A Horse and Two Goats

The Highway  Symbol Icon

An important symbol in this story is the highway next to which Muni grazes his goats. Essentially, the highway serves as a foil to the symbol of the Kalki statue as it represents everything the statue does not: linear time as opposed to cyclical, development and modernity as opposed to tradition and history and homogenization as opposed to cultural specificity. The appearance of the highway itself, rushing onwards into the unknown in a seemingly endless line, suggests linear time as do the capitalist- and development-driven concepts behind the highway, which rely on a view of time as a finite and valuable resource. The purpose of the highway itself––to lessen the time it takes to travel between places––further suggests this view of linear time. Additionally, the highway symbolizes development and modernity, as land that was once most likely farmland or wilderness is being transformed into lines of asphalt on which cars and trucks may travel, connecting the hinterland of India to burgeoning cities. Moreover, the highway and the spread of others like it throughout the country will lead to a homogenization of the country’s landscape rather than a preservation of its cultural specificity. The statue represents this specificity with its unique, sentimental value to Muni and its allusion to Hindu mythology and oral traditions of storytelling specific to Indian culture.

The highway, as the site on which new cars and trucks pass by every day and on which Muni can observe construction activity in the distance, is also a symbol of economic development in independent India. Muni enjoys seeing the different kinds of cars and trucks that pass by each day and the construction activity happening somewhere far away. But, after seeing so much of this, he becomes inured to it. Perhaps the message here is that the activity that occurs on the highway is not representative of progress so much as an entertaining and novel stimulus that soon grows old. The “progress,” “development” and “frenetic activity” of the highway parallel the symbolism of the Kalki statue––this progress and its agents rush onward at a rapid pace, without much thought for the degradation of the environment, the exploitation of laborers and the cultural legacy of the land and its people on which they develop (and thus destroy) relentlessly. Although the progress that occurs on the highway seems impressive and “forward-thinking” at first glance, it is actually symbolic of ignorance, lack of foresight and a headlong rush to destruction that is characteristic of the Kali Yuga.

Viewed from a larger perspective, the highway’s association with development, modernity, economic considerations and linear time is more aligned with the red-faced foreigner, while the statue, with its connections to tradition, history, cultural specificity and cyclical time is aligned with Muni. The fact that the statue and the highway sit so close together juxtaposes them more clearly. And, the fact that Muni and the foreigner’s first meeting occurs at this exact spot––with Muni resting against the statue whose qualities align with his own and the foreigner driving along the highway––suggests that these two symbols exemplify the men’s distinct cultural milieus and priorities in life.

The Highway Quotes in A Horse and Two Goats

The A Horse and Two Goats quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Highway . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Perspective  Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Viking Press edition of A Horse and Two Goats published in 1970.
A Horse and Two Goats Quotes
Of the seven hundred thousand villages dotting the map of India… Kritam was probably the tiniest, indicated on the…map by a microscopic dot, the map being meant more for the revenue official out to collect tax than for the guidance of the motorist, who in any case could not hope to reach it since it sprawled far from the highway but its size did not prevent its giving itself the grandiose name Kritam, which meant in Tamil…“crown” on the brow of this subcontinent.
Related Symbols: The Highway
Page Number: 5
Explanation and Analysis:
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He passed through the village with his head bowed in thought. He did not want to look at anyone or be accosted. A couple of cronies…hailed him, but he ignored their call. They had known him in the days of affluence when he lorded over a flock of fleecy sheep, not the miserable gawky goats that he had today…but all this seemed like the memoirs of a previous birth.
Related Characters: Muni
Related Symbols: The Highway
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Only on the outskirts [of the village] did he lift his head and look up… He sat on [the statue’s] pedestal for the rest of the day. The advantage of this was that he could watch the highway and see the lorries and buses pass through to the hills, and it gave him a sense of belonging to a larger world.
Related Characters: Muni
Related Symbols: The Kalki Statue , The Highway
Page Number: 11
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
The horse was nearly life-size, moulded out of clay, baked, burnt, and brightly coloured, and reared its head proudly, prancing its forelegs in the air and flourishing its tail in a loop; beside the horse stood a warrior... None in the village remembered the splendours no one noticed its existence. Even Muni, who spent all his waking hours at its foot, never bothered to look up… This statue had been closer to the population of the village at one time, when this spot bordered the village; but when the highway was laid through (or perhaps when the tank and wells dried up completely here) the village moved a couple of miles inland.
Related Characters: Muni
Related Symbols: The Kalki Statue , The Highway
Page Number: 11-12
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
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The Highway Symbol Timeline in A Horse and Two Goats

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Highway appears in A Horse and Two Goats. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
A Horse and Two Goats
Perspective  Theme Icon
Colonialism and Neocolonialism  Theme Icon
Relations Between Men and Women  Theme Icon
...for the benefit of tax collectors than motorists, since the village is far from the highway. Despite its modesty, Kritam means “crown” in the language of Tamil. The village consists of... (full context)
Perspective  Theme Icon
Relations Between Men and Women  Theme Icon
...purchase food for their evening meal. As Muni walks toward his favorite spot by the highway with his two scraggly goats, he hangs his head, imagining all the negative gossip about... (full context)
Perspective  Theme Icon
Relations Between Men and Women  Theme Icon
As Muni approaches the highway, he feels defeated by the shopkeeper’s assertion that he must be “at least seventy” and... (full context)
Colonialism and Neocolonialism  Theme Icon
Materialism vs. Spirituality  Theme Icon
Suddenly, a yellow station wagon comes barreling down the highway, only to stop abruptly in front of Muni after running out of gas. A “red-faced... (full context)
Materialism vs. Spirituality  Theme Icon
Linear vs. Cyclical Time  Theme Icon
Once again misunderstanding the foreigner’s reference to the statue that stands beside the highway, Muni begins to explain its mythological and religious significance. He tells the foreigner that it... (full context)
Perspective  Theme Icon
Materialism vs. Spirituality  Theme Icon
Linear vs. Cyclical Time  Theme Icon
...and will be able to use the money to open a small shop along the highway. Taking the money, Muni walks off, leaving his goats to the foreigner. (full context)
Perspective  Theme Icon
Materialism vs. Spirituality  Theme Icon
Linear vs. Cyclical Time  Theme Icon
...he has managed to sell his goats. The foreigner continues to wait confusedly by the highway, assuming that Muni has gone to fetch help. Eventually, the foreigner flags down a passing... (full context)