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The English Teacher by RK Narayan Summary

by Litinbox

The English Teacher is an autobiographical novel by RK Narayan published in 1945. It is one of his several novels set in Malgudi. The novel is dedicated to RK Narayan’s wife Rajam.

Krishna, the protagonist of the novel, is an English teacher whose inner conflict after his wife passed away and his quest for mental and emotional well-being is the plot of the novel.

The English Teacher Summary

Krishna, an English Teacher

Krishna has been employed as an English lecturer at Albert Mission College, Malgudi. He leads a tedious lifestyle, discontent with the poor economic condition, unable to fulfill even the fundamental needs of a man. Both his job and life are boring. He compares his own lifestyle to that of a cow.

Krishna’s job consumes all his energy and time which makes his intellectual pursuit impossible. He is more interested to be a writer, especially a poet. But his job keeps him away from this aspiration. His inconsistent psychological babbling throughout the novel makes the plot disturbing. British colonisation of India has its own impact on the plot. Krishna tries constantly to access to the western lifestyle. He becomes pessimistic and deeply frustrated at his inability to be so.

Love for Family

Since he is working away from home, he has to live a monotonous life separated from his loveable family. He loves his wife Susila and his daughter Leela so much. He is unable to live without them near to him.

One day, he receives a letter from his father intimating that his wife, daughter and mother are coming to stay with him in Malgudi. At this news, his spirit comes alive again. Susila is a tolerant, sensible and practical young wife running counter to Krishna’s impractical approach to life. Krishna always lives in a dream, before as well as after the death Susila.

Susila’s Death

A new concern for searching a spacious home to accommodate all the family members increases his burden. He and his wife begin to search for a house for rent. In this course, Susila contracts typhoid when she has used a public bathroom. She is confined to bed and there is no hope of her recovery. Soon, Susila dies as treatment doesn’t work. The loss of his most loved wife deteriorates him.

Krishna continues to live for his daughter. He becomes deeply doleful and inconsolable. He is not anymore interested to continue his teaching profession. Life feels like a hell to him. But he can’t escape from this life because he has to live for his daughter.

Encounter with a Hermit

Krishna accidentally encounters a hermit who claims to have the ability to communicate with the dead. He can’t resist his feelings. He wants to speak with his wife’s spirit. To his surprise, he is able to communicate with the spirit of his departed wife. This reinvigorates his life. His spirit enliven again.

Krishna leaves the old job and joins as a teacher in the school where Leela studies. Now Krishna has changed a lot and looks optimistic only because he is able to communicate with his wife directly. He becomes enthusiastic in his new job in school imparting education to kids. His sorrows are gone and he builds a new life ever.

The English Teacher by RK Narayan

‘The English Teacher’ is an autobiographical novel. RK Narayan had to face a touch time after the death his wife Rajam. He became successful in building up an interesting plot with a small amount of autobiographical elements that could attract a large audience worldwide.

There are a series of novels and short stories set in the fictional town “Malgudi”. ‘The English Teacher’ is a part of them. In prior to ‘The English Teacher’, RK Narayan wrote three popular novels: Swami and Friends (1935), Bachelor of Arts (1937) and Malgudi Days (1943). Mr. Sampath – The Printer of Malgudi is RK Narayan’s another popular novel published in 1949.

Many themes are explored in ‘The English Teacher’; the strength of true love, innovative education, the pain of solitude and so on. This novel belongs to the category of ‘Fictional Autobiography’.

The English Teacher Characters


Krishna is the English teacher of the title, the protagonist of the novel. He leads a monotonous life as an English lecturer in Albert Mission College, Malgudi. His lifetime ambition is to become a writer, particularly a poet.


Susila is Krishna’s wife. Susila dies after contracting typhoid in a public latrine. Krishna loves Susila very much, so he is unable to live without her. He continues to live only because of his daughter. With the help of a hermit, finally he is able communicate with his dead wife. This changes his life and begins to live his life like before.


Leela is the daughter of Krishna and Susila. She is an innocent and loving young whom Krishna loves so much. She is very interested in education who is willing to go to school even on holidays. Her headmaster’s innovative methods teaching arouses her interest in education.

The Hermit

The hermit is the man who helps Krishna to communicate with his wife after her death. Through this newfound option Krishna is able to overcome his loneliness. When they try to speak with the spirit of Susila, she doesn’t even remember her daughter Leela. But, later Krishna is able communicate with her. This makes his life interesting again.