An Astrologer’s Day

by

R. K. Narayan

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The Astrologer Character Analysis

The nameless protagonist of the story, the astrologer is not truly an astrologer, but a con man. He sets up shop each day beneath a tree in a market, wearing a priest’s garb and face paint and posing as a holy man with cosmic wisdom. For a small fee, he listens to people’s problems and offers what seems like sage advice, dressing his common sense and manipulations in an astrologist’s vernacular. Despite having no actual astrological wisdom, he is quite perceptive and offers comfort to his customers by giving them self-affirming answers and easing their minds. It is revealed at the end of the story that the astrologer is in hiding, having fled his home and past life as a farmer after he drunkenly attempted to murder Guru Nayak. As far as he knows, he actually did take Guru Nayak’s life, and feels a great burden at the thought of being a murderer. His burden is not borne out of pity for Guru Nayak, however, but of his own self-interest. Even when the astrologer meets Guru Nayak, he makes no attempt to atone for his crime. Although he is the protagonist, the astrologer is not the hero of the story. The astrologer has a wife and child, neither of whom know anything of his murderous past.

The Astrologer Quotes in An Astrologer’s Day

The An Astrologer’s Day quotes below are all either spoken by The Astrologer or refer to The Astrologer. 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:
Mysticism and Religious Hypocrisy Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Indian Thought Publications edition of An Astrologer’s Day published in 1981.
An Astrologer’s Day Quotes

His forehead was resplendent with sacred ash and vermillion, and his eyes sparkled with a sharp abnormal gleam which was really an outcome of a continual searching look for customers, but which his simple clients took to be a prophetic light and felt comforted. The power of his eyes was considerably enhanced by their position—placed as they were between the painted forehead and dark whiskers which streamed down his cheeks: even a half-wit’s eyes would sparkle in such a setting.

Related Characters: The Astrologer
Page Number: 1
Explanation and Analysis:

To crown the effect he wrapped a saffron-colored turban around his head. This color scheme never failed. People were attracted to him as bees are attracted to cosmos or dahlia stalks. He sat under the boughs of a spreading tamarind tree which flanked a path running through the Town Hall Park.

Related Characters: The Astrologer
Page Number: 1
Explanation and Analysis:

Half the enchantment of the place was due to the fact that it did not have the benefit of municipal lighting. The place was lit up by shop lights. One or two had hissing gaslights, some had naked flares stuck on poles, some were lit up by old cycle lamps, and one or two, like the astrologer’s, managed without lights of their own. It was a bewildering crisscross of light rays and moving shadows.

Related Characters: The Astrologer
Related Symbols: The Marketplace Lights
Page Number: 2
Explanation and Analysis:

He had not in the least intended to be an astrologer when he began life; and he knew no more of what was going to happen to others than he knew of what was going to happen to himself next minute. He was as much a stranger to the stars as were his innocent customers. Yet he said things which pleased and astonished everyone: that was more a matter of study, practice, and shrewd guesswork. All the same, it was as much an honest man’s labor as any other, and he deserved the wages he carried home at the end of a day.

Related Characters: The Astrologer
Page Number: 2
Explanation and Analysis:

He had a working analysis of mankind’s troubles: marriage, money, and the tangle of human ties. Long practice had sharpened his perception. Within five minutes he understood what was wrong. He charged three pies per question, never opened his mouth till the other had spoken for at least ten minutes, which provided him enough stuff for a dozen answers and advices. When he told a person before him gazing at his palm, “In many ways you are not getting the fullest results of for your efforts,” nine out of ten were disposed to agree with him […] Or he gave an analysis of character: “Most of your troubles are due to your nature. How can you be otherwise with Saturn where he is? You have an impetuous nature and a rough exterior.” This endeared him to their hearts immediately, for even the mildest of us loves to think he has a forbidding exterior.

Related Characters: The Astrologer
Page Number: 3
Explanation and Analysis:

“Stop,” said the other. “I don’t want all that. Shall I succeed in my present search or not? Answer this and go. Otherwise I will not let you go till you disgorge all your coins.” The astrologer muttered a few incantations and replied: “All right. I will speak… You were left for dead. Am I right?”

