Account for the transformation that takes place in the English Teacher’s life
Krishnan, the central character in The English Teacher, by R.K. Narayan (1906-2001) undertakes an emotional, intellectual, and spiritual journey during the course of the novel. At the start of the novel, he is an English teacher, living, and teaching at the same college where he was once a pupil, and at the end we see him resigning his post, beginning work at a nursery school, and learning to communicate psychically with his dead wife. He learns and changes during the course of the novel in a way that he could not have predicted at the beginning. The journey takes him from a lifestyle that he found unsatisfactory to finding a set of values and a way of life that he feels he can believe in wholly.
Although Krishnan’s journey takes place as a result of a series of unpredictable events, a number of recurring themes do seem to be being worked out in the course of the novel. These themes might be said to be Krishnan’s progress from predictability to unpredictability, from the academic world to the real world of life and death, from adulthood to childhood, and from a western mentality to an eastern mentality. When the story opens we see a very nervous and anxious Krishnan expecting the arrival of his wife and daughter to Malgudi where he is an English Teacher in the Albert Mission College.
Krishnan truly transcends life and death when he is finally able to communicate with Susila his wife, and now his mentor, Narayan explains it thus: “The boundaries of our personalities suddenly dissolved. It was a moment of rare, immutable joy a moment for which one feels grateful for Life and Death”. While literary critics argue about the exact nature of this ‘meeting stating that it is real, unreal, unbelievable, and dreamlike; it is more appropriate to view in terms of Krishnan’s inner self-development. He has finally reached the stage of self-reliance. Where he is able to be whole by himself, to find happiness within, where he believes his dearest wife, his companion in life, is with him always.
To conclude, Krishnan’s transformation is finely indicated by his resign from his college to work with the children in their school. As the protagonist makes his point clear while speaking at the farewell function organized for him: “I’m seeking a great inner peace. I find I can’t attain it unless I withdraw from the adult world and adult work into the world of children”. This transformation of Krishnan to view by John L. Mish as renunciation: “The sad story of the idealistic teacher of English ends with a characteristically Indian touch; the hero, after establishing supernatural contact with his dead wife, renounces worldly ambitions and dedicates the remainder of his life to unselfish aim”.