Swami and Friends

Swami and Friends Symbols, Allegory and Motifs

Geography (Symbol)

Geography is one of the subjects that Swami and his classmates learn at school, and they spend a lot of time memorizing the capitals of foreign countries and copying maps. His friend Mani spends many hours copying maps of Europe, India, and Africa in preparation for their exams. Learning geography is an important part in their colonial education in orienting and knowing the world, with Europe at the center. The setting of the novel, the town of Malgudi, is fictional, however, and thus Narayan refuses to map the village.

The Protest (Symbol)

The protest can be argued to represent many things, but first and foremost, it symbolizes the frustration that exists in India because of the colonial presence of the British who dominate the nation as a second-class society. The British represent the broken forces that exist among closed-minded people with economic interests. Among the problems is that India has become chronically poor because its resources are drained by the British.

Cricket (Symbol)

Not only is cricket a reminder of the colonial influence of Britain in India, it is also a symbol of competition, and on the cricket field is where Rajam and Swami actually come to a head. Rajam uses a threat against their friendship in order to control Swami's behavior, but Swami cannot help but feel that it is wrong to skip school so that they can compete. The match represents Rajam's emotionally desperate understanding of "victory" as an important goal. Cricket highlights the conflict between Rajam and Swami and heightens the stakes, ultimately leading to them breaking up.

Escape (Motif)

Escape is a motif that continually resurfaces as Swami escapes from the headmaster in the Albert Mission School and then later at the Board High School. Escape is Swami's usual method of dealing with difficult or painful situations, but he often ends up getting lost, or in a worse situation than before.

The Cane (Symbol)

When the headmaster of Swami's school rejects his request to leave early for his cricket game, Swami becomes angry and throws his cane out of the window. This demonstration is a symbol because the action represents the value of the moment in Swami's real life. The stick becomes a symbol of freedom because the stick goes where Swami wants to go—outside of the walls and hierarchal order of school.