Character of Jagan and Cousin at the Onset of the Novel

This post consists of two students answers to the question: Discuss the two characters Jagan and cousin from the first four chapters of The Vendor of Sweets. 


Ishra Faris

The Vendor of Sweets by R.K. Narayan is woven around a sweet vendor who lives a simple and frugal life. Jagan, the sweet vendor was a Ghandi follower and took part of the struggle of freedom in India. As a Ghandi follower, Jagan followed each and every way of how Ghandi spent his life. Jagan wore only home spun clothes. He was a reader of Bhagavat Gita and highly trusted Hindu culture and hated Western culture. Due to his hatred towards westernized conventions, he lost his wife. His wife died because he did not admit her to a hospital; instead, he tried traditional methods of medicine. Therefore, not only he lost his wife but also his little child Mali lost his mother.

After the loss of his mother Ambika, Mali had started hating his father Jagan. Day after day they moved away from each other. In this novel Jagan is the protagonist and the cousin acts as a helping character. The reader meets both Jagan and cousin from the first chapter. They have many similarities as well as differences between them.

The novel starts with Jagan saying ‘conquer the taste, and you will have conquered the self’ Though he said so, he even did not know what that means. Jagan does not have a sound understanding about the philosophy of his own life. His favourite listener was the cousin who was the cousin to everyone in the town Malgudi. Jagan is a religious minded person who always read the Gita and has no much connection with the public of the town but the cousin is the opposite of Jagan as he is a ‘man about town’ and visits many places.

The cousin enters Jagan’s shop and tastes sweets of Jagan, comes back talks to Jagan about the day and matters and facts. He too was influenced by Ghandi: ‘What is life worth unless we serve and help each other’ The obvious similarity between Jagan and cousin is that the lives of both have been influenced by Ghandi.  

Jagan has given up taste in his life. He has imposed self-restrictions to himself which prevent him from enjoying life. He has been over cautious about his health. He thought that daily viewing oneself from the mirror was a European habit, so he shaved on at several intervals. ‘He never possessed more than two sets of clothes…’ Possessing of only two sets of clothes show that Jagan is an independent and simple, frugal character. Along with these, Jagan was losing the connection with his son day by day. After Ambika’s death, Jagan started regretting and felt guilty and the boy developed a hatred towards Jagan.

Unlike Jagan, cousin has not given us taste of life. Instead, he enjoyed the life to the maximum. The cousin was an all-rounder. He was the bridge between Jagan and Mali. He was the communicator between them and he was the saviour of him. The cousin always gives his ears and advices to Jagan while considering Jagan’s views as well. He helps Jagan in many ways and that has resulted a strong relationship between Jagan and cousin.

Though cousin was a helpful character, he sometimes has negative impacts on Jagan and he sarcastically condemns Jagan. ‘… the salt that dries on back when one has run a mile in the sun?,” Cousin always condemns Jagan’s food practises.

Jagan was a caring and loving father but he was a coward because he was scared to hurt his son. When he got to know that Mali wanted to stop school and also tore the books, he could not advice Mali not to do so. When he learns that Mali had robbed him, he admired his son instead of being furious: ‘the boy is very practical’ Jagan said.

Cousin was the information exchanger of Jagan and Mali. He always informed Jagan about Mali’s whereabouts and facts about Mali. Though cousin is very helpful he sometimes condemns Jagan and also enjoys Jagan’s troubles. However, Jagan shared almost every secrets of his life with cousin as he was his dearest and trusted friend.



Through the symbolic characters Jagan and cousin from the first four chapters of the novel The Vendor of Sweets by R.K. Narayan shows how the lives of the Indian people went on after they broke off from the clutches of British invaders and gained their freedom.

According to the fiction, Jagan is a traditional and a cultural person who has a blind belief in sages and is a faithful follower of Mahathma Ghandi. As a traditional character, Jagan has an interest in reading books which related to India’s famous characters and their great sayings about life. He did not even care about whether those morals are true or not. Only thing matters to him is the person who shows the path – just like a little insect wanders around a light source without knowing any means.

Because of those strange habits of him, his connection with his family got complicated and distant. Through the character of Jagan, Narayan attempts to reveal the life style of a Yogi person who taught himself as a religious person and avoiding his or her responsibilities as a person who took shelter under the social roof. This behaviour of people affect the wellbeing of a family and even can cause inner conflicts with each other. Also the writer staged the character of Jagan as a humours one.    

Society is like a mixed fruit salad consists of different types of fruit and seasonings. R.K. Narayan displayed cousin’s character as an ingredient of this mixture through the novel. As an active character in the society, he had many contacts in the village of Malgudi. Because of this, he had a wide knowledge about society and human life. Even sometimes Jagan got the chance to broaden his horizon by listening to cousin’s explanations.

Either way, he sometimes played a role as a humble listener when Jagan was facing some problems regarding his son. In the society filled with selfishness, cousins character is a role model for them. Even though he was well-known in the area, he did not show any sign of arrogance and never looked down on others when some person needs help. It is human nature to lend a hand for them which is highlighted through the character of cousin.

According to the saying: ‘every dark cloud has a silver line’, every situation has their own accords. By connecting the two characters of Jagan and cousin and their different characteristics, R.K. Narayan proves this fact.  


Hope these well written answers would help you to enrich your knowledge to write better answers. Thank and credit should go to Ishra and Senhiru for providing their writings to enrich our readers. Kindly give your comments regarding their performances. If you have more points to add, please leave a kind comment in the comment section. Share the post if you find this useful to others.      

Post a Comment