Critical Appreciation R. K. Narayan’s "A Snake in the Grass": Family’s Agitation on Hearing of the Snake




"It crawled under the gate and disappeared along a drain. When they recovered from the shock they asked: ‘Does it means that there are two snakes here?’ The college-boy murmured: ‘I wish I had taken the risk and knocked the water-pot from Dasu’s hand; we might have known what it contained." --"A snake in the Grass" by R. K. Narayan 
The story A snake in the Grass is a typical saga of the Indian middle class family. As usual taking the theme of his short stories the various forms of socio-economic problem and to mould the form, Narayan uses humours, motes and many other figures of speeches that enrich the story with tastes and tranquility. Most of his stories deal with different characters of the plebeians like profligacy, cheating, affectation, fatalism, superstition, squanders mania, superstiousness, and political duping etc.etc. Read More Short Stories If the stories are forestalled one can discover so many things which have been clearly redolent. The author has made many shoddy affairs anew with a master hand so that the reader never feel uneasy repeatedly reading. His love for nature and friendship with the green world is hailed highly. In every story the author has added regional flavours to ramify its realism and picturesqueness. In this regard what is more significant is his strong insight into the realistic class theory. Especially he has dealt with the minds of the typical middle class citizens of Madras or Mysore. He has equated their environment of petty scoundrels who are out to cheat them, with the epicurism. Narayan writes about real experiences found in his native India.  His stories are filled with humorous anecdotes and irony.  The story  A snake in the Grass  is example of this type of writing.

Story people in the household of  A snake in the Grass are gullible and victim to superstitious beliefs. It tells us about the ignorant and frenzied denunciation of hidebound critics and sham classic people. In his typically humorous style, R. K. Narayan has given us a slice of Indian small-town life. The family’s agitation on hearing of the snake; the pompous, useless chatter of the neighbours; the transference of responsibility on to the servant; the servant’s trick to get his own back; the credulous, God-fearing nature of the people—are conveyed in a deceptively simple and lucid style. The story starts suddenly before the gate of a house with the bell ringing of a cyclist the inmates of the house were not at all ready to receive the shocking announcement that a big cobra has got into your compound’. The author has precipitated the crisis gradually in artful pattern. The actual trouble arose with Dasa the old servant of the house. Read More Short Stories The neighbours of the house also took the situation very seriously. All of their curses fell upon the servant for his idleness of low degree. Here the author has brought into the dull fidelity of the servant most blameworthy. His idleness and feigning were the matters of much eloquence. The fellow really deserved scolding for his protracted abusing of duty and trying to steal a false excuse under the pretext of a grass-cutter. The surrounding was a vulnerable place only due to the negligence of his duty. It is significant that while Narayan shows the Indians as lazy, indolent and unable to handle a crisis swiftly and effectively, his attitude is tinged with affection and indulgence, which makes the caricatures extremely endearing. 

In one sense, Dasa is really the only character in A snake in the Grass. The other people are secondary to his story except as their actions affect his life. The mistress of the house, as the person who makes it possible for  Dasa  to communicate with other people and who serves as the primary mediator between  Dasa  and the world, is the only other character that develops somewhat in the course of the narrative. Yet even she remains shadowy.

These facts captured the mind of the mistress of the house distinctively and horrified. We return to the cobra affair soon after the end of the debate when the human faces anxiously searched for the reptile. They were aided with their conventional crude ammunition. We are not worried to see the gesture of the mother for the beggar from the urge of his supernatural belief. Read More Short Stories Though it is superstitious yet this spiritual inclination of the mother signifies the pragmatic vision that created by the author who has eventually constituted a life more real to him. This is an Indian culture and belief to take natural forces as deity. By dint of this peculiarity the members of the family took the snake as God Subramanya. The snake visited the house to remind their promised Abhishekam, a religious rite. The post-lunch afternoon nap or siesta is suggestive of the slow paced Indian life. The hubbub on hearing of the snake’s entry into the garden is set up as a deliberate contrast to highlight the earlier mood of relaxation and to make convincing the subsequent confusion and chaos.

Even in the brief span of the short story, R. K. Narayan presents a memorable character in Dasa. He is a servant, but is not servile. He is not unduly disturbed by the chiding of his mistress and can hold his own against accusations of negligence. His ability to dupe his employers and their neighbours by pretending to catch the cobra in a water-pot is a humorous instance of how the low-born occasionally triumph over their superiors. He will undoubtedly be questioned severely about the truthfulness of his statement on his return but for the moment he has forced them to admire his worth and silenced their criticism of his laziness. 


The man introducing as a snake-charmer somehow managed to dupe them pretending that he had a skill to seize the reptile. The people were so gullible that Dasa easily became the hero of the day. Pretending that he had caught the venomous reptile and put it into a pot, He snatched Undue respect from the hypochondriac mother. the old man inflicted his fool audience and became detracted later when the real cobra came out of the hole.

So A snake in the Grass is a blend of hypocrisy, superstition and reality. This is one of the Narayan’s masterpieces and depicts some humble elements of a middle class house has been the fairest one and the author’s creative energies is flamed with unprecedented brilliancy. The imaginary situation has become as original as ever done for a literary text because of his talent which is indispensable to art worthy of fame. Read More Short Stories He propagated the logic of lingual artfulness to arrest the reader’s attention. He believed in inspiration unreservedly and vehemently accepted the value of referring to the ordinary business of life for his material in order to make the piece interesting. Imagination, passion, inspiration and working of the mind are the most interesting materials in it. So the piece is one of the valuable works of the author. It is short and a few occasions are arranged but interesting for its placidness and reality It bears the credit of well-readability. Read More Short Stories Dasa, the old but clever servant, tricks his employers-a mother and her four sons- into thinking that he has caught a cobra for which the family has been searching in the garden all day.  Earlier in the day, the family had accused the servant of being lazy and not cutting the grass.  They had spent the entire afternoon frantically searching for the snake.

The irony comes from the servant, who is probably very lazy, amusingly tricking the family into thinking that he has done what they spent all afternoon trying to doIn addition, he saves his job because the family had threatened  to fire him if the snake was not found. Shrewdly, he has outwitted them all with his pretense of the snake in the jar. The irony at the end of the story is that the family is planning to reward Dasa when he has in fact lied and endangered them, thus deserving no reward and thus making himself the "snake in the grass" who turns on them.

Dasa has supposedly caught the snake in a water pot, which is sealed with a slab of stone. Dasa claims that he caught the cobra in the pot and is taking it to the snake charmer.  The old servant claims that he saw the cobra peering out of the pot, and he sealed up the pot before the snake could get out. Read More Short Stories The family believes that they have misjudged the old servant, and now, they have to compliment and reward him for finding the snake and trapping it. Quite proud of himself, he tells the family “Don’t call me an idler hereafter.” The mother is satisfied, and Dasa, the old servant, becomes the hero of the day.  As he leaves to take the snake to the charmer, the family decides to give him a reward.

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