Generation Conflict in The Vendor of Sweets by R.K. Narayan. 

The Conflict between Generations Reflected in the Novel ‘The Vendor of Sweets’ by R.K. Narayan. 

Dilshan (

The conflict between the younger and older generations found in each and every community. It has become the theme of many literary works including the poem ‘Father and Son’ by Cat Stevens and ‘Leave Taking’ by Cecil Rajendra. The reputed Indian novelist R.K. Narayan too takes this phenomenon in his novel ‘The Vendor of Sweets’. Narayan is specialized in irony. He discusses the social issues of India just after the liberation taking the imaginary city Malgudi as the centre of the incidents. We come across common human infirmities in the characters fabricated by Narayan.

In the novel Jagan, a sweetmeat seller has been taken as the protagonist. He is a middle aged conventional Hindu man. He follows the principals of Ghandi and weaves his own clothes using a small charka. Jagan is a strict vegetarian and a believer of nature cure as well. He recites holy religious book ‘Bhagawat Geetha’ every time. He has already given up consuming salt and sugar as his religious book warned him to conquer the taste to conquer the self. This is a queer situation as it depicts that Jagan could not understand the implied meaning of this adage. He engages in a traditional occupation. He makes sweets using traditional ingredients and in a traditional way. He is quite proud of his nation. He remembers proudly the incarceration of him. He was imprisoned as he involved in the rebellion against the British throne. Jagan hesitates and fears to embrace modern technology. This is a common characteristic found in the old generation. They are reluctant embracers of technology and despise it as well. He implored cousin to urge Mali to use the steamer to go America instead of the aeroplane. When Mali asks him to have a telephone to mitigate his business he merely refuses it saying he did business for years successfully without a telephone. Jagan is a slow mover. But he was able to gain a considerable reputation and stable income through years by working slowly. The theories of Jagan about food are abnormal and ridiculous. He doesn’t drink more than four ounces of water per day. It is also kept in a mud jar. He considered that food is like one’s breath. Hence he never allows anyone to prepare his food. These intentions are collided with Mali frequently. When Grace asked once to prepare food for him, he gently refused it.

On the contrary of Jagan, his son Mali is a modern and western influenced character. He ridicules his father’s norms every time. According to him, the Indians are still living in the past century. Mali is a fast moving character. He doesn’t like to be a sweetmeat vendor as his father is. He needs to earn a big profit with a less toil. Hence, amidst the strong objection of Jagan, he left the school. He considered that schooling is wastage of time. He goes to America for his further studies. This intention collided with the national pride of Jagan as he refuses the foreign matters and admires the indigenous products. Mali began to eat beef which is considered as an utmost sin in the traditional Hindu culture. He further suggests that the fellow Indians must begin to eat beef as a solution for the hunger as well as the traffic congestion caused by the wandering cows. This inauspicious thought of Mali trembled Jagan. In Jagan’s culture, marriage is a business of the adults. It was they who decide the bride for their sons. Children have no role unless shaking their heads in this deal. But Mali kicked off this tradition and brought his spouse Grace to his country and introduced her as his wife. This couple lives together unmarried and it is a vitiation of the social norms.

Throughout the story, we find that the intentions of Jagan and Mali are collided as they are always not on par with. Mali needs a quick profit while Jagan admires a slow and steady improvement. Therefore, analyzing the above facts we can conclude that R.K. Narayan brings out an eternal conflict between the two generations effectively in his novel ‘The Vendor of Sweets’. 

This article was kindly borrowed from Dilshan's blog: with the permission of him. You can visit to read some creatively crafted posts related to G.C.E.(O/L) English Literature.   

Related Posts:

Summary of Vendor of Sweets by R.K.Narayan

Generation Conflict in The Vendor of Sweets by R.K. Narayan.   

Character and Role of Mali in Vendor of Sweets

Quiz on the Character of Jagan in the Novel Vender of Sweets by R.K Narayan


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