Character Sketch of Vasu in The Man-Eater of Malgudi

Vasu is a gigantic, muscular and tall person and everyone in the press of Nataraj is scared of him not because he is physically strong but also because he is hostile in his approach and also very offensive in attitude. Vasu is known by the innumerable adjectives like ‘the man-eater’, ‘terrifying’, ‘unreasonable’, ‘man with the dark halo’, ‘rakshasha’ and what not. A wild animal hunter and a taxidermist he enters the peaceful town of Malgudi and disturbs the easy-going life of the people. He constantly troubles and terrorizes others with his demoniac strength. He is so powerful in the eyes of the common people of Malgudi that he can be compared with a tiger and Narayan regards him as ‘the man-eater of Malgudi’. Vasu trespasses into the life of Nataraj and disturbs it completely with his indomitable activities. At times he harasses the friends and customers of Nataraj, he shoots someone’s pet dog and many other animals and birds near their residing place, he poaches wildlife from the Mempi Hills and he creates an unbearable stench in the neighbourhood through his taxidermy occupation. Vasu even entertains women in the attic and thus disturbs the serene atmosphere of the beautiful town and thus he is referred to by the narrator as ‘the man eater of Malgudi’.

Vasu forces himself into the attic of Nataraj and self-declares that he would stay there as a guest for a few days. He himself takes the responsibility of cleaning the attic as Nataraj just watches him come and go without seeking any kind of permission from him. Without Nataraj’s knowledge he makes the place very convenient for his taxidermy occupation. He is proud of his powerful muscle and it is for this that Nataraj appreciates him and also distances himself from him.

Though a giant in size and a demon in attitude, Narayan gives him an intellectual touch also. He expresses that he has received his M.A. in Economics, History and Literature from the Presidency College of Madras. He knows the laws, talks of Vedanta and he even follows Mahatma Gandhi and goes for imprisonment. Being a taxidermist by profession he shoots animals and tans the covering. The pseudo-philosophy of self-willed and confident Vasu is exposed in his speech “we are civilized human beings, educated and cultured and it is up to us to prove our superiority to nature.

Science conquers nature in a new way every day; why not in creation also? That’s my philosophy, Sir.” (p. 20) Even Natraj admires Vasu – “He worked single handed on all branches of his work. I admired him for it” (p. 66)

He is a complete womanizer and whenever he is free from his hunting he indulges himself into sex. He loves to enjoy the immoral company of the characterless women and is against the institution of marriage “only fools marry and they deserve all the trouble they get. I really do not know why people marry at all” (p. 38). He sticks to the concept of enjoying sex whenever required and freely satisfies his sexual desire with the prostitutes of the town including Rangi, the temple dancer.

Vasu is open-hearted, lively and at times sympathetic too. If he takes Nataraj unexpectedly to Mempi village it is not for any harm but because of his high spirits and playfulness. The greatest input of Vasu in the town of Malgudi is his intention to expose all the irrationalities of Nataraj and his friends. Vasu has committed such sins in life which, when he narrates them to Nataraj, Nataraj is horrified. He had hit his teacher (Guru) and escaped from there. He had taken to the profession of killing and stuffing animals. He never regretted on what he did but always believed in what he should do next. He is not interested in other people’s affairs and leads a secluded life altogether. He comes like a storm and sweeps Nataraj with his gush of words. Though he should be obliged to Nataraj for his attic he behaves in such a way as if Nataraj is indebted to him. He is obstinate and aggressive. He cares neither for Nataraj nor for the forest officials. The only instance cited in the novel to show Vasu as a requester is when he accompanies the forest officer to the press for the purpose of getting his book of golden thoughts published at Nataraj’s press. Vasu does not even respect the law and goes hunting even when he is not given a license. He kills all animals that come his way. He is thus a manifestation of evil trying to reconstruct while destroying life.

Vasu’s death is based on the mythological story of Bhasmasura. Like the demon (Asura) who turned into ashes by his own conduct, Vasu also calls upon death by his own action. Hitting hard a mosquito sitting on his temple, he collapses under the influence of his own strength.

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