The Roman Image by R.K Narayan

In The Roman Image we meet the Talkative Man who tells his story of a time when a very famous archaeologist came to Malgudi and the Talkative Man tactfully got himself a job as an assistant to the archaeologist. The archaeologist, as the Talkative Man tells us, possessed an inexplicable feeling of rivalry with the discoverers of  Mohenjodaro and such other places. His greatest desire was to have monopoly of the earliest known civilization and place it where he chose.

The  Talkative Man discovers a statue which turns out to be of a Roman king and according to the archaeologist its discovery in India would alter not only the the course of Indian history but as well as World history forever. Together they worked extremely hard and prepared a report. Now the Talkative Man would become famous and his role as an assistant to this famous archaeologist would be being mentioned in the university circles. He would even get offers for university positions.

Before the final report is to be submitted the archaeologist sends him for a final measurement of the place where the Roman statue was found. There he meets a local who tells him that this statue is one of the statues situated at the door of a shrine. The local takes him to the hamlet where these statues are made.He goes back and tells this to the archaeologist who goes into a fit of rage and tells him to destroy all their research papers. He pays the Talkative Man his two months of salary and leaves.

“…inexplicable feeling of rivalry with the discoverers of  Mohenjodaro and such other places. His greatest desire was to have monopoly of the earliest known civilization and place it where he chose.”

The lines quoted above for the archaeologist  by the Talkative Man can  be seen as Narayan’s commentary on the Talkative Man who in the other stories will always situate himself at a greater position than what his present situation looks like. For example in The Snake Song though his current position is that of an agent of a fertilizer company  he tells his story which situates him as a master of music who could charm snakes. While in The Tiger Claw  after witnessing the dead  tiger which was killed by a group of hunters with gun he tells his story where he had fought the same tiger with his bare hands.

Here in this tale while speaking about the archaeologist (who is a figment of his imagination as well as his other adventures- the tiger fighting and snake charming), he is unconsciously revealing his inner nature.

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