The Heart of Conflict Between Jagan and Mali in Vendor of Sweets

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The Vendor of Sweets is R.K. Narayan's tenth novel published in 1967. The origin of the novel is in a lawsuit in actual life. It is a short novel that follows the difficult relationship between Jagan and his son, Mali. At the heart of the conflict is the generation gap; Jagan can't understand his son's careless and immoral actions, and Mila resents his father's rigidity. The main focus on the novel, however, is on Jagan's spiritual development.

This novel is remarkable for the father-son relationship. Jagan is the father of Mali. Both are Indians. They represent the clash between tradition and modernity. Jagan stands for the traditional and ethical outlook and his only son, Mali stands for the modern and materialistic outlook. Here, novelist shows as the generation gap. In fact, he deals with the theme of man's quest of identity through Jagan. He is follower of M.K. Gandhi and reads the Bhagwat Gita daily and Gandhian philosophy and the Gita influence his life. In reality, he follows all these principles in his personal life. He represents the tradition or the old generation. His only son, Mali represents the modernity and the new generation. Therefore, the novelist depicts the generation gap through Jagan-Mali relationship. Narayan placed them side by side with presentation of tradition & modernity so, the novel with becomes comic as well as pathetic.

On the very first page of the novel, Jagan says conquer taste, and you will have conquered the self. Jagan's listener is a man about town known as the 'cousin'. This shows that Jagan is a traditional Hindu who reads Gita and scriptures. He is a religious man and a nationalist in spirit. His life style is simple and daily routine is fixed. The cousin admires his simple life style but detects a hypocritical contradiction in Jagon. At sixty, Jagan gains profit with high-minded Gandhian principles. The apple of his eye is the son Mali for whom he feels a deep and excessive affection.

However, Mali is very rude to him. The novelist has shown the wider generation gap between Jagan and Mali. Jagan, a strong believer in Gandhian ideology cares much for sin and pollution. He is free from the western influence. On the other hand, his son Mali is greatly influenced by western ideas and values. Jagan's inability to seek timely medical advice in the case of his wife's illness because of his belief in "nature care" estranged his son.

The gap widens when Mali gives up his study and intends to go to America to become a writer. Jagan's fatherly feelings are thrown into still greater confusion. He remarks on the proposal of his son,” Did Valmiki goes to America or Germany in order to learn to write his Ramayana”. Jagan broods over the mechanics of book production. When the cousin tells him that it is America only where they teach such things. Jagan does not decide at once what to do. He is helpless when his cousin informs him of living in America. “They eat only beef and pork in that country.” Jagan then thinks that America would corrupt his body with wine, women and meat, and his soul with other things. Since there is no dialogue between father and son, the cousin works out the details. When his cousin reports Jagan that Mali has made all kinds of preparations, Jagan cries out. “No, without my permission or help! Without telling me anything”.

Jagan felt shocked for a moment to know Mali final decision. When Mali goes to America, Jagan waits anxiously for his letters. After three years, Mali returns with a half-Korean and half American Grace as his wife. This is one more reason of the conflict between Mali and Jagan.

Furthermore, Mali has a grand scheme for marketing a novel writing-machine. Jagan is utterly at sea. He is confronted by the new world shockingly personified- a world where his cherished notions of marriage and morals seem to count for nothing. The conflict between Jagan and Mali grew worse when Jagan refused to pay Mali fifty-one thousand dollars for his” Mali Enterprises”. Shocking news is that Mali and Grace live together as husband and wife without marriage. Jagan is shocked to find that his son also drinks.

When Jagan refused to pay the amount of two lakh rupees for 'Mali Enterprises' the relationship between the father and the son was almost over. Jagan was on the verge of madness. He asked Mali to look after the business of his own. However, Mali did not want to be a vendor of sweets like his father. At last, Jagan has gone to retire in an ashram beyond the river with his chequebook. Mali makes his father suffer too much.

Thus, through Jagan-Mali relationship, R.K. Narayan has pointed out the generation gap between the old and modern. The tragicomic clash of the generations deepens with every chapter. Jagan is traditional Hindu and the victim of the illusions of Brahmanical culture. One the other hand, his son Mali, is a modern young man. There is lack of proper communication between them. Jagan is purely an Indian in his outlook while Mali is a Westernized young man. One is old and other is young. Jagan stands for Hindu tradition & Mali stands for Modernity.


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  1. Sur wht are the quotes for the theme ,Hypocrisy of people in the vendor of sweets?