The Guide

by

R. K. Narayan

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The Guide: Chapter 11 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Back in the present by the riverbank, Raju has told his story throughout the night and a rooster crows as he finishes. Raju expects Velan to rise in disgust and leave him. Instead, Velan remains seated in silence. Perturbed, Raju asks Velan whether he has heard him fully. Velan answers, “Yes, Swami.” Raju is further shocked by Velan’s use of the respectful term “swami,” and by Velan’s further statement that he doesn’t know why the swami has told his life story to Velan, who is merely the swami’s “humble servant.” He tells Raju that he will not speak a word of what Raju has told him.
Velan’s unexpected response to Raju’s disclosure takes Raju by complete surprise. Although now Velan’s knows Raju’s history of deceit and dissimulation, this does not seem to change his opinion of Raju: he continues to refer to him by the respectful title of “swami.” Velan’s faith in Raju seems to run so deep, and is so profound, that nothing can shake it.
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As news of Raju’s fasting penance to end the drought continues to spread far and wide, newspaper correspondents arrive in the village to report on Raju’s progress. Bigger and bigger crowds congregate in the village to visit the swami. Raju has no privacy, even to consume the few morsels of food he has left. He blames Velan for his predicament.
Ironically, Raju, like Rosie, is now a celebrity of sorts—as reports of his fast spread in the papers and more and more people arrive to see him. Raju’s feelings towards Velan at this point are very ambivalent. On the one hand, Raju blames Velan for the situation he finds himself in—after all, his life as a holy man had begun with Velan. On the other hand, Velan’s complete trust and faith in Raju, even after Raju discloses his history of deceit to him, seems to provoke a shift in Raju.
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Finally, having run out of any kind of nourishment and completely lacking any privacy, Raju gives up on food. For the first time in his life, he decides to make an earnest effort on behalf of others. He acts not out of lust for money or love, but out of benevolence.
Raju’s decision to undertake the fast in earnest marks a deeply significant moment in his development. Raju, as a result of the situation he finds himself in (and also likely because of Velan’s as well as the villagers’ faith in him), seems to mature and to grow genuinely into his role as a holy man, as he chooses to act in the interests of others for once, rather than out of self-interest.
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An American TV producer arrives in the village, wanting to make a film about the Swami’s heroic fast. In an interview, the American asks Raju, “Have you always been a yogi?” and Raju answers, “Yes; more or less.”
The American TV producer’s question is more significant than it seems—for it alludes to Raju’s destiny, or dharma, as a guide or “yogi.” Raju has, in fact, always been a guide of some sort, but it is only in his final reincarnation as a holy man that he fulfills the role of a guide in its highest sense.
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By the last day of the fast, Raju’s condition has worsened considerably. The government doctors who have been sent to the temple to monitor his health send a telegram to the authorities that the swami’s condition is grave.
Raju’s fame is such that his condition has become a concern of the national health authorities. The interest and concern that Raju’s fast generates is a testament to just how heroic a feat he is undertaking.
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Raju, although weak to the point of being unable to stand upright alone, nonetheless wants to go to his spot in the river where he has gone every day during the fast to hold vigil. Helped by Velan, and followed by a huge crowd of spectators, he makes it to the river.
Raju’s determination to get to the spot in the river where he has stood every day reveals his commitment to fulfilling his duty towards the villagers. Raju does not want to let the villagers down, and so he makes it to the river in spite of his terribly weak condition.
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Supported by Velan in the river, Raju suddenly stirs, opens his eyes. He tells Velan that it’s rain coming in the hills beyond the river; he can feel it welling up below his feet and legs. Before he finishes, he “sag[s] down.”
Raju’s immersion in the river in this final scene, as well as his sense of rain coming, allude to his spiritual transformation. This final scene is also ambiguous because, just as it is unclear whether rain actually arrives or not, so it is unclear whether Raju survives the fast or not. His act of “sagging down” can be seen to indicate death. Nonetheless, by this point, Raju has been completely transformed by the fast, and by his commitment to helping the villagers. This is further reinforced in the sense that Raju has of rain rising in his feet and legs; it is as if he is being changed from within, and, of course, Raju has changed drastically—by the end of the novel (and, perhaps, by the end of his life) he has been transformed into a true holy man, one who sacrifices himself to aid others in their hardship.
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