The central theme of the novel is growing up of young Swami. He is a spontaneous, impulsive, mischievous and yet a very innocent child. His character is a child in the fullest sense of the world. Through Swami’s eyes the reader gets to peak in to the pre-independence days in South India. The life portrayed in the novel is accurate in its description of the colonial days – the uprisings, the rebellions, the contempt and the reverence the natives had for their subjugator, together with varied elements that have become one, such as cricket and education.
Unlike many colonial and post-colonial writers Narayan does not directly attack or criticize the colonial system, although elements of gentle criticism and irony directed towards the colonial system, are scattered through out Swami and Friends and all his other novels. He has rather directed his creativity at depicting the life of the people at the time. It is almost as if he is charmed by these unsophisticated and simple, yet eccentric people and their lives. It is unclear if he refrained from an all out attack on the British colonial system out of choice or reverence. But it seems at this point in his career, (and during this particular point of India’s history), when he is starting out as an author, he would write to the English speaking audience in India and for the vast audience abroad. Hence it would be folly to attack the very system that would sustain him as a novelist, his career of choice. Asked about why he was unbothered about the prevailing political crisis and other happenings during the time, Narayan replied in an interview thus ” When art is used as a vehicle for political propaganda, the mood of comedy, the sensitivity to atmosphere, the probing of psychological factors, the crisis of the individual soul and its resolution and above all the detached observation which constitutes the stuff of fiction is forced into the background.” Beyond this, he also had tremendous regard for the English language and literature as an aesthetic past time, and was not blind to its value in that regard.
The absence of criticism on the colonial system maybe also due to the fact that Narayan simply believed the colonizer and the colonized could live together in harmony, benefiting each other. Most Englishmen and the natives certainly seem to do so in his novels, such as Mr Retty (Swami and Friends) and Matheison (Waiting for the Mahatma). The rice mill owner Mr Retty was “the most Indianized of the ‘Europeans’….and was the mystery man of the place: nobody could say who he was or where he had come from: he swore at his boy and his customers in perfect Tamil and always moved about in shirt, shorts and sandaled feet.” Mr Matheison feels strongly for Indians and considers himself Indian. “You see, it is just possible I am as much attached to this country as you are.” Only Mr Brown seems to be the ‘black sheep’ in this regard. His Western mind is only capable of “classifying, labeling and departmentalizing…” And the gentle criticism and irony directed towards him was in the same way directed towards his fellow countrymen. In his mind British or Indian, they were all human beings with prejudices, follies, errors, kindness and goodness, each in varying degrees.
and Friends is an Indian book written in English published in 1935. The work was the first novel ever published by the famous Indian author R. K. Narayan. Narayan’s friend, Graham Greene, recommended his manuscript to a publisher, and it was finally published by Hamish Hamilton in 1935. The original title of Swami and Friends was Swami the Tate, but it was changed during the publishing process to Swami and Friends likely so that it could have more literary identification with Rudyard Kipling’s Stalky & Co (1899) and thus appear more marketable as part of a sub-genre of English schoolboy fiction. The novel is the first of a trilogy of novels. The second is entitled The Bachelor of Arts and the third The English Teacher. The trilogy, which counts among his earlier fiction, focuses largely on problematic social practices, such as the institution of schooling and culture of punishme
Main thing is “Friendship” and how kids react differently to the different situations. I love the story. Swami is a little boy who has a good heart but little bit a coward. Think it’s same for all the kids in that age. Swami loves his friends and ready to anything for them but his cowardliness and bad temper made the trick every time. Anyway think the most important thing in that story is simpleness. Swami is a normal boy who can find in every country and every time. He doesn’t have anything special but I think the author should give him a chance. Though he is a good cricket player he hasn’t got a chance to show it to others and it seems the only special skill he has.