In the story, A Horse and Two Goats, the classic Indian setting of the past century reeks of underdevelopment and neglect. Some would even agree that this gently comic short tale of a poor and confused old villager has a bitter ironical undertone which becomes more apparent as the story progresses. All the main characters and incidents in the story seem more realistic than fictional, thanks to R.K. Narayan’s outstanding writing style. The difference between the – rich ostentatious American who could afford to buy a clay horse off a highway for decoration and the humble villager, who could not afford even two simple meals a day, – is vivid and marks a deep impression on the minds of the reader.
However, the difference between the two men is not outlined only through their lifestyles, but also through their culture and language as each struggles to understand the other. This queer comic narrative is full of little anecdotes which serve to educate the readers about Indian culture and lore while also informing us about the deplorable state in which the majority of the Indian masses live in. The language and plot of the story is simple and straightforward which establishes a sense of empathy among the readers. R. K. Narayan as a writer has been successful in delivering a serious message, punctuated by moments of comic relief which in turn makes it an enjoyable read.
A Horse and Two Goats Character Sketch
The central protagonist of the story is Muni and he displays no heroics traits in the story whatsoever. This impoverished, belittled old man is a goat-herder who spends his days recounting his past glory and sitting under a statue of a clay horse, watching the vehicles pass by. He could be considered as an idle good for nothing fellow, but the miserable incidents in his life and the oppression meted out to him by the people from upper castes is enough to drive anybody into a resigned stupor. He comes across a bit of luck when he meets a foreign stranger on the highway and earns some money but even this is short-lived as his forever grumbling wife does not share in his happiness and suspects his integrity.
The character of the red-faced American adds quiet twist to the story as he is just the opposite of Muni. This gentleman arrives in a wagon and is decidedly rich. He can afford everything Muni cannot and even shows off his wealth and vanity. But these two men from completely different worlds meet on the fated day to share their stories and it can be seen that they are not that different from each other after all. They both have nagging wives and household worries which they relate over a shared cigarette and at the end of the story the readers realise that they are both also very foolish and susceptible.
A Horse and Two Goats Theme
The story from the very beginning has a stifling atmosphere. The mud huts are small, the wife is constantly screaming, there is no food to eat and there is no way of escape from the hardships of life for our central character Muni. The requirement for a little of space to breathe and relax is very evident in this story. Muni enjoys this freedom in the open pastures next to the highway. His wife sends him away to get rid of his annoying presence but for Muni this was his escape. Good luck and opportunity also comes to him while sitting next to this highway and the chance meeting with the American is also a symbol of hope and freedom from poverty. Thus, the main theme of the story is the need for freedom from the shackles of mundane life.
A Horse and Two Goats: Conclusion
It is important to note how even after the achievement of Independence in the year 1947, the Indians still had a certain amount of fear as far the proverbial “White man” is considered. This and the problems of basic sustenance and caste-system are the important clues present in the story. It has been rightly said that the author had a great flair for portraying everyday life in India with great accuracy in the English language which was considered quite a feat in those days. In a manner of speaking, we can even say that R.K. Narayan created a solid and achievable platform for Indian writers to gain International exposure through his sweet and relatable stories.