- An Astrologer’s Day Summary & Analysis from LitCharts | The creators of SparkNotes
- The Astrologer
- An Astrologer's Day Characters
First, as pointed out by the narrator himself, the astrologer is a charlatan with neither the requisite expertise nor the proper training; he just gets by on the strength of common sense, keen observation, and shrewd guesswork. It is ironic that the false prediction of a fake astrologer should radically change the lives of two men for the better. This might even raise for the perceptive reader the eternal question of "Action" and the "Fruit of Action"—an ethical question raised in the Indian religious classic The Gita. In many other respects the entire situation is ironical: the astrologer is himself the subject of the client's query, and it is his own future he is asked to predict.
An Astrologer’s Day Summary & Analysis from LitCharts | The creators of SparkNotes
Never perhaps is prediction so easy for the astrologer and so certain to come true; the astrologer is at first extremely reluctant to advise the client once he recognizes him and is actually forced by the man to do his job. Had he really declined to predict he would not have had a great weight lifted from his mind, nor would he have been able to ensure a life of peace for himself.
Furthermore, in this game of one-upmanship each has won in his own way: the astrologer has obviously won by getting rid permanently of an old foe, but the client too has gained a little victory—he had promised a rupee to the astrologer but has actually fobbed him off with only twelve and a half annas; nevertheless, basking in the satisfaction of having saved about a quarter rupee, the poor client is left blissfully unaware of the great opportunity he has missed.
Like most of Narayan's works "An Astrologer's Day" is a story neatly structured, with its action briskly moving toward the snap, surprise ending. The opening, with its rather long description of the astrologer's personal appearance and the setting in which he operates, may at first appear to be a little too leisurely for a short story. But with its skillful use of color and small details it recaptures evocatively the small-town scene. Thus the astrologer, with his forehead "resplendent with sacred ash and vermilion," his dark whiskers, and the saffron-colored turban around his head, presents a colorful figure.
Telling details like the place being lit up by "hissing gaslights," "naked flares stuck up on poles," and "old cycle lamps," create the proper atmosphere for the astrologer's dark predictions. The story is written in a direct and lucid style, almost Spartan in its unadorned simplicity. Narayan uses no similes and no metaphors. His sentences are mostly short, and his diction unpretentious, with Indian words like "jutka," "jaggery," and "pyol" providing the proper local color to a story that is essentially Indian in every way.
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An Astrologer's Day by R.
An Astrologer's Day Characters
Narayan, Updated About encyclopedia. Narayan, gale. It is only at the end of the story that the astrologer is given an individuality that makes him a distinctive figure.
Also, in the story he interacts only with two characters: the first, a passerby who seeks his advice about the future. The relation between the two is purely functional, and there would be no need for the person to address the astrologer by name. The second is the astrologer's wife, who speaks to him at the end of the story.
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In this instance, convention demands that she should not use his name to address him: In a typical South Indian family it would be rare for a wife to address her husband by name. Hence, despite the latitude of omniscient narration, the author chooses to let the astrologer remain anonymous. Nonetheless, the astrologer comes across as a sharply defined figure, mainly as a result of the assortment of objects he carries with him in order to create the illusion of spirituality and mystical knowledge.
The care he takes over his personal appearance is yet another aspect of his charisma. The profession of an astrologer presupposes a commitment to religious observance, and that is precisely what this character achieves through his eclectic collection of articles. The bundle of palmyra writing script on the leaves of a palmyra tree in particular lends a very authentic touch, since such writings reflect both wisdom and a high degree of learning.
The combination of holy ash and vermillion on his forehead, the turban on his head, and his whiskers, all taken together, give the impression of a man given to a holy life rather than business. The author ensures that despite the external trappings, the astrologer is not necessarily a negative or rogue figure. Telling the future is a job, not unlike selling peanuts or cloth, and he does this with a sense of purpose and commitment.
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Within the overall structure of the story, it is important for the astrologer to come across as a somewhat mild and inoffensive person who had left his village to escape a life of poverty. His portrayal as a positive character helps to offset the revelation at the end that he had left the village after having committed a crime. The important aspect of the astrologer's character is that as the story progresses he moves from being a type to a carefully individualized person.
The first three pages of the story are devoted to description of the astrologer and his surroundings. Roadside astrologers are a common sight in India, and the general perception is that they make their living by exploiting the gullibility of people who seek their advice. This astrologer is no different, except that he comes across as a shrewd and intelligent man whose livelihood depends on turning every occurrence to his advantage. Having no lighting system of his own, he manages to get by on his adjoining vendor's light.
When the groundnut seller closes shop, he has no lighting to conduct his business, and he too leaves for home.
Similarly, when his clients seek his advice, he lets them speak long enough in order to gather sufficient information to make an educated guess about their future. His intuitive understanding of human nature and his wit are crucial to the plot of the story, and the relevance of all the details becomes evident at the end of the story.
Among the trickster figures that Narayan has created in his work, the astrologer is a memorable and likable one. Guru Nayak is the antithesis of the astrologer. He appears in the story at midpoint, and almost immediately comes across as both aggressive and mean-spirited. Unlike the astrologer who is described through third-person narrative, Nayak is revealed through his own dialogue.
He too remains nameless until the astrologer addresses him by name. The name itself is chosen carefully, for the term "Guru," with all its associations of spiritual leader or teacher, is noticeably different from what we see in the character.
Nayak is on a quest for the person who harmed him, and his attempt to solicit the assistance of the astrologer is part of his quest. Unlike other clients, Nayak begins with a skeptical attitude, and rather than accept the astrologer or leave him altogether, insists on a wager. According to the wager, the astrologer must be accurate in his predictions or give up a substantial sum of money. The wager is carefully inserted in the story in order to reveal later that Nayak, with his penchant for gambling, would have been at least partly to blame for the altercation in the past.
It is also significant that at the end of story, when the astrologer's wife adds up the coins given by Nayak and announces the total, the astrologer realizes that he has been cheated. A small detail in itself, it establishes that Nayak is the opposite of the astrologer, and in the overall moral scheme of the story, it is the astrologer who is the victim and not the other.
From the perspective of narrative strategy, it is remarkable that while the astrologer is revealed through his actions and the point of view of the narrator, Nayak is shown through his dialogue. Nayak's language is always abrupt and elliptical, and his short sentences suggest a pugnacious nature. Choosing a diction is always a challenge for the writer when the characters would have, in normal circumstances, spoken a different language and not English.
In this instance, the chances are that Nayak would have spoken in Tamil. The language he speaks in English is thus a close approximation of the kind of language he would have used in Tamil. Rather than seek the assistance of the astrologer, Nayak proposes a wager, with the intention of fleecing him. A bully by nature, his objective is to intimidate the astrologer in order to appropriate his money. Curiously enough, at the end of the exchange, it is the astrologer who wins the sympathy of the reader.
One of the ironies of the story is that in this encounter, the astrologer's "supernatural" knowledge turns out to be the truth, and Nayak leaves after having accepted the astrologer's advice about the future.