, an American and an Indian, trying to converse and communicate, but they can not seem to understand each other because of the lack of knowledge in the other’s language and culture. The story spans a very short time, perhaps a half an hour. As it is revealed in the very beginning of the story, it takes place in a very small village called Kiritam, which is only represented by a tiny dot on the local survey map.

The narration of the story goes chronologically, in a third-person omniscient view, with the main characters being an American tourist and an old Indian man. Both of the characters seem a little bit ignorant and ethnocentric, as none of them have competent background knowledge of the other’s culture and language. The fact that they can not understand each other can be looked upon as the main conflict.

However, by what is told, it seems like if the American should know more about Indian culture, than what the old man should know about the western ways. This is because the American is a wealthy person, probably a businessman, from New York, who has had a lifelong dream of visiting and seeing India. Somebody like this should probably had more cultural knowledge that what is shown. Along with this, he shows lack of respect when he sees a statue he finds to his liking, and wants it in his possession at once. He thinks he can just purchase it from the old man, without considering what the statue means for him or the native people. This way, the American is presented as a typical wealthy western person, who is quite materialistic and thinks that money solves all problems. What can be considered as odd, and perhaps just another example of western ignorance, is that the American naturally assumes that because the old man stands beside the statute, he owns it.

On the other hand, we have the old man, who presents himself as Muni. He is depicted as a poor conservative person, who e.g. believes that “the cinema has spoiled the people and taught them how to do evil things.” Muni is presented as the typical poor native who is quite the opposite of the American. His salary is mentioned as in coppers and nickels, and he has not seen currency notes higher than fives and tens. Materialism is not an important factor for Muni, whose dream of a lifetime is opening up a small shop under a thatched roof, selling fried nuts, sweets and coconut to travelers in need of quenching their thirst and satisfying their hunger. As mentioned earlier, it is perhaps not so surprising that Muni knew little about western culture. As a poor rural man from a third-world country, he has limited access to information about other cultures. Therefore, he has trouble understanding that the American wants to obtain the statue, because the lack of materialistic ideology in his way of thinking makes him ignore the fact that the American perhaps wants to buy this particular object, which has no practical use at all. Muni is portrayed as a disciplined and religious character as well, which is typical Indian. E.g. in the beginning of the conversation, he just wants the American to go away, but as the American keeps talking, Muni wants to repay this by leading the conversation on, himself. He also seems like a lonely person, because it is revealed later on that he is very grateful for the American’s kindness (or what he thinks is kindness, as the only reason why the American is chatting with this poor old man, is because he wants to make a deal on the statue). Muni tells the American about the religious aspects of the horse statue, thus indicating that he is a quite religious person (perhaps there is also a trace of superstition).

The entire short story is a conversation between two people, and this conversation builds up to a climax, where the suspense is at its top. At one point in the story we are told that “the truth dawned on the old man”. We consider this the climax of this particular short story, because here we finally get the feeling that there is some understanding between the two. However, as soon we have reached the climax, we are met with the turning point: Muni has mistaken the American’s intentions, and believes that he wants to purchase his goats. After this, the suspense decreases, towards the end.

There is a symbolical element in the story, the horse statue. Along with time, the statue has been forgotten and in a way, so has the village. The village may not have been forgotten, but it is so small compared to the rest of the large cities of the world. Consequently, this village called Kiritam does not seem to be common knowledge. Another factor this statue represents is the newer generations that are becoming, perhaps, less religious and more liberal. It is mentioned that “even the youthful vandals of the village left the statue alone”. The younger generations do not seem to care about the spiritual significance of the religious statue.

Apparently, the most relevant and important thematic element in the story is cultural differences. Both the American and the old man are quite ethnocentric by knowing little of each other’s cultural background, and both keep talking about different topics, not understanding a word of what the other one is saying. R. K. Narayan, who may have experienced a similar situation, is trying to convey that cross-cultural knowledge is important in the world today.
Muni and the American are to quite different people. Basically, one is poor and the other is rich. We see how different these two people are by what they value. For the wealthy American, the statue is nothing but pretty decoration, and the hundred rupees he offers the old man are of little value to him. Muni, on the other hand, who only owns coppers and nickels, can not even afford the petty dream of his, because he does not have the small amount of twenty rupees that are needed for this. The statue of the horse isn’t a decorative object for Muni. As a matter of fact, Muni values it for the spiritual importance of it. This again shows how wealthy people are quite materialistic, while the poor value the small things.

- Zlash

55 comments:

Anonymous said...

thx,...

Rock you said...

Hello I realy needs you help so will you be so kind and write to my mail when you see this/ or answer me here. Plzzz it's important..

I write from Sweden.

Zlash said...

Hi, I would if you'd left me a mail to answer to.. I didn't seem to find any mail on your profile

Rock you said...

my mail is snuppyy@hotmail.com

Plzzz write when you see this.. Thank you :)

rahul said...

Hi Zlash!

i am currently studying in the city school Karachi. Could you please post the whole story. i will be extremely delighted and thankful to you for this act of kindness.

Zlash said...

@rahul
Hey. I believe the story is actually under copyright. But i managed to find it anyway here in pdf format:


http://devgujar.site90.com/download/ebooks/STORY%20BOOK/A%20horse%20and%20two%20goats.pdf

Anonymous said...

