The Ramayana


R. K. Narayan

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The Ramayana: 10. Across the Ocean Summary & Analysis

Vibishana attempts to remain in the background of Rama's camp, but eventually Rama's army chiefs notice him and bring him before Rama. Vibishana asks Rama for asylum, and a messenger interrogates Vibishana. With the messenger's information, Rama meets with Sugreeva, Hanuman, and other advisors to decide what to do with Vibishana. Sugreeva insists that they shouldn't trust him, since he betrayed his brother. Rama's commander-in-chief echoes these sentiments, but Hanuman insists that Vibishana has a pure soul and a good heart. Hanuman notes that Vibishana saved his life when Ravana's men had captured him, which he sees as proof of a good heart.
Sugreeva's counsel is particularly hypocritical given his role in killing his own brother, but the fact that Rama brushes over this logic asserts again that the story fully believes that Rama did the right thing in helping Sugreeva kill Vali. As the character who's supposed to most fully embody loyalty and honor, Hanuman's assessment is given preference. This cements his position as the ideal, loyal companion.
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Rama decides to trust Hanuman's assessment of Vibishana's character. Rama says that his duty is to offer protection to those who seek asylum, and even if Vibishana betrays them, Rama will feel as though he's done the right thing. Sugreeva brings Vibishana to meet Rama, and Rama instructs Lakshmana to treat Vibishana as the king of Lanka. Vibishana spends the next several days telling Rama all about Ravana's armies and weapons.
Rama insists that Hanuman is correct, if only because it's more important to do the right thing than be correct. This decision implies that the perfect hero must be willing to accept the possibility of defeat if doing the right thing leads to a bad outcome.
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Related Quotes
When the plan of attack is prepared, Rama stands at the seashore and wonders how to cross the sea. Rama prays and fasts for seven days and finally asks the sea god directly to allow him to pass. The sea god refuses to help until Rama threatens to shoot his arrows into the sea and dry it up. The sea god then agrees to use whatever Rama brings to build a bridge. Rama's army and the animals in the surrounding area bring mud, rocks, and mountains, and they build a massive path across the sea to Lanka.
The army and the animals show their loyalty to Rama and his cause by assisting in building the bridge. Rama's unwillingness to take the sea god's initial answer is indicative of his belief in his righteousness; he won't allow a relatively minor god to get in the way of his destiny. Threatening the sea god with arrows suggests the major power that Rama's bow and arrows have.
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