A Hero By R. K. Narayan

Introduction: A Hero is culled from a collection of short stories called Malgudi Days. This is a story about a boy who is afraid to sleep alone but is forced to do so by his father. But at the end of the day he emerges as a hero. Apart from sleeping alone he also catches a thief.

Summary

R. K. Narayan is an Indian writer, novelist and short story writer. Malgudi is a fictional place created by R. K. Narayan. He has beautifully portrayed the child and his psychology. Swami is a timid boy afraid of dreams and ghosts. To save himself from fear he used to sleep with his grandmother during the night. His father wants him to grow up and face life’s challenges courageously. Swami’s father forces him to sleep in his office alone. When Swami sleeps in his father’s office he has nightmares about the ghost and wakes up with a start. At the same time, Swami spots an intruder breaking into the office. Mistaking him for the ghost, Swami grabs the intruder’s leg, bites his ankle and yells for help. The family members catch the thief and hand him over to the police. The police appreciate him and want him to join the police force but Swami wants to work as an Engine driver or Bus conductor. Appreciations shower on him. Swami shows his bravery and gets rid of fear. Humour and irony run throughout the story.

Detailed Summary

The story of ‘A Hero’ is very interesting and entertaining. It deals with the character of Swami, a boy who studies in the second standard. He is the portrayal of the growing up pangs of a boy who despises school, as he makes excuses and roams around Malgudi (fictional place) with his friends. Being a small boy Swami is timid and afraid of dreams and ghosts. To save himself from fear he used to sleep with his grandmother during the night. In his opinion, only aged and strong persons can do wonderful things. His father wants him to grow up and face life’s challenges leaving his cosy zone under the umbrella of parents. Swami, to account for his bravery, sleeps all alone in his father’s office, and wakes up by catching a thief all by his leg. This is an act of bravery makes him a courageous hero.

R. K. Narayan has beautifully portrayed the child and his psychology. This story opens with a lively dialogue between the son and the father. The conversation between the father and the son has been presented in a delightful manner. His father reads an article about the bravery shown by an 8-year old boy who came face to face with a tiger and his flight up a tree where he stayed for half a day on the tree and people came that way killed the tiger and rescued the boy. Swami questions his father, “How could a boy fight a tiger?” Father answers that human can do anything with courage. “Courage is everything, strength and age are not important”. Swami’s father feels that Swami should do something similar. His father then challenges, or rather forces, him to sleep in his office. Though Swami has agreed to sleep in his father’s office it is clear that he is afraid. Swami’s father thinks that Swami needs to grow up and sleep alone without the comfort of sleeping by his grandmother’s side. Swami’s father is not only hoping that he is able to teach Swami a lesson about growing up but he may also be hoping that Swami will develop the independence that he thinks Swami should have.

Swami has two close friends, Mani and Rajam. When Swami tells his friends of the ordeal, his friends warn him about a ghost living near the office. Swami asks his friends for advice on how to escape from his father’s challenge. They tell him to go to bed before his father comes home from work. Swami acts as he has been advised by his friends. He goes to bed and covers himself with a blanket. He starts snoring under the blanket till he finds his blanket being pulled away by the father. Swami stirs and groans as if he is in sleep. Father rolls up his bed and takes Swami to the office to sleep there alone.

Swami’s heart beats faster. He remembers all the stories of devils and ghosts he has heard in his life. Recalls the devil in the banyan tree at his street end; Munisami’s father who spat out blood when ghost slapped his cheek; ticking of the clock, rustle of trees, snoring sounds, and some vague night insects humming frightens Swami. He hurriedly gets up and spreads his bed under the bench and crouches there. Dreamt of a tiger chasing him desperately trying to escape but his feet would not move Swami groans in despair. He opens his eyes but himself lonely, he sweats with fright. He feels something is moving towards the bench. In horror thought that his end has approached, Swami jumps at it hugs it with all his might. He starts biting the person. “Aiyo! Something has bitten me,” comes a loud cry followed by a heavy tumbling and falling amidst furniture. People in the house rush to the office room. And all three of them fell on the burglar who lay amidst the furniture with a bleeding ankle. They catch him and hand him over to the police.

