The serpent, closely associated with Rosie, symbolizes feminine power and energy in the novel. The animal first makes an appearance when Rosie asks to see a dancing cobra, and Raju, playing the tourist guide, duly locates one for her on the outskirts of Malgudi. Rosie is fascinated by the cobra as it rises from the ground to the tune of a flute, and imitates its movement. It is at this moment that Raju realizes that Rosie is amongst the greatest dancers he has ever seen—Rosie’s imitation of the snake seems to reveal her full feminine as well as artistic power, and Raju is completely captivated. Towards the end of novel, Rosie—now the famous dancer Nalini—performs her “snake dance” before an auditorium packed with a thousand spectators. She rarely performs the dance, which is special because of the incredible dexterity that it requires. Again, as Raju watches her, he is completely captivated by the beauty and power of her snake-mimicry, as are the other spectators in the auditorium. The close link established between the serpent and Rosie, therefore, indicates that the serpent represents Rosie’s energy and power not only as a dancer, but as a woman. By the end of the novel, after all, Rosie looms larger than both the men—Marco Polo and Raju—who have tried to contain and control her. As such, the sliding, dexterous movements of the snake seem to point to the suppleness and dexterity of Rosie’s own feminine and artistic powers.
The Serpent Quotes in The Guide
The man pulled out his gourd flute and played on it shrilly, and the cobra raised itself and darted hither and thither and swayed…[Rosie] stretched out her arm slightly and swayed it in imitation of the movement; she swayed her whole body to the rhythm—for just a second, but that was sufficient to tell me
what she was, the greatest dancer of the century.
I felt like telling Mani, “Be careful. She’ll lead you on before you know where you are, and then you will find yourself in my shoes all of a sudden! Beware the snake woman!” I knew my mind was not working either normally or fairly. I knew I was growing jealous of her self-reliance. But I forgot for the
moment that she was doing it all for my sake.