Thanks man!It helped me a lot ;) Good work! greetings from germany

Anonymous said...

I say Zlash, for a 16 yr old that's a rather impressive commentary. how i wish my own students'd write like that :(

Xanna Collections said...

zlash...need ur help....i've to do assignment about this short story....pls help me..i;ll let u know later...emel me...zzana3719@yahoo.com.my

Xanna Collections said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Xanna Collections said...

dear zlash...could u post the whole story to me..here is my task questions:
"Discuss the application of relevant theories of literary criticism in the selected text.Your answer should not be more than 1200wrds(8-10 pages).

...i would like to select this text but i don't know what are the the relevant theories of the literary criticsm..in this selected text...i've to refer closely to the text and providing textual evidence.....do help me pls...i'm very weak in understanding the literature....i;m fr malaysia..thanks anyway...
zzana3719@yahoo.com.my

Anonymous said...

Excellent interpretation and extremelly useful!

Anonymous said...

THANK YOU SOOOO MUCH MAN!!!

Anonymous said...

thanks alot man!

Anonymous said...

thanks a lot Zlash! your interpretation is a great help to me!

Anonymous said...

i got a 21 on 25 in my graded test because of your post. thankyousomuch.

nina.lumpp@web.de said...

Reeally like it.

Would be interesting to know which grade u got for that?

shruti naik said...

thnx A lot!!! dude u saved me from the wrath of my english teacher!!! thnx a lot really!!!

shruti naik said...

thnx a lot dude!!! u saved me for my english analysis on this one

Anonymous said...

if u dont mind can u plzzz mail me what happened in the beginnig of the story,middle of the story,and end of the story????

my email id is sshhhaaa@gmail.com

Anonymous said...

if u dont mind can u plzzz mail me what happened in the beginnig of the story,middle of the story,and end of the story????

my email id is sshhhaaa@gmail.com

Anonymous said...

if u dont mind can u plzzz mail me what happened in the beginnig of the story,middle of the story,and end of the story????

my email id is sshhhaaa@gmail.com

Pigupingu said...

thankz a lot for this. =)

Pranav said...

Hey This is pranav..!
I have an assesment so cud u like temme the impact the charecters have on the plot of the story.!
awesumpranav@gmail.com! :) thank u!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much!! Great work! :)
Greetings from Germany

Anonymous said...

hi,it would b great if u can help mi abt the analysis of THE PEOPLE BEFORE BY MAURICE SHADBOLT..can't find anything on the net abt zis :(..thx

Anonymous said...

It really helped me if you did this for every story we study in cambridge it would be a great offer thanks much

Anonymous said...

impressive.. Gr8 work.. Thanks a lot.

Anonymous said...

heyy....impressive work up there man...
can u do me a favor by writing and mailing me the relationship between Muni and his wife in the story of horse and 2 goats....

my email adress is
arjundethalia598@gmail.com

Anonymous said...

At first i just wanted a vague idea on this book that i am going to study in school,now i dont think i even need to read it anymore :P great summary

Anonymous said...

hii... i need some notes on translations -brian friel..

angel said...

i need your help zlash. what about writing an analysis on 'a birthday' by christina rossetti? thanks if you care :)

Anonymous said...

Thank youuuuu so much man ! Saved my day

Christian Geyer said...

Thanks dude, I struggle to do a presentation about this story on monday, your analysis really helps here :)

Anonymous said...

THNXX, helped alot

Anonymous said...

Manoj
It Helped me alot for my exam and very thankful to zlash:)

Faryal Usman said...

One of the more typical analyses I have seen. R.K. Narayan does not say at any point that communication is absolutely necessary for comprehension. While both the American man and Muni do not completely understand each other's cultures, they are not disrespectful. The American feels that the statue is a souvenir by the way that Muni sits besides it. His very decision to buy it will in fact bring more attention and appreciation to the horse, that has gone ignored in Muni's world. Furthermore, the transaction allows Muni (who is also represented by the horse) to gain some dignity and money - two things that he would not have received otherwise.

Thus, the message of Narayan's story is that cultural differences are not impossible to be bridged. This is the reason why the genre is humor, and not angst like Ahdaf Soueif's Sandpiper

Zlash said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Zlash said...

@Faryal Usman:

I haven't read this story for a while, but I can see your point and I agree in that your interpretation is more in depth. However, my 16 year old self had a more limited level of analytical skills, and thus is what was created.

Rose said...

Wow.
You are really good. But then, you probably knew that.
I SO wish I could write like you.
Anyway, thank you so much. :)

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sttitus said...

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Anonymous said...

Zlash thx a lot 4 dis...really needed it....its epic...wat other story analysises do u hv??

Anonymous said...

Hello Zlash, this truly helped me alot. Which exam board do you do? If you're doing 2010 Literature in CIE, could you email me? Thanks... I look forward to writing to you.

Anonymous said...

This helped a lot. Do you have "her first ball" analysis as well?

Anonymous said...

This was the best analysis I have ever read!!
U have given me more details than my school teacher,thank u so much...honestly this was very helpful.

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Anonymous said...

Excellent analysis Zlash. I'm 14 years old and we've done this short story too. You might also want to reflect on the fact that the foreigner has no name. It could be a representation of all the Americans or the rich people. Anyways that was a very enlightening blog. Keep on writing :)
- Zelda Zeal