“Ah, tell me more.”

“A knife passed through you once?” said the astrologer.

“Good fellow!” He bared his chest to show the scar. “What else?”

“And then you were pushed into a well nearby in the field. You were left for dead.”

“I should have been dead if some passer-by had not chanced to peep into the well,” exclaimed the other, overwhelmed by enthusiasm. “When shall I get at him?” he asked, clenching his fist.

“In the next world,” answered the astrologer. “He died four months ago in a far-off town. You will never see any more of him.”

Related Characters: The Astrologer (speaker), Guru Nayak (speaker)
Page Number: 5
Explanation and Analysis:

After dinner, sitting on the pyol, he told her: “Do you know a great load is gone from me today? I thought I had the blood of a man on my hands all these years. That was the reason why I ran away from home, settled here, and married you. He is alive.”

She gasped. “You tried to kill!”

“Yes, in our village, when I was a silly youngster. We drank, gambled, and quarreled badly one day—why think of it now? Time to sleep,” he said, yawning, and stretched himself on the pyol.

Related Characters: The Astrologer (speaker), Guru Nayak, The Astrologer’s Wife
Page Number: 6-7
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Astrologer Character Timeline in An Astrologer’s Day

The timeline below shows where the character The Astrologer appears in An Astrologer’s Day. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
An Astrologer’s Day
Mysticism and Religious Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Guilt, Fear, and Identity Theme Icon
Modernization, Tradition, and Inequality Theme Icon
At midday, the astrologer lays out his equipment and readies for the day. He has brought a dozen cowrie... (full context)
Mysticism and Religious Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Guilt, Fear, and Identity Theme Icon
Modernization, Tradition, and Inequality Theme Icon
The astrologer is seated beneath a large tamarind tree near a road that leads through the Town... (full context)
Mysticism and Religious Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Guilt, Fear, and Identity Theme Icon
The astrologer prefers the indirect lighting, since he never aspired to be an astrologer at all, nor... (full context)
Guilt, Fear, and Identity Theme Icon
Years before, the astrologer had to leave his home suddenly, without telling anyone and without preparation. Had he stayed,... (full context)
Mysticism and Religious Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Guilt, Fear, and Identity Theme Icon
Modernization, Tradition, and Inequality Theme Icon
The astrologer has formed a “working analysis” of humanity’s problems, being as they all relate to marriage,... (full context)
Guilt, Fear, and Identity Theme Icon
Modernization, Tradition, and Inequality Theme Icon
At the day’s end, the nuts vendor next to the astrologer blows out his flare and goes home, meaning it is time for the astrologer to... (full context)
Mysticism and Religious Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Guilt, Fear, and Identity Theme Icon
As the astrologer is packing his garb and equipment, a stranger blots out the green light. The astrologer... (full context)
Mysticism and Religious Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Guilt, Fear, and Identity Theme Icon
The stranger offers a large sum on the cynical wager that the astrologer cannot tell him anything worthwhile. They haggle over the wager, eventually raising the price and... (full context)
Mysticism and Religious Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Guilt, Fear, and Identity Theme Icon
...his cheroot, and the brief light of the flame illuminates his face enough for the astrologer to see his identity. The astrologer gets very uncomfortable and tries to wriggle out of... (full context)
Mysticism and Religious Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Guilt, Fear, and Identity Theme Icon
The astrologer, fearful now, tries several times to offer the same vague, placating advice that has satisfied... (full context)
Mysticism and Religious Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Guilt, Fear, and Identity Theme Icon
The stranger is now filled with enthusiasm, convinced that the astrologer must truly possess cosmic wisdom. He inquires when he will be able to find the... (full context)
Mysticism and Religious Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Guilt, Fear, and Identity Theme Icon
The astrologer reveals that he knows the man’s name is Guru Nayak as well, crediting his own... (full context)
Mysticism and Religious Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Guilt, Fear, and Identity Theme Icon
The astrologer returns home to his wife and daughter in the dark of midnight. His wife is... (full context)