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SOCIAL ETHOS IN THE GUIDE AND ROOTS AND SHADOWS

Roots and Shadows was written by Shashi Deshpande and published in 1983.
It deals with the ancestral roots of a character who is trying to escape from her
past and how these roots could cast a shadow over her future. It deals with an
Indian society in a transitional phase, where Indu transfers from a feminist
attitude into a mature woman.

Shashi Deshpande had to write this novel complex in order to explain the
complexity in relations in the society of India. , Roots and Shadows is switching
frequently between the past and the present which mirrors the evolved
complex nature of the society during the 1980s. She was not able to
completely explain the complexity between the relation of Indu and Naren.
And Naren had to die at last in the Novel.

Shashi Deshpande has beautifully put across the condition of an Indian girl
during that period. “A woman’s life, they had told me, contained no choices.
The woman had no choice but to submit, to accept. And I had often
wondered...have they been born without wills, or have their wills atrophied
through a lifetime of disguise?” “These women, they have an inner strength we
know very little of.” But, India was also changing socially and this is justified by
Indu, never constrained by traditional beliefs. This is reflected in the way Indu
defies all the established norms and sets out for herself, how she goes against
most of her family and marries Jayant, and how instead of being the
housewife,she started working.

Roots and Shadows portrays a joint family set in the 1980s with many
characters that bring out the ethos during that period. Indu, the protagonist, is
a feminist who rebels against most of her family to have her own way in her
life. Their way of life is presented through the many characters, each displaying
a unique aspect. It is reflected inthe collective sense of responsibility- “Is this
house only ours? Are these duties only ours?” to name a few, in the manner
Mini responds to her marriage- “conforming to the romantic image of the
blushing bride dreaming of her bridegroom”, “To her, it was the marriage that
mattered, not the man”, in the many internal skirmishes between the family
members, in the jealousies, the rivalries, the barbed tongues and malicious
words- “Yes, we all knew Indu was your favourite. Your’s and even Appa’s”.
The Guide was written by R.K.Narayan in 1956. The Guide is also based in
Malgudi, the fictional town of South India. The novel describes the
transformation of Raju, from a tourist guide to a spiritual guide. Narayan
always seems simple and easy to read and to a layman. Raju, the central
character in this novel, is a guide in several respects: a tourist guide, a guide to
his lover's new career as a dancer, a guide to the inmates in the prison where
he serves his sentence, and finally, and most emphatically, a spiritual guide.

The Guide has all the typical characters that one would encounter during
1950’s, from an ambitious young man to a taxi driver acting as the conscience
keeper, an archetypal mother, a devoted wife,. The narrative of the novel is
mostly linear. The simplicity of the narrative reflects the conditions prevailing
in the society during the 50s.

Raju’s mother is a typical Indian woman, wife and a mother. This is clearly
revealed when she makes an archetypal reference of Rosie as the snake
woman and relates her to “Naagin” and warns her son to keep away from the
“snake-woman” as such women were deemed to be dangerous and could only
bring trouble to the family. She believed that for a woman, her husband comes
first and she should do everything to please him. This is illustrated through the
following statements made by her, “Why can’t she go to her husband and fall
at his feet? No husband worth the salt was ever conquered by powder and
lipstick alone.” “....;but it was always the wife, by her doggedness,
perseverance and patience, that brought him round.”

The traditional nature of the Indian society is shown. While Raju’s Father was
alive, Raju’s Mother never used to come out to the porch as it was believed
that she should not be glimpsed by other men. Whenever she had to
communicate with her husband while he was at his shop, she used Raju as the
medium. The everlasting bond of a typical Indian woman to her husband is
exemplified by Rosie where she continues to feel for her husband even at the
end of the story. This is justified in the novel when we see that the only thing
Rosie takes away from Raju’s house is the copy of Marco’s book that he had
sent to Raju.

People are shown to be great lovers of dance and art as Nalini (a.k.a. Rosie)
used to attract phenomenal crowds wherever she went and had become one
of the most famous people of South India. “We had calls from hundreds of
miles away. Our engagements took us to all corners of South India.”

The mentality of the people during the 1950s is also revealed through the
incidents of Raju after he is perceived as a saint. People are shown to be
hero/idol-worshippers as they find no difficulty in accepting Raju as a saint or a
great soul even when Raju makes no attempt at becoming one initially. The
people accept Raju as a saint and start believing in him totally. Also, Raju is
forced to undergo penance as the people believed strongly in folklore and they
were convinced that it would solve their problems. It is this belief that finally
leads to Raju’s death.

In both the novels, a female character commits adultery, Rosie in The Guide
and Indu in Roots and Shadows. Yet, the consequences are different for both
of them. While Rosie always feels guilty for her act, Indu manages to almost
justify her actions. During The Guide, She pays for it by losing her husband
forever and by inviting upon herself a stigma, which could never be
obliterated. Whereas in Roots and Shadows, Indu not only gets away with it,
she even convinces herself of the naturalness of the act. She gets on her life
without any unease and does not have to pay for her actions contrary to Rosie.
This shows the ethos during that time.

Both the novels have similarities and differences between them as mentioned
earlier. The Guide is set in a more conventional background then Roots and
Shadows.