Swami’s actions elevate him to the status of hero. His classmates look at him with respect and his teacher pats his back. He is happy enough to take the adulation he receives from others. The police are grateful to him for helping them to catch the most notorious house breakers of the district. The police want him to join the police force but Swami wants to work as an engine driver or a bus conductor. Though Swami shows his bravery and gets rid of fear he prefers to sleep by his grandmother. The day when Swami’s father returns home at night ironically comments, “No wonder he wants to be asleep before I should return home-clever boy!” Mother having lost her temper replies, “You let him sleep where he likes. You needn’t risk his life again”. Swami following the conversation from under the blanket feels tremendously relieves to hear that his father is giving him up.

Swami’s family is an excellent m representation of a typical Indian family packed with humour. The reader is entertained highly by the utilisation of reader reflection by the characters Swami, his father, mother and grandmother depicted by R.K Narayan. He entertains the readers by the use of characterised family, childish humour and elements of literary and language devices with the twist of irony. R.K Narayan puts a moral through the story that courage is everything, strength and age is not important and that with courage one can do anything courageously. Swami questions his father How a boy can fight a tiger. Father answers that human can do anything with courage. He further says that courage is everything, strength and age are not important.

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Questions and Answers

i. Who draws Swami’s attention to the news in the newspaper?

And. A brave boy draws Swami’s attention to the news in the newspaper. The news in the newspaper was about the bravery of a 8-year old boy who came face to face with a tiger and his flight up the tree where he stayed till the villagers came to rescue him.

ii. What matter does the news in the newspaper convey?
Ans. The news in the newspaper about the bravery of a 8-year old boy who came face to face with a tiger and his flight up a tree where he stayed for half a day on the tree and people came that way killed the tiger and rescued the boy.

iii. Why does Swami’s father compel Swami to sleep in his office alone?
Ans. Swami was frightful to sleep alone. Swami’s father compelled him to sleep alone in his office so as to fight against the fear of darkness. Swami had the habit of sleeping with his granny which his father didn’t like. Swami’s father wanted to test his courage and so he ordered him to sleep in the office alone one night.

iv. How does Swami try to escape from sleeping alone in the office?

Or
What were the attempts made by Swami to escape from sleeping alone?

Ana. What desperate attempts did Swami make to escape from his father?
Ans. Swani was afraid of sleeping alone. When Swami’s Father forced him to sleep alone, Swami thought that he was only joking. He mumbled ‘Yes’ weakly and tried to change the subject by talking about his cricket club. Sami actual tried to escape from his father proposition by trying to Change his father’s mindset.

v. Which place in the office will Swami feel safe?
Ans-Swami thought that it was safer to sleep under the bench as it would be more compact and reassuring.

vi. Who cries “Aiyo! something has bitten me’? Why?
Ans. The intruder or to say the burgler screamed out ‘aiyo! something has bitten me’ because out of fear Swmai bite his legs fearing that it was a demon.

vii. Who congratulates Swami and why?

The police are grateful to him for helping them to catch the most notorious house breakers of the district. His friends treated him with respect and he was being congratulated and praised by the headmaster and the police. He had become a hero that night. He is congratulated by everyone because he had caught themost notorious housebreakers of the district.

viii. How has Swami become a hero?
Answer: Swami became a hero because of his daring act. He catches the most notorious housebreakers of the district. In order to overcome his fear of sleeping alone, Swami’s father makes him sleep at his office. When Swami was sleeping, he got a nightmare of a ghost chasing him and tries to catch hold of it to prevent from harming him.

Reading Comprehension

1. Where did Father ask Swami to sleep that night?
Ans. Swami’s father asked him to sleep in the office room that night.

2. Why could Swami not keep a light burning?
Ans. Swami could not keep a burning light because his father told him that he must learn not to be afraid of darkness.

3. Why could Swami hardly breathe?
Ans. Swami could hardly breathe because he had encased himself in a blanket to shut away all the noises around him.

4. Who did he expect to carry him away?
Ans. Swami expected devils to come up and carry him away at any moment.

5. Which place did Swami think was ‘safer’?
Ans. Swami thought that it was safer to sleep under the bench as it would be more compact and reassuring.

