Show how the story though Indian in context is quintessentially human also. Discuss.
Narayan has, on occasions, been criticized for focusing on middle-class urban India in his stories, thereby excluding the poor of rural India who continue to make up the vast majority of the Indian population. But Narayan’s purpose as a storyteller has never been to educate the non-Indian reader about India. So although we can learn specific things about village life in India from this story, it isn’t about Indian problems or about Indian sensibilities as such. While what happens in “A Horse and Two Goats” is accurate to the particular of the Indian experience, it deliberately deals with themes that are quintessentially human, also. William Walsh has suggested it is a story about misunderstanding, a story about the gap between supposed and real understanding, a story about the element of incomprehension in human relationships.
“A Horse and Two Goats” is typical of Narayan’s pre-Modernist, village storyteller style of writing. In a deceptively simple, linear narrative Narayan unfolds the story of Muni, an old goatherd. In keeping with his usual narrative formula, Narayan carefully follows Muni as he goes about his daily, frequently humiliating existence—eating his meagre breakfast, visiting the local shopkeeper in a typically unsuccessful attempt to get a few items of food on credit, and then taking his two scraggy goats to graze near the foot of the horse statue at the edge of the village. He spends the rest of his day crouching in the shade offered by the clay horse, or watching the traffic pass on the highway.
This is where the comedy of misunderstanding takes over. After initially thinking he is being questioned about a crime by the khaki-clad foreigner, whom he assumes must be either a policeman or a soldier, Muni concludes that the man wants to buy his goats. Meanwhile the red-faced American, assuming the Tamil peasant owns the clay horse statute, which to the villagers, as Muni explains, “is our guardian, it means death to our adversaries,” sets about trying to buy it, so he can take it back to the United States to decorate his living room: “I’m going to keep him right in the middle of the room . .. we’ll stand around him and have our drinks.”
Narayan does a very good job depicting the relationships of long married couples. In just a few lines he can make us understand their lives. Maybe there was a time when the man was the boss but those times are long gone. Muni’s main occupation now is taking his goats for long walks where they can hopefully find something to eat. His wife tells him not to come back until the goats are fed and he knows if he is gone long enough she would find some way to put together a meal for him. If he stays out longer maybe she would be in a good mood when he gets home.