Summary of Vendor of Sweets by R.K.Narayan

Set in an imaginary town Malgudi, R.K. Narayan's  Vendor of Sweets mainly explores the generation gap of the society through the characters Jagan and his son Mali.

Jagan is a Gandhite, and a perfectly genuine one. He had his head cracked trying to pull down the Union Jack from a Government building, spent a few years in jail, promised the Mahatma that he would spin every day and religiously maintained that promise made over twenty years earlier.

At the time the novel opens, Jagan is a widower of about sixty years, living alone with his son Mali in his spacious ancestral house. Now the house is empty but there was a time when it was crowded. His brother had a large family and they all lived together in the house. Then his brother separated and went to live with his family in a separate house in Vinayak Street. His sister also married a rustic in the village, lived with him, and had a large family of her own. Jagan himself was married to Ambika, a girl from a family living in a distant town. She was Jagan's own choice and Jagan loved her. They had long waited for a child without result. Therefore, they went on a pilgrimage to the temple of Santana Krishna, duly offered prayers and a coconut and the God gave his blessings to the couple. Result was that Mali was born. He was the apple of the eye of the parents. 

Ambika constantly suffered from severe headache. Jagan believed in Natural Diet and Nature Cure and had written a book on the subject, though the book had not been printed and published so far by Nataraj of the Truth Printing Press. He treated Ambika in his own way till it was diagnosed to be a case of brain tumour. Her life could not be saved and she died, leaving Jagan a widower and Mali without a mother. Mali always felt that his father had killed her because of his peculiar theories of Nature Cure. The bond of love between them was thus snapped, though Jagan still loved him, and was proud of him. Jagan's love both for his wife and his son was deep and unwavering. The tragedy is that when he lost his wife, he lost also any affection that his son might have had for him.

Between Jagan and Mali there are further complications. Mali has evidently decided that there is nothing he can learn from his father nor the college. The old man has plenty of money and the son should be allowed to spend it as he pleases. He has no hesitation in helping himself liberally to thousands of rupees his father has put away in the loft, makes his plans for going to the United States, returns from there with a young woman whom he claims to be his wife, has a fantastic scheme for making machines that will computerise novels and short stories and expects that his father will advance 51000 dollars (over Rs.two lakhs) out of his savings for this purpose.

Jagan responds to Mali's antics first by following the Gandhian way of non-violence, non-cooperation, and then by acting on the teachings of the Gita. When Jagan finds that it is his wealth which is the root of all evil and has led Mali into his wicked ways, he decides at once to go to the root and give it up with a ruthlessness worthy of his master Gandhi. He orders that the price of the sweets be reduced to a fourth so that there will be no further making of money in his shop. This leads to a rush on the shop, the sweets are sold out in no time, there is panic among his competitors. Only when Jagan is told by the cousin that some of the sweets might have been bought by the other sweet-vendors at the new absurd price to be sold by them in their own shops at the usual rates, does it occur to him that his action might have other and less desirable consequences than the ones he had intended. 

The discovery that his son and his American-Korean companion are not really married comes to Jagan as a shock. His house has become contaminated, a moral plague spot, and since it is not in his nature to burn it down, He must be doing was to run away from it. Chinna Dorai, the sculptor helps him do this. There is natural surrounding waiting for him on the other side of the river. All he has to do is to shake the city dust off his feet, take his charkha (spinning wheel) and go there. He does so not only his charkha but also his cheque book. His cousin will run the shop for him and visit him periodically to render accounts. He is entering only the Vanaprastha stage, not the fourth, and final, a Sanyasi.


Related Posts:

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

Character and Role of Mali in Vendor of Sweets



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  1. What is the relationship between jagan and mali?

    1. father and son. However, throughout the novel we see their relationship is drifting apart.

  2. thank you very much sir�� can you post more questions on vendor of sweets

  3. Wht are the suitable quotations to contrast marriages in Vendor of sweets?