Explain the cultural clash i.e. east vs west as shown in the short story A Horse and Two Goats by R. K. Narayan.
The cultural difference between Muni and the American has probably been the greatest theme of the story A Horse and Two Goats. Narayan has depicted this clash of East vs West through the use of humour instead of seriousness.
Muni is a common villager from Tamil Nadu, India. He knows only two English words ‘yes’ and ‘no’. He has no education and is superstitious about almost every aspect of life. He has never stepped beyond his own village, leading him ignorant of the outer world altogether like most other villagers. He has submitted to his fate and leads a life full of hunger and poverty grazing his two goats and shaking down drumsticks from the tree. While he waits under the horse statue, he stares at the cars going down the highway. His only concern in life seems to earn the day’s bread somehow and be happy, though he has a dream of setting up a small shop someday by selling his goats.
On the other hand, the foreigner was well-educated and affluent. He came to India on a tour with his wife Ruth. He was driving a station wagon, something which Muni had never come across in his life. The man was courteous to Muni, offered him cigarette and lit it, offered to chop woods for him and even showed interest in his pets. When he asked Muni, “Have you any religious or spiritual scruples against English speech?”, it showed his respect for different opinions and cultures. He also displayed his good taste for arts in his willingness to buy the clay horse and take it home even by cancelling his air ticket.
In the conversation, the man revealed his lifestyle that was in immense contrast with that of Muni. The American speaks English and the native speaks Tamil, leading to a troubled conversation. The man was talking about the day when they had a power cut and he had spent four hours without air-conditioning. He had no idea about a common Indian’s way of life full of poverty, hunger, bad weather, corruption, illiteracy, ignorance and superstition.
The climax occurs when Muni thought that the man was offering one hundred rupees for his goats and the man thought that he had successfully bought the clay horse from Muni. Though they thought that they were getting along well, they never really could communicate with each other for their linguistic difference. So they remained ignorant of each-other’s way of life. One had almost all that the modern life had to offer, and the other was still ignorant of this advancement of the human civilization.
To conclude, the two characters of the story could not have been more different and has very well revealed the cultural clash of the two different regions on earth.
The author has depicted the clash of culture between the east and the west through Muni, a rural Indian shepherd and the red-faced foreigner. A stark contrast is seen in education, knowledge, understanding, the standard of living and financial conditions of Muni and the foreigner.
The American was a well-educated man who had his own coffee trade while Muni did not receive any formal education but was well-versed with the knowledge and values about his culture. Despite being educated, the American did not value books, he was a member of five book clubs but was perfectly okay about shifting his bookshelf to the back in order to make place for a mere piece of decoration (a horse statue).
The American took the horse statue as just a piece of decoration while Muni valued it for its cultural significance.
The American was wealthy and could easily afford to spend a hundred rupees over a statue while Muni could not even afford the basic necessities of life. he was in debt to the grocery shop owner for five and quarter rupees. even in his affluent days, Muni’s lifestyle could not match up to the American’s.
Even if Muni and the American could understand each other’s words, they would not be able to understand each other’s worlds.