“‘That swine has cheated me! He promised me a rupee’, said the astrologer.” (13)
Narayan, R K. Malgudi Days. Edison, NJ: Vista India, 2005. Print
This realization at the end of the story is especially ironic. The astrologer is able to successfully trick Guru Nayak into believing that the man that stabbed him years before is dead. Instead of being relieved that he has escaped his own death, he is angry at the amount of money he has received from Guru Nayak.
“He didn’t feel sad, however, to think that she was dead. He just couldn’t summon sorrow to the world he lived in, in the world of his English clothes and ‘Red-Lamp’ cigarettes, because it seemed she was not of that world, had no connection with it.” (14)
This passage, in contrast with Bakhya’s interaction with Caharat Singh, presents a deep irony: On the one hand, when interacting with members of his own class, such as his mother, Bakhya acts as if he does not retain any knowledge of a past self. On the other hand, when placed in the path of someone from a higher caste, such as Caharat Singh, Bakhya becomes hyper-aware of castse — to the point of “humbly mumbl[ing]”.
“In a college like this, he said at length, there is one boy or perhaps two or three boys whom God calls to the religious life. Such a boy is marked off from his companions by his piety, by the good example he shows to others. He is looked up to by them; he is chosen perhaps as perfect by his fellow sodalists. And you, Stephen, have been such a boy in this college, prefect of Our Blessed Lady’s sodality. Perhaps you are the boy in this college whom God designs to call to Himself”.
James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008)
Stephen feels proud of himself for receiving this honor and there is amazing imagery in this part of the novel that depicts what is going on in his mind and his idea of being a priest of God.
“He listened in reverent silence now to the priest’s appeal and through the words he heard even more distinctly a voice bidding him approach, offering him secret knowledge and secret power. He would know then what was the sin of Simon Magus and what the sin against the Holy Ghost for which there was no forgiveness. He would know obscure things, hidden from others, from those who were conceived and born children of wrath. He would know the sins, the sinful longings and sinful thoughts and sinful acts, of others, hearing them murmured into his ears in the confessional under the shame of a darkened chapel by the lips of women and of girls; but rendered immune mysteriously at his ordination by the imposition of hands, his soul would pass again uncontaminated to the white peace of the altar. No touch of sin would linger upon the hands with which he would elevate and break the host; no touch of sin would linger on his lips in prayer to make him eat and drink damnation to himself not discerning the body of the Lord. He would hold his secret knowledge and secret power, being as sinless as the innocent, and he would be a priest for ever according to the order of Melchisedec.”
I loved the use of the priesthood as temptation in this passage, because it is both evidence that Stephen’s newfound piety will not last long due to his own nature, and a good critique on the allure of the church’s power that so many people have taken advantage of.