The Guide

by

R. K. Narayan

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The Serpent Symbol Analysis

The Serpent Symbol Icon

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 The Guide quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Serpent. 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:
Hypocrisy and Disguise Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin edition of The Guide published in 1958.
Chapter 5 Quotes

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.

Related Characters: Raju (speaker), Rosie / Nalini, Marco Polo
Related Symbols: The Serpent
Page Number: 51
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 10 Quotes

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.

Related Characters: Raju (speaker), Rosie / Nalini, Mani
Related Symbols: The Serpent
Page Number: 176
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Serpent Symbol Timeline in The Guide

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Serpent appears in The Guide. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 5
Hypocrisy and Disguise Theme Icon
Gender and Feminism Theme Icon
Tradition vs. Modernity Theme Icon
Greed and Materialism Theme Icon
...the name of Rosie, who visits Malgudi with her husband, asks to see a dancing cobra. While enchanted by the girl, Raju develops a deep dislike of her husband. Her husband... (full context)
Hypocrisy and Disguise Theme Icon
Gender and Feminism Theme Icon
Tradition vs. Modernity Theme Icon
Raju, eager to please Rosie, searches for a cobra. While Marco is busy examining an ancient temple one day, Gaffur drives Raju and Rosie... (full context)
Hypocrisy and Disguise Theme Icon
Gender and Feminism Theme Icon
Greed and Materialism Theme Icon
...compliments her, saying that he couldn’t sleep all night, thinking of her dancing before the cobra. Finally she opens the door, and he continues with his flatteries, entreating her to join... (full context)
Chapter 9
Transformation and Redemption Theme Icon
Gender and Feminism Theme Icon
Tradition vs. Modernity Theme Icon
...with a thousand spectators. Nalini, enchanting as ever on stage, finishes the show with her snake dance—a long, arduous and hypnotic dance which she rarely performs due to its difficulty. (full context)