An Astrologer’s Day

by

R. K. Narayan

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The Marketplace Lights Symbol Icon

The lights in the marketplace represent the illusion of enlightenment from which that the astrologer profits. It is the light in the astrologer’s eye that convinces his customers that he is possessed of a cosmic and prophetic intelligence. The shifting light and dancing shadows in the marketplace create a mystical, enchanting atmosphere that further lends to the false credibility of the astrologer. Tellingly, although most of the other vendors in the marketplace have various lights, gas lamps, or flares, the astrologer has none of his own. He simply profits off of the light put off by the other vendors. In the same way, the astrologer, fraudulent as he is, merely borrows on the preeminence of religion in that society and on the perception by others that he is a man of great wisdom to make his living. He notably starts at midday, when the crowd is thick and the light is full. As the day goes on and customers leave, so also do many of the marketplace lights begin to fade, reflecting the way in which his cosmic wisdom, so dependent as it is upon the perceptions of gullible customers, also fades with the crowds.

When Guru Nayak arrives, there is but one small shaft of light left, which he obscures with his formidable presence as he displays clear skepticism of the astrologer’s authenticity. As they speak, the last light is distinguished. However, when Guru Nayak strikes a match to light his cheroot, his face is briefly illuminated. For the first time in the story, there is a light originating from the astrologer’s place, a symbol of the new opportunity for the astrologer to confess to his crime and accept the just punishment for what he has done. But the match goes out quickly, as does any notion of the astrologer revealing himself. Any question of enlightenment or virtue is extinguished with it.

The Marketplace Lights Quotes in An Astrologer’s Day

The An Astrologer’s Day quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Marketplace Lights. 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

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:
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The Marketplace Lights Symbol Timeline in An Astrologer’s Day

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Marketplace Lights 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
...day but each day gives it a new luxurious name such as “Bombay Ice-Cream.” The lights in the marketplace flicker and dance from dozens of sources, creating an enchanted feeling—a feeling... (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 has he any business... (full context)
Guilt, Fear, and Identity Theme Icon
Modernization, Tradition, and Inequality Theme Icon
...it is time for the astrologer to go home as well. There is no more light available to him, save for a small shaft of green light that strayed to the... (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 summons him to sit down, hoping to make money off of him. The... (full context)
Mysticism and Religious Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Guilt, Fear, and Identity Theme Icon
The stranger strikes a match to light his cheroot, and the brief light of the flame illuminates his face enough for the... (full context)
Mysticism and Religious Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Guilt, Fear, and Identity Theme Icon
...of coins and leaves while the astrologer packs his equipment. The last shaft of green light has also vanished. (full context)