Book Review: The English Teacher

Title: The English Teacher

Author: R. K. Narayan

Publisher: Indian Thought Publications

While Krishna teaches at the Albert Mission College his wife and daughter live some distance away with his parents-in-law. But a move to a small rented house soon permits the couple to enjoy a life of marital bliss. Yet paradise is short-lived. …

The English Teacher is a poignant narrative woven around the life of Krishna, an English Teacher. It is the journey of Krishna from being an ordinary teacher to the head of his family and to an enlightened being.

Written in 1945, this novel is the final part in the series, preceded by Swami and Friends (1935) and The Bachelor of Arts (1937).

About the Author

R. K. Narayan was a pioneer writer of India. He is well known for his works set in the fictional South Indian townMalgudi. Marked by simplicity, Narayan’s works revolve around the daily life of his characters. Narayan has written Fiction, Non-Fiction & Mythology. He has been honored with a number of awards.

Lets step into Malgudi…

The English Teacher is an autobiographical account dedicated to Narayan’s wife. The story revolves around the life of Krishna, who teaches at Albert Mission College, Malgudi. He has also been a student of the same college.

From the title one expects that the book will showcase the life of an English teacher. I myself thought that it would be about the difficulties that one faces as an English teacher (especially in a country like India, where English is a foreign language). But it’s not so. On the contrary, we get to know Krishna- the protagonist, as a person. We see him going out with his wife, looking after his daughter, interacting with his in-laws, visiting his native place and ofcourse teaching at college and chatting with his colleagues in staff room.

Krishna stays in the college hostel. He gets along with his colleagues. He prepares his lessons & sometimes writes poems in his hostel room. Though he recieves ₹.100 as salary, he is full of self criticism. He feels he is doing the wrong work. He says, “…; my duty in the interval had been admonishing, cajoling and browbeating a few hundred boys of Albert Mission College so that they might mug up Shakespeare and Milton and secure high marks and save me adverse remarks from my chiefs…”.

Krishna’s wife, Susila and their daughter, Leela live with his father-in-law. The elders of the family want Krishna to live with his wife and daughter. They want him to be a family man. Krishna was a bit reluctant at first.

He looks for a rented house and finally manages to find one of his choice. After about 10 days, it’s the day of his wife’s arrival. Krishna was quite anxious as he went to recieve her at Malgudi railway station. The whole episode has been written in a very titillating manner.

As time passes, Krishna settles down with his family. He enjoys the company of his wife and his daughter proves to be a delightful treat for him. After about two & a half years, the couple decides to have a house of their own. 

One day they go out to look for a house. They do find their dream house, but destiny has some different plans for them. I’ll stop with the storyline here.

My Verdict

The best thing about the book is the simple & lucid writing style. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. The simple writing style doesn’t seem dull at all. It’s very much pleasing and one keeps on turning the pages. I kept on singing the tune of the television series Malgudi Days (which is based on Narayan’s works) all the time while I was reading this book.

Krishna is my favourite character from the novel as I could relate myself to him. I also want to be an English teacher. I resemble to him in many other aspects also. Krishna, initially is seen as a practical man, but in the later half of the text, he becomes a bit impractical. He finds happiness in small things & gets excited very soon. He is also a philosopher.

My favourite lines from the text are:

  • Gradually, unknown to ourselves, we recline against the wall and sink into sleep. The dawn finds us all huddled on the cold floor. 
  • Living without illusion seemed to be the greatest task for me…
  • A profound unmitigated loneliness is the only truth of life. All else is false. My mother has got away from her parents, my sisters from our house, I and my brother away from each other,  … , my earliest friends- where are they? They scatter apart like the droplets of a water-spray. The law of life. 
  • … I can afford to do what seems to me work, something which satisfies my innermost aspiration. 

I loved reading the last chapter. It offers a bitter criticism of Indian education system, where much stress is given on marks rather than acquiring knowledge.

Besides this, I also enjoyed reading about Krishna’s daughter Leela. Her innocence makes one adore her. The only thing that I didn’t like in this novel was the unrealistic track that begins from the mid of novel. But that’s what leads this novel towards its end.

The English Teacher is a simple yet beautiful novel. I won’t mind reading this one again and again. I would recommend it to everyone out there.

My Rating: ***** (4.5/5)

So what do you think about the book? Have you read it or any other work of R.K.Narayan? Is this novel similar to any other novel that you’ve read? Do share your thoughts.

Available for purchase on and Infibeam.

Thanks. 🙂
Source of Pictures: Internet 

6 thoughts on “Book Review: The English Teacher

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