Humour created by language difference in the story A Horse and Two Goats.

QuestionsHumour created by language difference in the story A Horse and Two Goats.
Samuel asked 7 years ago

In the story A Horse and Two Goats by R. K. Narayan, way of life and language differed between Muni and the Red Man but they got along well and their conversation creates a lot of humour. Elaborate.

Or, The story ‘A Horse and Two Goats’ deals with the misunderstandings between an Indian and an American. Discuss.

Or, Comment on the linguistic problem created between Muni and the American.

Or, Comment on the role of language presented by R. K. Narayan.

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1 Answers
Staff answered 7 years ago

R. K. Narayan has depicted in his story how the cultural and linguistic difference between two men can create a humorous situation. Muni, a common Tamil villager in India who knows only two words in English – ‘yes’ and ‘no’ meets by chance an affluent  American, a ‘red-faced man’, who has come on a tour here.

The red-faced man was driving a station wagon. It stopped near where Muni was sitting under the clay-horse. The red-faced man got down and asked Muni “Excuse me, is there a gas station nearby, or do I have to wait until another car comes –“. Then the man looked up at the clay horse and cried “Marvellous!” twice. Muni didn’t understand anything and got frightened. He took the stranger to be a policeman or a soldier by his khaki dress and wanted to run away, but could not. He was afraid that the man might chase or shoot him if he ran.

When the stranger greeted him saying “Namaste! How do you do?”, Muni merely uttered “yes, no”. Then Muni went on to give his introduction in Tamil language which the man couldn’t understand. When the man offered Muni a cigarette, he received it with surprise. When the man offered him a light, he blew it on and put it out, being confused. When the man offered him his card, Muni thought it to be an arrest warrant and shrank away from it. He knew that a murder had been committed nearby a few weeks before and thought that the policeman might be looking for the culprit.

Muni pleaded the man to go away as he did not know anything of the murder and promised that he would catch the bad character for him if he found. He assured that their village had always had a clean record, so it must be the other village. The foreigner understood nothing but listened courteously and nodded his head.

Thus, neither of the two could understand what the other was saying. Both of them tried to guess the topic by following the other’s finger direction, look or the physical objects like the card. In the process, both of them ended up revealing their personal life, key concerns and their cultural difference. Interestingly, while only the readers get to know about the two characters’ identities and concerns, they themselves don’t actually understand anything about each other. And this is where the fun comes from. It makes the conversation humorous and enjoyable, building the curiosity at the same time.

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Most funny situations were created when Muni thought the card to be an arrest warrant and when he puts out the light with a blow. Again when Muni was talking about punishing the thieves, the foreigner thought that Muni was talking about chopping woods with an axe and went on to remember how he loves this job every Sunday.

The man pointed to the clay horse and wanted to know about it. He found it a great work of art and wanted to buy it and take home. He even guessed it that Muni was its owner, by the way he was sitting under it. By the man’s gestures, Muni knew that he was interested in the horse and started his story of how the horse would come to life and carry away the good people after the Kali Yuga ends and the world gets destroyed. By this time, Muni was at ease with the stranger and he was not really aware that the red-faced man was unable to understand him. He also asked about his offspring and the man knew by the tone that it was a question. So he thought that Muni was asking about the price he could offer and answered “I said a hundred”.

When the man offered him a one-hundred rupee note for the horse, Muni realized that some financial element was entering their talk. He thought that the man was asking for change of a thousand or ten-thousand-rupee note and so directed him to go to the village chief instead. He also expressed disgust for the chief who hoards money by deceiving people.

When he was talking about his goats entering the chief’s garden, he pointed to the goats by his finger. The red-faced thought that it would be a good strategy to show interest in the old-man’s pets to impress him and buy the horse-statue easily. But humorous enough, Muni concluded that the man was offering the money for his goats whom he had reared up in the hope of selling them and opening a small shop with the capital.

Muni took the money and went away. The foreigner thought that he was going to fetch some people to help him carry the clay-horse onto the car. After waiting for a long time, the man went off with the help of a passing truck.

The fun doesn’t end here. When Muni reaches home, his wife is surprised seeing a hundred-rupee note and accuses him of theft. Muni tells her that he has sold the goats to a red-faced man for that price. But the next moment the goats come back to their home and confuses both, leading his wife to suspect him more.

So, we see that though none of the men could understand each other, they got along well by their guesswork. Though the readers know that they were talking about subjects different than the other suggested or showed interest in, they themselves were not aware of it. The foreigner thought that Muni was replying his questions in his own language and Muni thought that the man was in line with what he was saying. And this created a lot of humour. Moreover the language difference plays a great role in drawing out the real characters of the two major figures in the story. And the author very carefully portrays the difference of socio-economic and cultural position of the two persons in two different regions on earth.

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