6. Why did Swami feel angry?
Ans. Swami felt angry because his father threatened him that if he rolled up his bed and went to his granny’s side at night, he would make him the laughing stock of his school. Swami was pained and hated the cruel streak in his father’s nature.

7. Why did Swami keep expecting the devil to come and carry him away?
Ans. Swami remembered all the stories of devils and ghosts he had heard. His friend Mani had seen the devil in the banyan treat his street-end and Munisami’s father had spat blood because the devil had slapped his face. So, he expected devils to come and carry him away anytime.

8. Why did he sleep under the bench?
Ans. Swami thought that it was safer to sleep under the bench as it would be more compact and reassuring.

9. Why did his friends treat him with respect the next day?
Ans. His friends treated him with respect the next day because he had caught the most notorious housebreakers of the district and he was being congratulated and praised by the headmaster and the police. He had become a hero that night.

10. What did Swami do the next morning?
Ans. The next evening, Swami went to sleep at seven-thirty itself before his father returned home. He was sleeping next to his grandmother as usual.

Textbook Questions With Answers

Multiple-choice questions

1) Swami’s father was a

a) teacher b) doctor c) lawyer d) police

2) The interesting news that Swami’s father drew his attention was
a) five burglars were arrested
b) a girl met with an accident

c) the bravery of a village lad fought with a tiger

d) a burglar was caught by a little boy

3) The report said that the boy who fought with a tiger stayed on the tree for half –a –day. He did so because

a) He wanted to watch the tiger from the top of a tree.
b) He was coward
c) He wanted someone to kill the tiger.
d) he wanted to take rest for some time.

4) The important thing according to Swami’s father was
a) Courage
b) strength
c) age
d) all of them

5)A frightful proposition according to Swami was

a) sleeping beside granny
b) fighting with a tiger
c) sleeping in the office room alone
d) challenging his father

6) Swami always slept beside

a) his mother

b) his granny

c) his brother

d) his grandfather

7)” From a challenge it had become a command”. What does command refer to here?

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a) killing the tiger
b) sleeping in the office room alone one-night

c) prove the newspaper report wrong
d) catching the burglar

8) The disgraceful thing according to Swami’s father was

a) sleeping beside his granny like a baby
b) arguing with his father

c) being coward
d) sleeping alone in the office room

9)Swami’s grandmother’s practice before she went to bed was
a) telling stories to Swami
b) singing songs for Swami to sleep

c) eating fruits singing a lullaby to Swami d)writing her diary

10) When Swami’s father pulled away Swami’s blanket, he looked like
a) an apparition
b) a brave man
c) burglar
d) a headmaster

11) Swami said that there were scorpions behind the law books. He said so because

a) He saw the scorpions behind the books before
b) the room was dusty
c) he wanted to escape from his father’s command
d) he was afraid of scorpions

12) Swami was supported most by his

a) father
b)granny
c)head master
d) mother

13) Swami thought the safe, compact and the reassuring place in the office room was

a) under the bench b) on the ground c) on the cot d) on the table

14) Swami saw a moving creature in the room. It was

a) his shadow

b) a scorpion

c) a man

d) a devil

15) What did Swami use as a mortal weapon?

a) hands

b) legs

c) teeth

d) stick

16) Congratulations were showered on Swami because

a) he had caught a notorious burglar

b) he slept in the office room alone

c) he found out that courage was important

d) he fought with a tiger

17) Swami was appreciated as a true scout by his

a) class teacher

b) friends

c) father

d) headmaster

18) Swami did not want to be a

a)bus conductor
b) engine driver
c) police
d) railway guard

19) Swami became a hero when he caught the

a) snake

b) ghost

c) tiger

d) burglar

20) Swami’s father wanted him to sleep alone in the office room to

a) be brave
b) test him if he was courageous
c) he disliked him
d) develop good habit

Answer the following in two or three sentences (2 marks questions)

1) Swami’s father drew his attention to a report in the newspaper. What was the report about?

Ans: The newspaper report was about the braver of a village lad who while returning home fought with a tiger. He stayed half a day on the tree till some people came and killed the tiger.

2) What was swami’s comment on the newspaper report? How did his view differ from that of his father?

Ans: Swami commented that the boy cannot kill the tiger and he must be a grown-up person. But Swami’s father commented that anyone who has courage can do anything if he has courage and strength and age are not important.

