Synopsis of A Horse and Two Goats by R.K. Narayan from Treasure Trove

Synopsis of A Horse And Two Goats by R.K. Narayan

About The Author of A Horse and Two Goats

R.K. Narayan was an Indian writer best known for his short stories set in the fictional South Indian town of Malgudi. He was born on 10th October 1906, in the then Madras. His full name was Rasipuram Krishnaswami Iyer Narayanswami. He was the leading author along with Mulk Raj Anand and Raja Rao. Graham Greene was his friend and mentor. He was also instrumental in getting publishers for Narayan's books which included Swami and Friends, The Bachelor of Arts and The English Teacher. Narayan's The Financial Expert was known as one of the original works of 1951. He won Sahitya Academy Award for The Guide which was adapted for film. His style was simple, easy and highlighted the social context and everyday life of his characters. There is humour and pity in his stories. In his career of sixty years, he won many awards and honours including the AC Benson Medal from the Royal Society of Literature, the Padma Bhushan and the Padma Vibhushan, India's third and second highest civilian awards. He was also nominated to the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of India's Parliament. He died in the year 2001 on 13th May at the age of 94.

Summary of A Horse and Two Goats

The story opens with a clear picture of the poverty in which the protagonist Muni lives. Only one Big House out of thirty houses in the village is made up of brick. The others including Muni are made up of bamboo's thatch, straw, mud and other materials. There is no running water or electricity supply. Muni's wife cooked food over a fire in a mud pot. One day Muni has shaken down six drumsticks from the tree growing in front of his house and asks his wife to prepare them in a sauce for him. She agrees, provided he can get the other ingredients like rice, dhaal, spices, oil and potato. Muni has not been so poor since the beginning. Once he owned a flock of forty sheep and goats which he used to graze every day. But years of drought, famine and an epidemic had destroyed all and he is left with only two goats. And because he belongs to a lower caste, he was never allowed to go to school. He and his wife have no children to take care of them in their old age. They run their house from the odd jobs his wife does at the big house. Muni has taken so much credit from every shop that when he asks for the ingredients his wife requires for cooking the drumsticks, he is refused. There is nothing in the house to cook so his wife asks him to fast till evening and graze the goats. Muni goes to his usual place on the outskirts where he would sit on the pedestal of the old horse statue and his goats meandered. The horse statue is made up of clay and is brightly coloured.

 As Muni waits for the evening, he notices a yellow coloured wagon from which a red-faced American wearing khaki gets down and asks him for a nearby gas station. Then he notices the statue and exclaims Marvelous'. Muni mistakes him as a policeman or a soldier and he wants to run away but finds it difficult due to his old age. The two starts conversing in their own language without understanding each other. The American offers him a cigarette and then gives him his business card which Muni thinks to warrant card. He gives an innocent explanation that he knows nothing about the crime the man is investigating. American put forth his desire to buy the horse statue as he thinks Muni is the owner of it. The two talk about their own life. Muni tells him about the statue what his father and grandfather had told him. The American listens with fascination and appreciates his sound. Muni tells him that he has never been to school and only Brahmins went to school in those days, therefore, he doesn't know Parangi language. He further describes the horse as their guardian. At this the American replies that he assures that the statue will have the best home in the U.S.A.

This way trying to understand each other's language, they continued their conversation. Ultimately, the American waved a hundred rupee note and hand it over to Muni. Muni thinks it is an offer for the goats. He happily runs back home leaving his goats. But his wife suspects him of theft and threatens to leave him. On the other hand, the American gets the help to detach the horse from its pedestal and place it in his station wagon.

Theme of A Horse and Two Goats

The story is about a misunderstanding between an Indian and an American. A major theme is the clash of cultures as exhibited by the wealthy American and the poor Hindu, Muni. The main focus is on miscommunication. Narayan used humour in place of anger to demonstrate how the two worlds are entirely different from each other: the two cultures exist in the same time and space but speak different languages either literally or metaphorically. The two main characters in the story are equally different: Muni is a poor, rural, illiterate, Hindu, dark-complexioned whereas the American is wealthy, urban, educated, Christian and white. Behaving like a religious man, Muni accepts his fate while the American is willing and determined to take major steps to change his life. Both are unaware of each other's lifestyle.

The inability to understand one another's language leads only to confusion but does not harm anyone. Both the men are dissatisfied conversing with each other but still finds company while talking. Each gives details of his life without realizing that the other hears and understands nothing. At the end of their meeting, each man gets what he wants or needs without any loss. The selection of words is mind-blowing. While the reader may find this conflict painful at times, but it's amusing altogether. One can say that it's a fine example of a comic masterpiece.

