Attempt a character sketch of the Astrologer
R.K. Narayan, one of India’s most celebrated authors, often created memorable characters that linger in the minds of readers long after they’ve finished his stories. In the intriguing short story “The Astrologer’s Day,” which is part of his book “An Astrologer’s Day and Other Stories,” Narayan presents us to the Astrologer, a complex figure who provokes a mixture of pity and rage.
The Astrologer, the central character of the story, is a man who earns his living by telling people their fortunes. His profession may be seen as mystic and enigmatic, but as we delve deeper into his character, we discover a myriad of human qualities that both endear and frustrate the reader.
The Astrologer’s Appearance:
The Astrologer is described as an ordinary man in his forties, dressed in a simple, worn-out coat and hat. His attire is shabby, and he carries an ancient leather briefcase containing his astrological paraphernalia – charts, papers, and books. He sports a beard that is unkempt and a pair of sharp, inquisitive eyes. His physical appearance does not command attention, but his aura is intriguing.
The Mysterious Profession:
The Astrologer’s profession is mysterious and intriguing, particularly in a society where the belief in astrology and fortune-telling is deeply ingrained. This aspect of his character draws sympathy from the reader, as he seems to be a victim of the socioeconomic circumstances that have led him to this occupation. In a country like India, where many people turn to astrology for guidance and solace, the Astrologer’s services are in demand. However, this profession is often seen as exploitative, and the Astrologer’s role in this system can elicit anger from the reader.
Sympathy Evoked by the Astrologer:
- Struggle for Survival: The Astrologer’s journey to his current profession is shrouded in mystery. He gives no insight into his past and provides no clues to his background. Yet, his shabby appearance and the mention of a difficult life evoke sympathy. Readers wonder about the circumstances that led him to this occupation. It’s easy to feel for someone who seems to be struggling to make ends meet, especially in a society where financial stability is a challenge for many.
- The Human Desire for Hope: The Astrologer’s clients, who come to him seeking answers to their problems, reveal the innate human desire for hope and the belief that fate can be influenced. Despite the dubious nature of his profession, the Astrologer provides a glimmer of hope to people who are facing difficulties and uncertainties. This instills sympathy in the reader, as we understand the need for hope in the face of adversity.
- The Paradox of Knowledge and Ignorance: The Astrologer claims to possess knowledge of the future and the ability to predict events. This knowledge is both intriguing and comforting to his clients. However, it also highlights the paradox of his character. On one hand, he seems to hold the key to their destinies, while on the other, he himself is unaware of his past. This contradiction evokes sympathy as we witness the limitations of his knowledge and the mysteries of his own life.
- The Loneliness of the Astrologer: The Astrologer’s loneliness is palpable. He is described as a man who doesn’t have any friends or family. He leads a solitary existence, and the reader can’t help but feel a sense of isolation and desolation that emanates from him. This loneliness generates sympathy, as we wonder about the reasons behind his solitary life.
Anger Evoked by the Astrologer:
- Exploitation and Deception: The Astrologer’s profession is built on the exploitation of people’s vulnerabilities and their belief in the supernatural. He deceives his clients by offering vague predictions and conveniently leaving out the fact that he doesn’t have genuine supernatural powers. This exploitation of people’s faith and trust can incite anger in the reader. The Astrologer is seen as a con artist, preying on the gullibility of his clients.
- Lack of Transparency: The Astrologer operates in a world of secrecy and deceit. He never reveals the truth about his past or the methods he uses to make his predictions. This lack of transparency and honesty can frustrate the reader. It’s infuriating to see someone profiting from the ignorance of others without any regard for ethical boundaries.
- Moral Ambiguity: The story hints at the Astrologer’s involvement in a violent incident from his past. This moral ambiguity surrounding his character raises questions about his past actions and whether he has truly changed. It leaves the reader in a state of moral conflict, as we are uncertain about the extent of his guilt or innocence.
- The Cruel Prank: Towards the end of the story, the Astrologer plays a cruel prank on Guru Nayak, a man he believes is out for revenge against him. He capitalizes on Guru Nayak’s fear by pretending to predict his imminent death, only to reveal it as a ruse later. This heartless deception infuriates the reader, as it demonstrates the Astrologer’s willingness to manipulate and emotionally exploit others for his own safety.