The Blind Dog, R. K. Narayan: Summary & Analysis

'The Blind Dog' is a captivating story from the renowned collection of short stories, Malgudi Days, written by the esteemed Indian author R. K. Narayan (1906-2001). This poignant tale revolves around a blind beggar who forms an unlikely bond with a stray dog. The beggar cleverly harnesses the dog's ability to navigate through the town, but in doing so, he deprives the dog of its freedom.

The Setting: Malgudi, an Imaginary Town

Malgudi, a fictional town invented by Narayan, is believed to be situated somewhere in southern India, possibly near Chennai (formerly Madras), the birthplace of the author. However, there are also traces of Mysore, the town where Narayan spent a significant part of his adult life.

Summary of the Story

At the heart of 'The Blind Dog' is a blind beggar who frequents a particular area of the city where vendors gather to sell their goods. Every day, he positions himself there, relying on the generosity of passers-by. The beggar shares a dwelling with an elderly woman who kindly provides him with a place to stay.

One fateful day, a stray dog forms an unexpected alliance with the blind beggar. The dog proves to be a valuable companion, defending the beggar when a mischievous boy attempts to steal from his begging bowl, a recurring incident that transpires every Thursday. The dog's intervention scares off the boy, ensuring the beggar's safety.

Tragedy strikes when the elderly woman who cared for the beggar passes away. In her absence, the dog steps in as a surrogate caretaker, offering companionship and support. A market vendor suggests a novel idea to the blind man: placing the dog on a leash, enabling him to navigate the town with the help of his loyal canine companion.

This arrangement proves fruitful for the beggar as the dog becomes his 'eyes,' leading him to encounter a wider range of townspeople. The beggar's increased interactions result in a surge of alms and financial gains.

The Cost of Freedom

Regrettably, the newfound arrangement comes at a steep price—the dog's freedom. Now bound to the blind man, the dog loses its autonomy and can no longer roam freely. The beggar's treatment of the dog begins to deteriorate, subjecting it to harsh treatment, including violent pulls and kicks when it fails to meet his expectations.

Witnessing the beggar's mistreatment, the compassionate market traders decide to take action. One day, a vendor cuts the leash with a pair of scissors, liberating the dog from its captor. Overjoyed by its regained freedom, the dog scampers away, leaving the beggar to face a bleak future.

A Cycle of Forgiveness and Cruelty

However, hunger drives the dog back to the beggar's side, its ribs protruding from malnourishment. The beggar, despite the dog's desertion, forgives its absence and decides to take even stricter measures to prevent another escape. He replaces the old lead with an unyielding steel chain, ensuring the dog's inability to flee.

The story concludes on a somber note, with little hope for the dog's improved treatment. Observing the beggar's continued cruelty, one of the vendors remarks that death may be the only deliverance for the suffering dog.

Analysis of 'The Blind Dog'

'The Blind Dog' explores the theme of mutual interdependence through the relationship between a blind beggar and a stray dog. The dog relies on the beggar for sustenance, while the blind man depends on the dog as his guide. However, the beggar abuses this relationship, mistreating the dog and preventing it from escaping. Only extreme hunger compels the dog to reluctantly return to its master.

One interpretation of the story is to view it as an allegory for capitalism and the worker-employer relationship. The blind man represents the employer who restricts the dog's freedom, symbolizing the way workers are bound to their employers. In exchange for their servitude, workers receive basic necessities, while the employer benefits from their labor.

This allegory gains further significance when considering the story's setting, which takes place within the marketplace among traders and vendors. It underscores the economic dynamics at play.

When the bond between the blind man and the dog is severed, the dog struggles to survive independently and ultimately returns to its enslaver due to fear of starvation.

Expanding on this allegorical interpretation, it becomes evident that the employer, the blind man, exploits this relationship of mutual dependence. While companies rely on their workers for their operations and success, owners often resist sharing their profits equitably. They expect workers to be grateful for the mere provision of survival and protection against starvation.

Yet, businesses and owners ultimately need their workers. Without them, they are figuratively 'blind,' unable to navigate society or generate income, similar to the blind man who cannot earn money through begging without the dog's guidance.

It is worth noting the title choice of 'The Blind Dog' since the dog in the story can see, while the beggar is blind. This may allude to the proverbial expression of 'the blind leading the blind.' The dog is metaphorically 'blind' as it cannot live independently, just as the blind man cannot survive on his own due to his disability.

'The Blind Dog' serves as a thought-provoking narrative that invites readers to consider the dynamics of power, interdependence, exploitation, and the consequences of withholding fair compensation within the worker-employer relationship.

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