Swami and Friends

Swami and Friends Chapter 9 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Swami exits his classroom after taking his final examination. He waits outside, worrying because he turned in his exam 20 minutes early while most of the other students were still working. He reflects on the exam questions and feels especially confident about the last question, which involved explaining the moral of a story about a man who is fooled by a tiger offering him a gold bangle. Swami wrote a simple, single-line answer: “Love of gold bangle cost one one’s life.” Then, he sat restlessly pretending to revise his work until he saw a few other boys leaving, at which point he did the same.
Swami’s simplistic interpretation of the story’s moral again shows his childish view of the world, in which facts seldom hide deeper meaning. His eagerness to leave school also shows that he feels freer outside its walls, even when he perceives that he should stay longer as the other students do.
Themes
Education and Oppression Theme Icon
Innocence, Family, and Growing Up Theme Icon
The exam ends and the rest of Swami’s class comes outside. Swami asks a classmate what he wrote for the last question, and the classmate reveals that he wrote a full page. Swami tells Rajam and Sankar about the classmate and they reply that they wrote only half or three-quarters of a page for the last question. Swami tells them that he also wrote half a page, fooling even himself into thinking he actually did so.
Swami’s unease as he discovers his classmates’ answers to the last exam question indicates that, although he does not yet understand why, he is beginning to become aware of the more complicated meaning of outwardly simple events. Swami’s easy lie, with which he deceives even himself, also demonstrates his growing ability to shape his own identity at will, which he began to exercise when making the list of supplies before the exam.
Themes
Education and Oppression Theme Icon
The Fluidity of Identity Theme Icon
Innocence, Family, and Growing Up Theme Icon
The rest of Swami’s friends arrive and they discuss their feelings about the exam and their excitement that school is now over for the time being. Fifteen minutes later, the whole school goes back into the hall, where everyone is laughing and joking, even the teachers. The Mission School Headmaster announces that the school will be closed until the nineteenth of June and tells the students that he hopes they will continue to read over the vacation. The assembly ends with a short prayer.
The most notable aspect of this scene is the jollity of the teachers and headmaster, who are also happy to leave school. Narayan hints that even those in positions of power, both at the school and perhaps in more complicated political structures beyond it, are in some way limited by rigid, hierarchical social systems.
Themes
The Political and the Personal Under British Colonial Rule Theme Icon
Education and Oppression Theme Icon
At the end of the prayer, the boys begin tearing up paper, smashing ink bottles, and destroying whatever they can find. Swami sticks close to Mani at first, afraid of the rumor that enemies stab each other on the last day of school, even though he doesn’t think he has any enemies. Then as the excitement builds, Swami joins in the destruction and even pours his ink bottle over his own head. Mani calls jokingly to a policeman to arrest the rowdy boys and then threatens to steal the turban of the school peon and dye it with ink. The peon breaks up the crowd of boys.
As the students’ excitement grows, the school transforms from a place of boredom and routine into one of ecstasy and chaos. Swami is initially unsettled by this change but he quickly embraces it, demonstrating how easily individual identity may be influenced by the emotions of a group, adding nuance to the idea that identity is never truly individual.
Themes
Education and Oppression Theme Icon
The Fluidity of Identity Theme Icon
Related Quotes
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