Character Sketches from A Horse and Two Goats

Character Sketch of Muni

He is the protagonist of the story. He is old and extremely poor. But he had not always been poor. He had a large flock of sheep and goats but fortunes declined and now he was left only with two goats. He and his wife had no source of income and besides they had no children to take care of them in old age. His usual work was to set out every day to graze his goats on the outskirts of the town whereas his wife earned something by doing different jobs in the big house. While the goats meandered along to the foot of the horse statue on the edge of the village, he sat on its pedestal for the rest of the day and crouched under its belly for shade. There he remembers his olden days when the life was tough but they were never short of food. He was uneducated and illiterate because he was not Brahmin and only Brahmins were supposed to acquire education. Overall he created humour in the whole story through his accents and assumptions.

Character Sketch of The American

The American was a businessman who entered the story when Muni was grazing his goats on the outskirts of the town. He wore Khaki and gave Muni the impression of a policeman or a soldier. He knew only the English language but expected Muni to speak the same language. He was annoyed to know that Muni could speak only Tamil. His entry was symbolic of a new culture displaying Western culture. He was wealthy in contrast with Muni. He was very well acquainted with the fact that he was in the remotest of the Indian villages, still, he was looking for the gas station and English speaking people. He wanted to own the thing whatever he liked without giving a second thought. He wanted to own the horse statue as a souvenir for his living room at any cost and thought Muni as the owner of the statue by the way Muni was sitting on its pedestal. He knew that nobody could understand his language still he listened to Muni very seriously but very well acquainted with the fact that money would solve all the problems. He was a materialistic man who had no value for the cultural or religious importance of the statue.

Character Sketch of The Shop man 

A shopman is a man whose mood swings frequently. He has given Muni food on credit in the past but now is no more willing to lend him anything as Muni has passed his limit. Muni owes him five rupees too which is a great amount. Sometimes they share a bit of humorous conversation, but apart from this, they have no more connection. He sends him back disappointed when his wife asks for some ingredients to prepare drumsticks.

Character Sketch of The Wife

Muni's wife has lived with him since they were children. Neither of them was sure about their ages. They had spent years through prosperity and poverty. She was somewhat irritated with him now and had grown tired of him, but cared also. She was a typical Indian woman who was ready to cook whatever her husband wanted. At times she scolded him also. Her temper was manageable. She wanted to fulfil his request for a special meal. She worked hard in the big house as he did, or harder. She picked up odd jobs as grinding corn, sweeping, scrubbing, for buying foodstuff. In fact, she was not dependent on Muni but Muni was dependent on her. She was ready to do as much work as she could for her living but was against earning the money by unfair means. Poverty had drained her down as she accused Muni of stealing after seeing a hundred rupees and threatened to leave the house.


dotting - mark with dots;
grandiose - imposing:
subcontinent - a large landmark forming a part of the continent;
gorgeous - beautiful, attractive;
gargoyles - a water spout in the form of a grotesque carved face on a building:
balustrade - a row of short pillars supporting a rail or coping:
sallied - set out on a journey;
pedestal - a base supporting a column or statue;
crook - a hooked stick;
snapped - break;
foliage - leaves;
avenue - a wide road;
faggots - a tied bundle of sticks or twigs;
dawn - the first light of the day, the beginning:
millet - a cereal plant;
tethered – tied to a spot with a rope or chain;
triumph - a great victory;
precisely - exactly;
upturned - upside down;
ails – make or become ill;
inordinately - excessively:
humour - the quality of being amusing;
debt - something owed;
mumbled – spoke indistinctly;
sneered - made a scornful remark or expression;
famine - extreme scarcity of food;
parapet - a low wall along the edge of a balcony or a bridge;
unobtrusively - not making oneself noticed:
recoup - regain;
fatigue - tiredness;
conjure - summon, evoke;
unleashing - releasing:
weird - uncanny, bizarre;
accosted - approached and spoke to;
cronies - companion;
lounging - sitting;
hailed - an expression of greeting:
summoned - ordered to appear in a law court;
progeny - generation;
meandered - wandered in a leisurely way;
crouch - stoop low with knees tightly bent;
prancing - moving springily;
scythe - a tool with a curved blade on a long handle for cutting long grass;
aquiline - curved like an eagle's beak;
vandals - a person who damages things willfully:
gashed – long deep cut;
lewd - treating sexual matters vulgarly;
scrounge - borrow;
sputtered - a spluttering sound:
fidgeted – made small restless movements;
slanderers - a false statement made by the people to damage one's reputation;
gainsay - to deny:
inquisitor - curious;
scruples - doubtful;
pinioned – restraint by holding;
obscure - uncertain;
famished - extremely hungry;
ruminated - think deeply.

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