Swami and Friends

Swami’s Cap Symbol Analysis

Swami’s Cap Symbol Icon

Swami’s cap becomes important to the story as he begins to develop a political consciousness. Swami thinks little of his clothes until the night that he and Mani stumble on a protest against British oppression, and Swami realizes that some of his clothing may be made by British manufacturers at the expense of Indian craftspeople. When a bystander suggests that he is “wearing a foreign cap,” Swami is ashamed and throws the cap into the fire—his first act in support of Indian liberation. However, the cap also comes to symbolize Swami’s naivete about political matters. The next morning, Swami thinks not of his devotion to Indian independence, but of the anger his father will feel when he sees that the cap is missing. Then, even after his intense experience at the protest, Swami continues to view his fledging political activity through the narrow lens of his own self-interest, telling his father that the cap was burned by someone else in the crowd rather than owning up to his own actions. Finally, Swami’s father informs him that the cap was Indian-made all along, undermining Swami’s passionate destruction of what he believed to be a symbol of England. The cap thus underscores Narayan’s point that Swami’s actions are tied to a political context even when he is only able to engage with that context in a childish, haphazard way.

Swami’s Cap Quotes in Swami and Friends

The Swami and Friends quotes below all refer to the symbol of Swami’s Cap. 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:
The Political and the Personal Under British Colonial Rule Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the University of Chicago Press edition of Swami and Friends published in 1980.
Chapter 12 Quotes

Swaminathan was watching the scene with little shivers of joy going down his spine. Somebody asked him: ‘Young man, do you want our country to remain in eternal slavery?’

‘No, no,’ Swaminathan replied.

‘But you are wearing a foreign cap.’

Swaminathan quailed with shame. ‘Oh, I didn’t notice,’ he said, and removing his cap flung it into the fire with a feeling that he was saving the country.

Related Characters: Swami (speaker)
Related Symbols: Swami’s Cap
Page Number: 96-97
Explanation and Analysis:
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Swami’s Cap Symbol Timeline in Swami and Friends

The timeline below shows where the symbol Swami’s Cap appears in Swami and Friends. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 12
The Political and the Personal Under British Colonial Rule Theme Icon
Innocence, Family, and Growing Up Theme Icon
...of clothing into it, and when someone points out that Swami is wearing a foreign cap, he throws it into the fire “with a feeling that he was saving the country.” (full context)
The Political and the Personal Under British Colonial Rule Theme Icon
Education and Oppression Theme Icon
Innocence, Family, and Growing Up Theme Icon
The next day Swami wakes up feeling anxious and remembers that he has no cap to wear for school. He leaves for school anyway and is happily surprised to find... (full context)
The Political and the Personal Under British Colonial Rule Theme Icon
Education and Oppression Theme Icon
Innocence, Family, and Growing Up Theme Icon
...break. He even threatens the children in the school’s Infant Standards and stomps on the cap of one small child. (full context)
The Political and the Personal Under British Colonial Rule Theme Icon
Innocence, Family, and Growing Up Theme Icon
...few may have died. Swami realizes that he now has an excuse for losing his cap and tells his father that someone tore it off in the crowd because it was... (full context)