Third-Person Multiple Point of View
Narayan’s ‘‘Forty-Five a Month’’ is written in what is known as the third person, a method of storytelling in which the narration is conducted by a person outside the action of the story. The narrator in ‘‘Forty-Five a Month,’’ for example, informs the reader of what Shanta is doing, but the narrator is not Shanta. In ‘‘Forty-Five a Month,’’ the narrator tells the story in the third person, but from the limited viewpoint of two characters: first Shanta, then Venkat Rao. The viewpoint is said to be multiple, in that it involves more than one character, and it is a limited point of view in that the narrator confines the storytelling to what Shanta thinks, experiences, and observes, and then what Venkat Rao thinks, experiences, and observes. If the narrator was omniscient, or all-knowing, rather than telling the story from a limited point of view, the narrator would also comment freely on the thoughts, experiences, and observations of any or all characters in the story and on overarching issues related to the story’s social or cultural context. An omniscient narrator may discuss things that none of the characters have any knowledge of. The narrator in ‘‘Forty-Five a Month’’ does not make such remarks. The narration is limited to Shanta’s point of view and that of her father. Narayan’s choice of this type of narration allows the tension between his two main characters, Shanta and Venkat, to be fully exposed and carefully explored.
Narayan’s style in ‘‘Forty-Five a Month’’ is characteristic of many of his writings. He realistically portrays intimate family relationships within the context of urban, working-class, everyday life in an Indian community. This realism is conveyed in straightforward prose and enhanced through the many details Narayan offers. Narayan lists the lessons Shanta has been involved with in school. He describes the way she is currently occupied with cutting paper, an activity she quickly grows bored with, as evidenced by the fact that she throws her scissors down and runs to the teacher, insisting she must go home. Such details—the list of activities, the colored paper, the scissors being thrown—appear trivial but contribute to the reader’s ability to visualize the scene Narayan sets. Other descriptions also convey a sense of realism and at the same time speak to the environment in which Shanta is growing up. Narayan describes the way Shanta stores precious scraps of ribbons and lumps of chalk in a cardboard soap box. The fact that such apparently worthless items are treasured is significant, as is the fact that the treasures are stored in a box that previously had such a mundane use. These details imply that the Rao family is not very well off, financially. A trip to the cinema, therefore, is indeed the prize that Shanta’s actions suggest it is. Her father’s comments support the idea that taking his daughter to see a movie would go a long way toward pleasing a girl who does not have a lot of other joys in her life. In fact, from Venkat Rao’s point of view, his daughter is ‘‘growing up all alone and like a barbarian more or less.’’ Narayan’s simple, honest tone; the descriptive details; and the commonplace, universally appealing subject matter (a man’s struggle to provide for his family) all contribute to the realism of the story.
Sara Constantakis – Short Stories for Students – Presenting Analysis, Context & Criticism on Commonly Studied Short Stories, vol. 29, R. K. Narayan, Published by Gale Group, 2001.