Explain the theme of education, ignorance, knowledge and wisdom as shown in the short story A Horse and Two Goats by R. K. Narayan.
The theme of education is one of the prominent ones in R. K. Narayan’s short story ‘A Horse and Two Goats’. To express this theme the author has presented two persons from two different social and cultural spheres. The American man is well-educated in the conventional sense and leads a life full of luxury and high expectations. On the other hand, Muni is a poor Tamil villager from India who has no formal education due to his lower caste in a society where only Brahmins can attend school.
Though Muni has not gone to a school, he has learnt the stories of Ramayana and Mahabharata listening to the speakers at the temple. He is well aware of his culture and his own position in the society through his life experiences. But he has not gone beyond his own village and is totally unaware of the vast world outside. However he likes to watch the buses and trucks going down the highway to have a “sense of belonging to a larger world”. He also has a dream of setting up a small shop some day by selling his goats. So, this poor villager, though illiterate in the conventional way and unaware of the outside world, does have a sense of belonging and has not given up hope of a better life someday. His ignorance is not due to his own fault, but he is a mere victim of the societal norms.
On the other hand, the foreigner has had full benefit of American education and enjoys what this modern life has to offer. But it seems that his education has given him knowledge and wealth but not necessarily wisdom. It appears that he somewhat shows off his affluent lifestyle in his mention of air-conditioning and air-ticket to a man who has not even had electricity. He regards books as mere objects when he says “you know I love books and am a member of five book clubs, and the choice and bonus volumes mount up to a pile in our living room”. But there is no evidence that he bears the values written inside those books.
Though we see his courtesy in offering Muni cigarette, offering to chop wood for him and showing interest in his pets, it was rather to make his job easy in buying the horse. And on his trip to India to “look at other civilizations”, he didn’t seem to be looking at India at all. Though the language difference played the spoilsport, we don’t really see his genuine interest in knowing Muni’s socio-economic condition. Rather he was complaining of spending four hours without air-conditioning and exalting in the thought of his hobby of cutting woods for the fireplace.
Again the man was expecting Muni to know English when he himself probably knew nothing but English. He was unaware that the hundred rupee note he could spend so easily on a showpiece could mean a whole new life to a man like Muni. He will probably not know in his entire life the cultural and economic difference between he and the man he was conversing with. So, his aim of looking at other civilisations remains a failure, though he is not wise enough to understand that.
Thus the author shows that formal education can give knowledge but not always wisdom. He also portrays how common people in rural India are deprived of the blessings of education and forced to lead a life full of ignorance, superstition, poverty and hunger.