Headmaster’s Wife Character Analysis – The English Teacher

Headmaster’s Wife Character Analysis – The English Teacher

Headmaster’s Wife Character Analysis – The English Teacher : The Headmaster’s wife is a termagant sort of lady. She is a “fat woman of about thirty five, with sparse hair tied into a knot at the back of her head, her face shining with oil and perspiration…” She lives in a house in a slum in Anderson Lane with her children. The Headmaster is not able to pull on well with her. Hence, he lives in his school for most of the time and visits his house only for taking food.

Headmaster’s Wife Character Analysis – The English Teacher

The very first meeting of Krishnan with the Headmaster’s wife at their house leaves the impression of her being a rude, rough, unmannerly and abrasive woman. When the Headmaster introduces him to her as a cultured big man, she brushes it aside in ill-temper saying, “Let him, what do I care? If he is big, he is a big man to you. He is not a big man to me. What do I care?” She then asks the Headmaster defiantly why he is late for food. She dislikes him so much that she does not send her children to be educated at his school. Rather she leaves them at large roaming about in the street. She feels frustrated with her husband because he does not fight for claim over the house and other property left behind by his father after his death.

The Headmaster has also a low opinion about her. He thinks that she cannot become a better woman even if she is put in a better locality. He thinks of her as incorrigibly bad. In reply to Krishnan’s suggestion that they should have lived in a better place, he remarks that change of place will not make her different as “she will carry the same surroundings wherever she goes. You see, the trouble is not external.” He expresses his dissatisfaction about his marriage when he says, “I have been hustled into a marriage which did not interest me….”

The Headmaster’s wife undergoes’ a change of heart when Krishnan tells her one morning at her house that the Headmaster is no more. She takes time to understand the implications of what he is saying. There upon, she starts weeping and crying. All the residents of Anderson Lanee assemble at her house at the news of the Headmaster’s death. She feels repentant for her misbehaviour with her husband and laments over the fact that he has not told her about the prediction of his death. Later on, Krishnan discovers the Headmaster standing at the gate of the school. He persuades him to come to his house for the assurance of his wife.

She begs pardon of him for her past conduct and promises not to repeat the same in future. She implores him not to leave them forever as the Headmaster has resolved to live in his school for the rest of his life and not to visit his house at all. He does not change his mind. However, he makes a concession that he will give them maintenance allowance and the children may come to his school whenever they like to meet him. In this way, the relations between the wife and the husband are finally and irrevocably snapped off. Thenceforth, they live apart.

The Headmaster and his wife differ diametrically from each other. Their marriage is an example of the two thoroughly incompatible partners tied into a matrimonial knot. The Headmaster is a visionary. He is above the lure of money. He voluntarily renounces his claim over his father’s property. As an idealist, he runs a children’s school. He does not have any mercenary motive in running this school. It is rather a mission of his life. He is a creator in the world of children whom he teaches to make wonderful pieces of creation i.e. images of animals and birds with clay and paper.

In this genuine anxiety for the continuation of his school even after his death in terms of a prediction, he goes to Krishnan’s house to request him to keep the school going. He says to him, “Will you look after the school? See that it goes on atleast till the present set of children live there. Please promise.” This idealism of the Headmaster is not appreciated or understood by his wife. Hence, both of them live as strangers to each other. Such an unmatched marriage is bound to end in a disaster as it does in this novel. The married life of Krishnan and Susila is in contrast with the married life of the Headmaster and his wife. The previous is an ideal one whereas the latter is the worst one.

To sum up, Susila stands the most over-powering and towering woman character in the novel. All other women recede into background before her. The magnitude and dignity of her individuality are conspicuously impressive. She presents the model of a pleasing, charming and lovable woman. She receives admiration for her genial temperament and marvellous adjustability. Despite her being homely and unassuming, she is one of the mentionable female characters portrayed by Narayan in his various novels. She is an idealised conception of a middle-class Indian woman who represents a harmonious embodiment of modernity and tradition at peace with each other. Shantha Krishnaswamy sums up Susila’s charismatic personality thus:

She is the gentle mistress of her household, a sort of Eve in the Garden of Eden before the Fall. She is thrice blessed indeed for she has the love of her family, her child and her husband. Because, she loves intensely, all around her is lovable and even her little tiffs with Krishnan are full of poetry. – Susila is a remarkable heroine in Indian fiction, credible enough to be the girl next door whom everybody would love.

While Susila serves as an agent of romantic sensibility, Savitri is the agent for the author’s quest for psychological insight and awareness of the plight of the unfortunate Indian woman who has neither the strength of will nor the economic and educational opportunities to withstand unfair male aggression. When Ramani adds philandering with Shanta Bai, pretty vamp of a colleague in his office, to the long list of petty tyrannies, Savitri feels desperate to think of suicide. She is, unlike Susila, a pathetic figure, not the symbol of purity and growth but of insecurity, isolation, fear and vulnerability. Herein lies the glaring contrast between Savitri in The Dark Room and Susila.

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