3) What desperate attempts did Swami make to escape from his father?

Ans: Swami made the following desperate attempts to escape from his father.

1. He tried to change the subject by asking his father to join the cricket club.

2. He requested his father to allow him to sleep in the office room from the next month.

3. He went silently and pretended like sleeping beside his granny.

4. He told his father that there were scorpions behind the law books in the office room

4) Why do you think Swami looked at his granny and his mother while following his father to the office room?

Ans: Swami looked at his granny and his mother while following his father to the office room because he thought they would stop his father taking him to the office room and support him. He did not like to sleep in the office room alone.

5) As silence deepened in the room, what was swami reminded of?

Ans: As silence deepened in the room Swami reminded the stories of devils and ghosts he had heard in his life. For example, His Chum Mani had seen the devil in the banyan tree at his street end and the poor Muniswami’s father spat out blood when the devil slapped him near the river.

6) Why did swami feel that his father’s proposition was frightful?

Ans: Swami thought his proposition was frightful. Because he always slept beside his granny in the passage, and any change in this arrangement kept him awake all the night.

7) There was absolute silence in the room.in spite of it, some noises reached Swami’s ears. What were they?

Ans: In silence in the office room Swami heard some noises –the tickling off the clock, rustle of trees, snoring sounds, and some night insects humming.

8) As night advanced, Swami felt that something terrible would happen to him. What would it be? How would it happen?

Ans: As night advanced, Swami felt that something terrible would happen to him. He thought that the devils would come up to him and carry him away

9) How was Swami honoured by his classmates, teacher and the headmaster?

Ans: His classmates looked at him with respect, and his teacher patted his back. The headmaster said that he was a true scout.

10) Why were congratulations showered on Swami the next day?

Ans: Congratulations were showered on Swami the next day because he had bitten deep into the notorious house breaker of the district and helped the police.

11) Why did father want Swami to sleep alone in the office room?

Ans: Father wanted Swami to sleep alone in the office room because he wanted Swami to sleep alone in the office room and show his courage. He also wanted Swami to leave sleeping beside his granny like a baby and develop a good habit.

12) Why did Swami feel relieved at the end?

Ans: Swami felt relieved at the end because his father gave up the idea of making him sleep alone in the office room thereafter.

13) Do you think Swami really wanted to join the police? If not, what did he want to be?

Ans: Swami did not want to join the police. He wanted to be an engine driver, a railway guard, or a bus conductor later in life.

14) Who do you think was wiser, Swami or his father? Justify your preference.

Ans: I think Swami was wiser because :

1. He tried to change the subject by asking his father to join the cricket club.

2. He requested his father to allow him to sleep in the office room from the next month.

3. He went silently and pretended like sleeping beside his granny.

4. He told his father that there were scorpions behind the law books in the office room.

15) Why did Swami say that there were scorpions behind the law books?

Ans: Swami said that there were scorpions behind the law books because he did not like to sleep in the office room and it was just a trick to escape from his father.

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Extracts(3 marks)

Read the following extracts and answer the questions that follow
1) “Courage is everything, strength and age are not important”

a) Who is the speaker?
Ans: Swami’s father

b) When did the speaker said so?

Ans: When Swami commented that he must have been a grown-up person and not a boy at all.

c) What does the speaker intend to say?

Ans: The speaker intends to say that courage is important and age or strength are not important.

2) ” How can it be father? Suppose I have all the courage what could I do if a tiger should attack me?”

a) Who is the speaker?
Ans: Swami

b) Why did the speaker say so?

Ans: The speaker means that he believes that strength and age are important.

c)How did the response affect him?

Ans: His father challenged him to sleep alone in the office room to show his courage

3) “Leave alone strength, can you prove that you have courage?”
a) Who posed this challenge?
Ans: Swami’s father

b) Did he accept the challenge? If not why?

Ans: No, He did not accept the challenge. It was a frightful proposition for him.

c) Why did the speaker pose this challenge?

Ans: Because Swami commented that Strength and age are important not the courage.

4) “From the first of the next month, I’ll sleep alone father.”

a)Who wanted to sleep alone?

