Finished reading book number 65 for the year – “The Dark Room” by RK Narayan. Set in the fictitious Malgudi, this is a tale of Sarita, a housewife who is treated like a glorified slave. The title is a symbolic allusion to her marriage, which is restrictive and gloomy – like living in a dark room.
A simple book laden with domesticity, it’s a cautionary story about the need for women to have financial freedom. While I enjoyed reading Narayan’s lucid storytelling, it’s easy to see how this might not appeal to many modern readers.
The characters aren’t drawn elaborately & are quite forgettable. Like Sarita’s husband Ramani, who is very one-dimensional. Except for the fact that he is moody, self-centered & thinks women are creatures that must be bossed around, we don’t know much about him.
The ending was disappointing, but probably very apt for the time the novel came out in. Sarita may live in the 1940s, but her story still holds true for several women who are married off by their families as soon as they turn 18, without getting a degree, making them unemployable for decent paying jobs. While it’s not overtly about women empowerment, the author perhaps did intend it to be a thought-provoking narrative about how the disparities between the two genders is not just unfair, but causes upon both sides. Although, it’s always the woman that suffers more.
Our protagonist laments how there is barely any difference between her kind and prostitutes – one services several men, the other services only one. At least that’s Sarita’s conclusion. “The Dark Room” is quintessentially Indian and breezy. It might not be a literary gem, but makes for a quick enjoyable read.