Post Colonialism and Under the Banyan Tree Essay

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Banyan Tree

Under the Banyan Tree is a collection of stories by Indian writer R. K. Narayan. Narayan focuses on cultural India -- India from the Indian's perspective, which is different from the Westerner's perspective looking inward from outside. That perspective -- belonging to writers like Rudyard Kipling and E. M. Forster -- is too colonialist to actually understand what India in its true nature is actually like. Thus this book, as a collection of stories, acts as a remedy to misconceptions about India perpetuated from voices abroad who have attempted to identify the culture and its people through a Western lens that filters out too much of the actual reality of the nation, its history, its beliefs, its customs and its spirit. This paper will show how Narayan represents the real India from the insider's perspective that only an insider and native like Narayan could know and show.

As Tadie emphasizes in his book review of Under the Banyan Tree, Narayan is engaged in an action that is meant to cleanse the world of its mistaken perceptions of India: "All pictures of India, Narayan explains, are by essence fragmented, piecemeal; and whoever attempts to encapsulate India, or generalize about India, is doomed to failure" (Tadie 231). Tadie receives Narayan like a welcome breath of fresh air and finds his whole and integrated depiction of India to be revitalizing and on
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target. The weak points of Narayan's work are few and microscopic and consist mainly in terms of appeal -- a Western audience likes to see through Western eyes, but Narayan is offering this audience a sense of India through Eastern eyes. This is also the strong suit of Narayan and what gives him strength as a writer: he has an eye for authenticity as well as for nuance and wisdom. Tadie helps to raise the question of how we should view literature about India and why Narayan is the best source for examining the real India rather than the colonialist India that stems from colonialist myths perpetuated by Western writers.

Two theoretical lenses used here in approaching Narayan's Under the Banyan Tree are the archetypal approach and the post-colonialist approach. Through the archetypal lens, the reader can see how Narayan constructs the book from the perspective of Indian cultural beliefs, attitudes and traditions. Its central character is Nambi who serves as an almost mythical guide for the reader, telling the tales with absolute authority and acting as a wise sage in many ways. Nambi, and Narayan too, show a great respect and love for the traditions and customs of Indian, their native home, and they see the wisdom and treasure that is in the oral tradition of telling stories. One question this lens raises is how Nambi views life in India as a source of grace…

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Works Cited

Narayan, R. K. Under the Banyan Tree. NY: Penguin, 1985. Print.

Tadie, Alexis. "Under the Banyan Tree: R. K. Narayan, Space and the Story-teller."

Tropes and Territories: Short Fiction, Postcolonial Readings, Canadian Writings in Context. Ed. Marta Dvorak and W. H. New. McGill-Queen's University Press, 2007: 231-244.

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