Ans: Swami wanted to sleep alone.

b) Why did he request his father to allow him to sleep alone from the first of next month?

Ans: He requested his father to allow him to sleep from the first of next month only to escape from his father.

c) Where he used to sleep?

Ans: Swami used to sleep with his granny.

5) ” No, you must do it now, It is disgraceful sleeping beside his granny or mother like a baby.”
a) who commanded like this?

Ans: Swami’s father commanded Swami like this.

b) What does ‘it’ refer to here?

Ans: ‘It’ refers to Swami sleeping alone in the office room.

c) What is shameful here?

Ans: Swami slept beside his granny or mother like a baby. It was disgraceful.

6) “Your office room is very dusty and there may be scorpions behind your law books”

a) Who said these words?

Ans: Swami said these words.

b) Why did the speaker complain that there were scorpions in the office room?

Ans: No, There were no scorpions actually. It was just a trick to escape from his father.

c) where did he want to sleep instead?

Ans: He wanted to sleep in the hall.

7) “I’ll make you the laughing stock of your school.”

a) Who does ‘you’ refer to?

Ans: swami

b) Who wanted to make him the laughing stock of his school?

Ans: Swami’s father wanted to make Swami the laughing stock of his school.

c) Why did he say so?

Ans: Because Swami used to sleep beside his granny like a baby.

8)”Aiyo! Something has bitten me,”

a) Who cried ”Aiyo! Something has bitten me?”
Ans: The burglar cried.

b) Why did he make an agonized cry?

Ans: He made an agonized cry as Swami had bitten him.

c) What was the result of the tumbling?

Ans: The burglar fell amidst the furniture with a bleeding ankle.

d) What happened next?

Ans: Swami’s father,

9) “Congratulations were showered on him the next day.”

a) Who was congratulated? Why?

Ans: Swami was congratulated. Because he has bitten the notorious house breaker of the district.

b) What was the act of bravery done by him the previous day?

Ans: He had bitten deep into the flesh of the notorious house breaker.

c)Why was he considered as the true scout?

Ans: Because he had bitten deep into the flesh of the notorious house breaker of the district and helped the police.

Long answer type questions (4 marks)

1) Narrate Swami’s dreadful experience when he was lying in the office room?

Ans: Swami remembered the stories of devils and ghosts he had heard in his life. For example, His friend Mani had seen the devil in the banyan tree and Muniswami’s father spat out blood when he saw the devil near the river edge. In fear, his heart beat faster. He was faint with fear. He covered himself completely so that he could not breathe. He expected the devils would come and carry him away. Swami hurriedly got up and spread his bed under the bench as he thought it was the safe and secure place. He shut his eyes tight and encased himself in his blanket once again fell asleep unknowingly. In sleep, he was racked with nightmares. A tiger was chasing him. His feet stuck to the ground. He desperately tried to escape but his feet would not move; the tiger was at his back and he could hear its claws scratch the ground and then a loud thud. Swami tried to open his eyes but his eyelids would not open and the nightmare continued. Swami groaned in despair.

2) Narrate how a newspaper report led Swami to a commanding challenge?

Ans: In the newspaper, Swami’s father was reading, the news of bravery of a village lad fought with a tiger drew his father’s attention. He also told about it to swami. But Swami argued that a boy cannot fight a tiger and he must be a grown-up person. But swami’s father argued that courage can do anything and age or strength are not important. Again Swami disputed the theory that strength and age are important and not the courage. This led to his father’s challenge that he must sleep in the office room alone that night to show that he has courage. Thus a challenge on the newspaper report made Swami face a commanding challenge.

3) Narrate how a coward boy Swami became a hero overnight?

Ans: Swami inevitably had to sleep in the office room. He spent that night with the fear of the devils and the nightmares. Then He saw something moving in the darkness. he thought that his end had come and the devil had come to carry him away. Finally, as an attempt for survival, he hugged it with all his might and used his teeth as a mortal weapon on it. It was not the devil but the burglar who cried with agony and fell amidst the furniture with a bleeding ankle. The notorious house breaker of the district was arrested by the police. The police were grateful to him. His classmates looked upon him with respect, his teacher patted him and his headmaster appreciated that he was a true scout. Thus unknowingly Swami Became a hero’ overnight.

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