The Guide


R. K. Narayan

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Themes and Colors
Hypocrisy and Disguise Theme Icon
Transformation and Redemption Theme Icon
Gender and Feminism Theme Icon
Tradition vs. Modernity Theme Icon
Greed and Materialism Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Guide, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Hypocrisy and Disguise

Raju, the protagonist and occasional narrator of N.K. Narayan’s The Guide, is a character whose entire life is built upon the sins of hypocrisy and dissimulation. His multiple careers—including his work as a tourist guide in his hometown of Malgudi, southern India, his career as a “dance manager” for Rosie/Nalini (the seductive dancer he begins an affair with when she visits Malgudi with her husband, Marco), and his final reincarnation as…

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Transformation and Redemption

In tracing the metamorphosis of Raju—the protagonist of The Guide—from shopkeeper to tourist guide to stage manager to holy man, Narayan’s novel delves both into the pitfalls and the redemptive potential of transformation. While Raju’s many guises are framed by deceit and illusion, Narayan suggests that throughout these transformations, Raju moves towards fulfilling his destiny, redeeming himself in his final role as a spiritual guide. In this way, the novel also affirms the…

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Gender and Feminism

The Guide tells the story of Raju, the trickster-charlatan who, in his final reincarnation as a holy man, ends up redeeming himself by undergoing a heroic fast to save Indian villagers from a drought. But while this male character (and occasional narrator) is at the heart of the story, it is the brilliant dancer Rosie/Nalini—Raju’s love interest—who steals the show. While various men—including Rosie’s first husband Marco, and later her lover Raju—attempt…

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Tradition vs. Modernity

Narayan’s The Guide depicts modernization overtaking protagonist-narrator Raju’s hometown of Malgudi in southern India during the early twentieth century. Not only are new technologies associated with industrialization—such as the railroad—introduced during this period, but social relations are also upended as hierarchies of caste and gender are re-negotiated. The novel’s attitude towards the relationship between tradition and modernity is complex and ambiguous. These forces are sometimes depicted as in conflict, and sometimes in harmony…

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Greed and Materialism

Raju, the protagonist of Narayan’s The Guide, is deeply motivated by his desire for material wealth. Living in the town of Malgudi in southern India, he constantly reinvents himself—taking on the role of a tourist guide and dance manager—in his pursuit of money. However, the novel ultimately suggests that it is only when Raju gives up his greed and materialism entirely in his final role as a holy man that he achieves something…

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